I'm not messing around: Sleep of Reason is one of the best debut albums of the year. If you'd asked me, at the start of the year, whether Benjamin Stefanski would make an album like this, I would have said, probably not, mostly because I wasn't sure what I expected from it.

As someone who picked up on his Mass Appeal EP about seven months behind everyone else last year, I was immediately struck by the beguiling nature of his music - it was a mixture of styles; a combination of atmospheres. It managed to be both impressively melodic and surprisingly clinical. I wondered which of those characteristics he would allow to come to the fore for his debut album as Raffertie, but he doesn't rely too heavily on one or the other.

He has an ear for great pop songs - he would considering he discovered AlunaGeorge - and the likes of recent single 'Build Me Up' and 'Touching' are driven by sonorous melodies and finely-honed production. Stefanski's melodies often have a delayed impact; 'Gagging Order' suddenly opens up around the two-minute mark, delicate piano contrasting with buzzing synths to euphoric effect. It comes entirely out of nowhere and is the first significant build-and-release moment on the album.

There are splashes of modern R&B throughout the record as well; the crackling static and downbeat feel of 'Rain' are elevated by Stefanski's soulful vocals, sometimes pitch-shifted to contrast with the echoing guitar line that provides the track's hook. It's as meticulous-sounding a song as we've heard from him in the past, but, far from sounding calculating, it comes across as completely natural.

Once Sleep of Reason has settled into itself, it ramps things up considerably. The energetic, arpeggiated synths and eminently danceable rhythm of 'One Track Mind' place it among the most upbeat-sounding tracks on the record, and it stands out even more than it normally would, purely because it's the sole instrumental moment on the album. It gives way to the pattering beats and icy synths of 'Last Train Home', which takes Stefanski's sound in a noticeably darker direction. It's an anxious-sounding track that's crying out for a big payoff, one which never arrives. It's all part of the plan, though, as 'Trust' immediately delivers with another minimalistic pop gem. The record runs to 13 tracks, and its structure is impeccable. It doesn't flag or run out of steam, ebbing and flowing naturally.

The bass-heavy groove of 'Principle Action' rubs shoulders with the cinematic sweep of 'Known', which in turn leads into the sombre-sounding 'Window Out'. These three tracks are arguably the most important on the album, showing that Stefanski has not only allowed the melodic and clinical sides of his writing to mature, but also branched out into entirely new territory.

His debut is an eye-opening listen - I didn't know he had something like this up his sleeve, and the reveal is nothing short of staggering. Stefanski takes his sound to places we never could have guessed that it could go, whilst managing to maintain the pristine production style that was prominent in his earlier work. Sleep of Reason strikes a balance between old and new, and it's flat-out brilliant.