Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 7: Top 100 Tracks of 2011

49. Tricky - Time to Dance (Maya Jane Coles Remix) (Domino)
While little can be said about the source material, MJC makes good on this remix. Restrained avant pop fun.

48. Radiohead - Good Evening Mrs. Magpie (Modeselektor Remix) (Ticker Tape)
A surprising techno offering from the Berlin Duo. This is an example of remixing to absolute perfection.

47. Seekae - Mingus (Rice is Nice)
A beautifully dark track that build and builds on a subtle melody. No reference to Charles Mingus, at least I don't think.

46. Africa Hitech - Out in the Streets (Warp)
Certainly one of the biggest tunes of the year. This track found it's way into many DJ sets, as well as James Blake's Essential Mix. Damian Marley sample worked over at a blistering 160 bpm.

45. Shinjin Hawke - Crystal Dust (Pelican Fly)
Is stadium bass a thing now? Did somebody coin that term yet? Producers like Shinjin and Girl Unit will have a huge say in the sound of popular rap music within the next year or two.

44. Eats Everything - The Size (dirtybird)
A lifelong small-time DJ/ Producer finally gets his break and gets signed to the label he idolized. Somehow that jubilation gets reflected in this track.

43. Blanck Mass - Chernobyl (Rock Action)
Beautiful and spiritual at the same time. Mastery of sonic manipulation is very much on display here.

42. Cosmic Revenge - Memories (Beat Connection Remix) (Car Crash Set)
THE song for this summer. Well, for me anyway. Nothing said free and fun times like this track.

41. Egytprixx - Fuji Club (Night Slugs)
A dark and brooding pseudo dubstep track with grizzled male vocals. One of the most interesting tracks of the year.

40. Mint - Free Association (Boltfish)
I finally get to a track that I couldn't find a sample of. I went to the label's website, you can listen to the whole album from there, it is a gooder. This is one of the most beautiful tracks of the year.

39. Buraka Som Sistema - Hangover (Enchufada)
Nobody personifies the term "party" like BSS. This song is an absolute dance floor smasher.

38. Worthy & Eats Everything - Tric Trac (dirtybird)
The BIGGEST track of the year. Quite possibly the heaviest tune I have in my collection. Read the DJ feedback on that soundcloud page for some hilarity as well.

37. Machinedrum - U Don't Survive (Planet Mu)
The juke-that-sounds-more-like-slow-drum n' bass song from one of the most well received records of the year.

36. Clapz II Dogz (Soul Clap & Catz N' Dogz) - Dogz (Glass Table)
Dig the Pink Floyd re-work.

35. Pearson Sound - Stifle (Hessle)
808s are officially back! This track was also everywhere this year. 116 & Rising, SBTRKT's Essential Mix and Pearson Sound's FabricLive.

34. Blawan - Getting Me Down (White)
Again, one of the biggest tracks of the year. It is impossible not to tap your toes when the vocals come in, I don't care how much you hate dance music.

33. Autre Ne Veut - Sweetheart (Hippos In Tanks)
One of the most emotional songs of the year. Autre Ne Veut out does himself on this track.

32. Balam Acab - Expect (Tri Angle)
Lullaby is certainly a fitting term for this wonderful song. The violins at the end take it from good to great and have a certain Sigur Ros vibe to them.

31. Instra:mental - Thomp (Non Plus)
Techno smasher from Instra:mental. Pretty much everything about this track is devoid of soul and humanism. And it's wonderful because of it.

30. Lee Jones - Duvel (Aus)
A slinky little bit of synth give this track an infectiously catchy groove.

29. Scuba - Feel It (Hotflush)
Lost in the shuffle that was 2011 is Feel It. This was the first sign that Scuba was going to be doing different things later on in the year.

28. Gil Scott Heron & Jamie XX - I'll Take Care of U (Young Turks)
The original, I think, is better than the Drake version. Both are good, but this about good as Gil Scott Heron is ever going to sound with a 4/4 beat behind him.

27. Maceo Plex - Your Style (Crosstown Rebels)
More sleaze to induce sex and the dance floor.

26. Rod Lee - Let Me See What U Workin' With (Pearson Sound Refix) (Night Slugs)
David Kennedy will be haunted by this track for the rest of his life. Especially when he plays North America. You can't make a track this bangin' and think you will ever be able to not play it at every show.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 7: Top 100 Tracks of 2011

74. Croms - Invisible Cities (Exit)
A beautiful 80's inspired epic. Appears on Exit's Mosaic compilation.

73. Sei A - Frozen Flower (Turbo)
Peaceful and serene bass-meets-house from a very talented producer.

72. Gui Boratto - Stems From Hell (Kompakt)
An overall darker and more industrial effort from the Brazilian.

71. King Midas Sound - Without You (Dbridge revoice) (Hyperdub)
Dbridge's beautiful vocals add an entirely new dynamic to the dubstep classic.

70. Surismo - Golden Kugel (Monkeytown)
The best track off the wacky German's debut album.

69. LOL Boys - LDR (Palms Out Sounds)
A stripped back and slowed down house track that pays it's dues to UK bass.

68. High Places - Morning Ritual (Thrill Jockey)
An indie take on proper dub music. One of the only moments the worked on Original Colors.

67. Maceo Plex - Stay High Baby (Ellum)
The sleaze-house king delivers sex on the dance floor with this track.

66. SCNTST -Globus (BNR)
A massive progressive/ techno banger from the German prodigy.

65. GusGus - Selfoss (Kompakt)
An atmospheric trance number from the pseudo legends. James Holden loves this.

64. Burial, Four Tet, Thom Yorke - Ego (Text)
Burial. Four Tet. Thom Yorke. Need more be said?

63. Blawan -What You Do With What You Have (R&S)
A little does of acid from one of the biggest break-out producers of the year.

62. Hyetal - Diamond Islands (Boddika Remix) (Black Acre)
Possibly the most melodic uses of acid modulation that you will ever hear.

61. Sun Glitters - Too Much to Lose (White)
Comparisons to Balam Acab may be justified, but this track is just too likable.

60. Jamie Grind - Without You (Fortified)
A wonderful little juke track from another up-and-comer.

59. Switch - I Still Love You (Dubsided)
It may just be a cheesy diva-house vocal over a "Pon Di Floor" tool, but this track is infectious. Seriously, if someone treats this acapella to a better beat it could be the next "Show Me Love".

58. TWR72 - Future Tool (Bad Life)
The Dutch duo are at their best with this bouncy techno banger.

57. Momma's Boy - Soulchops (ADD Cat)
Mikix The Cat's alter ego for more bass-inspired deep house. And I mean Bass.

56. Dubbel Dutch - Hymn (Mixpak)
Almost defies classification, but it reminds me of a PS one era RPG soundtrack combined with UK Funky.

55. Agaric - Who Made Up The Rules (Ovum)
Huge house track. Riffy guitars, drugged out vocals, and a catchy chorus.

54. James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream (A&M)
The universally agreed "best track" off James Blake's much maligned debut album.

53. SCNTST - 909 Time (BNR)
Daft Punk would play this, if they DJed.

52. Scuba - Everywhere (Hotflush)
Is it 1985 in here? It is almost hard to believe that this is a Scuba track.

51. Art Nouveau - Air France (Gucci Vump Remix) (Demento Mori)
A fun and energetic little number that likely flew well under the radar.

50. Zombie Disco Squad - We Should Bang Tonight (Monkey Safari Hells Bells Remix) (Jackmode)
Everything about this track exudes cool. Monkey Safari absolutely kill this remix.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 7: Top 100 Tracks of 2011

Here are my favorite tracks from 2011! This list was literally a whole year in the making. I could have comfortably had a top 200, but I make the tough calls to bring you guys the cream of the crop!

100. George Fitzgerald - Shackled (Hotflush)
Not his best work, but this track solidifies last years promising upstart as a consistent producer. Also featured on Scuba's DJ Kicks.

99. Oneohtrix Point Never - Sleep Dealer (Mexican Summer)
The most captivating and compelling piece from one of the years most universally acclaimed albums.

98. Kowton - She Don't Jack (Idle Hands)
Little bit of future-retro that blends house, techno and bass music.

97. Jacques Greene - Another Girl (Lucky Me)
Taking a rather pedestrian pop song, and giving new life and new context.

96. Holy Other - Touch (Tri Angle)
One of the most seductive and sexy tracks of the year.

95. Sully - Let You (Keysound)
An absolute banger from Sully's highly touted debut album.

94. Orphan101 - Music Two Four Eight (Saigon)
Melodic techno at 140bpm never sounded so good... or possibly ever existed before this EP.

93. Submerse - Bubblin' (Frijso)
By the numbers future-garage track from the future garage master.

92. Planetary Assault System - Rip The Cut (Ostgut Ton)
Everything about that above line serves to describe this track to absolute perfection.

91. Instra"mental - Sun Rec (Non Plus)
At 1:40 the track takes an interesting turn from aggressive to melodic. These guys can make whatever they want, they are obviously too talented to stick to one genre.

90. Maya Jane Coles - Parallel Worlds (Hypercolour)
The UK is a legitimate house hot bed in this new decade.

89. Justin Martin & Ardalan - LEZGO (dirtybird)
This years answer to Mr. Spock. Both these guys need to produce more.

88. Samo Sound Boy - Shuffle Code (Ikonika Remix) (Trouble & Bass)
Sounds like an updated take on the synths from Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine"

87. Lokiboi - Luv U VIP (Car Crash Set)
Got a friend that runs his mouth about his awesome sound system? Make him play this and see him humbled.

86. Savage Skulls - Watching Me (Sound Pellegrino)
A massive house banger that works in so many contexts.

85. Kon - Game of Thrones (B.YRSLF Division)
The future sound of bass. Gangster as hell.

84. Deadmau5 - Raise Your Weapon Stimming Remix (Mau5trap)
The only way Deadmau5 is on this blog, is if it is through producers like Stimming.

83. Kahn - Tehran (Punch Drunk)
A middle-eastern vibe makes this one of the most infectious and interesting dubstep tracks of the year.

82.Four Tet - Pyramid (Fabric)
From Four Tet's wonderful FabricLive mix, an exclusive track that is some of this best work.

81.Elephino - More Than Me (Some Think Sounds)
Slow and catchy, with a repeated vocal hook that gets in your head.

80. Cosmin TRG - Fizic (50 Weapons)
Slamming maximalist techno from the talented Romanian producer.

79. Zomby - Nathalia's Song (4AD)
The best track from Zomby's wonderful Dedication album.

78. Clams Casino - Treetop (Tri Angle)
Catchy guitar lines over mutated hip hop beats.

77. Worthy - Lost Dog (LOL Boys Remix (Discobelle)
"I worked the crowd, I really worked them" is exactly what you will be saying when you play this track.

76. LV & Joshua Idehen - I Know (Keysound)
The opening track from Routes lets us know exactly what kind of ride we are in for.

75. Pinch & Shackleton - Selfish Greedy Life (Honest Jons)
The best track from P&S. The creepy worked over vocal really lends itself to the even creepier and tension building rhythms.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 6: Best Albums of 2011

I will just get straight into a list of my 20 favorite LPs from this past year.

20. We're New Here - Gil Scott Heron/ Jamie XX

It doesn't always work every single second, but the moments when Jamie XX's productions beautifully coincide with Heron's grizzled voice remind us of both artists' extreme merit. With all the fantastic solo efforts this past year from Jamie XX, it looks like his band's highly anticipated second album will not be a sophomore slump.

19. Sepalcure - Sepalcure

Sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel when releasing a full-length. The production duo known as Sepalcure instead approached what they have always done, and chose to do it extremely well. People may complain that they wanted more from Sepalcure, but rather than producing a bloated pop-heavy-cross-over album, they have kept it real and simple. In doing so, they have also established themselves as one of the more consistent acts going right now.

18. Frantically Hopeful - Pursuit Grooves

As close to an electronic-jazz fusion album as you will find in 2011. With beats that are beyond interesting, and live female vocals, Pursuit Grooves have offered a completely unique sound for Pinch's Tectonic label. Frantic is a good word to have in the album title, because that is exactly the emotion that is conveyed through the intricate rhythms and desperate hip-hop/ slam poetry style vocals.

17. Dispel Dances - Anstam

An interesting choice of title for the album, because any dancing that may have been happening prior to hearing this album will be... dispelled. Following the same suit as previous singles and releases, Dispel utilizes gritty percussion and bass tones to create a hopeless, yet grandiose atmosphere of cold and industrial hopelessness. Well Anstam is known for being very a-melodic, the patient ear will be rewarded  with subtle melodies that take their time to develop.

16. Pathway to Tiraquon 6 - Space Dimension Controller

This interesting concept album from UK producer Space Dimension Controller, tells the story of a time traveling space man who has come from the future to find a new home for humans after aliens have taken the earth hostage. It sounds like a cheesy b-movie plot from the 50's, and what's even more interesting about it, is that there aren't words at all. Despite what would be a major shortcoming for most concept albums, SDC delivers an album that truly feels like an 80's E-funk soundtrack to a space opera.

15. Simulat - Cosmin TRG

2011 was a big year for techno. Omar S, Surgeon, Deepchord, Ricardo Villalobos, Deadbeat and Morphosis all put out full-length albums. This is where the caveat of "personal favorite" needs to be restated. I felt that the best techno offering this year, was from Cosmin TRG. Techno has never been a pop oriented endeavor, and rightfully so. However, on Simulat melody is at the forefront, without sacrificing an iota of enticing rhythm. This is probably as close to a pop-techno album that you will find, and shockingly, it works extremely well.

14. Room(s) - Machinedrum

Travis Stewart isn't fooling anyone. As one half of Sepalcure, he has created two master-work albums in one year. But Room(s) sounds a lot like Sepalcure, only sped up and with more urgency. What makes Room(s) so special is the way that the vocals work with the percussion. In less skilled hands, this could come across as a very busy sounding album. There is an abundance of sampled vocals, sped up- Shackleton-esque rhythms and gratuitous synth lines. But each element is kept not only intact, but is allowed to serve the other components to create something wonderful.

13. Invisible Insurrection - Desolate

I'm glad that Burial released Street Halo this year. Not just because it is awesome, but so that people would stop comparing Invisible Insurrection to Burial. No, this is not what Burial wound sound like in 2011. Burial sounds like Burial in 2011. Desolate offers a bass-music take on sprawling and sluggish techno, rather than classic UK garage.

12. Dedication - Zomby

I was shocked when I heard Dedication. I did not think Zomby had an album of this caliber in him. The controversial and enigmatic (his identity is still unknown) producer has offered the world a bleak and progressively darker look at his soul. The title Dedication is fair, since his second album shows exactly that. You really get the feel that he is above all else, a fan of electronic music. He expresses this through his takes on various motifs that exist in dance music today. He then combines them together in an unlikely hodgepodge crystalized gems.

11. Routes - LV

With so many global sounds converging on one another to create entirely new and geographically indiscernible genres of music, it is refreshing to hear something that sounds so unabashedly British. Funky rhythms populate the entirety of Routes, the debut album from LV. The vocals of Josh Idehen add a flair of ethnicity that reflect the streets and styles of proper UK. This album personifies the sound of London in 2011 so well, it will likely serve as an excellent musical time-capsule.

10. Glider - Sight Below

Ghostly International's best offering of the year was certainly Glider. With sparse, reverb-drenched, ambient guitar melodies layered over top even sparser, looping electronics, Sight Below creates a Field-meets-Grouper vibe. The whole album is instrumental, there isn't even a vocal sample to be heard; but the way that the guitars echo and hum, create all the voice that this album needs to convey it's bounty of emotion.

9. Test Dream - Consequence

The best way to describe Consequence's first album, was meandering. On his second album, Test Dream, he displays the same penchant. It is almost drum and bass, but it isn't at the same time. Tempos hint the basic skeletal features, while drum patterns vaguely resemble conventional d n' b. Sometimes beats simply degrade into long stretches of atmospheric melodies. The tracks saunter past your ears, like a lazy river winding it's way through a plateau, mostly lacking urgency. Yet at the same time, the music conveys a great weight of water, as if the listener is at considerable depth. Indeed, water is certainly something that comes to mind when listening to Test Dream, as it is thoroughly imbued with with it's spirit throughout the entire album.

8. Severant - Kuedo

Despite a massively hyped billing for Severant, Kuedo overcome the odds and actually surprised people for the better. One of the best things about his debut solo album is how unexpected it sounds. The beats are pushed rather far back on the priority-chart, and most of the tracks have no vocals at all, so that leaves the carefully constructed melodies a chance to shine. The album is an 80's synth/ electro flashback at it's core, but it has been thrust forward through time to 2011. The prolonged exposure to light-speed velocities have not only delivered the material to the present, but left the resulting music twisted and disfigured... for the better.

7. Metronomical Boy - Mint

Sometimes we listen to music for musicianship or technical skill. Sometimes we listen for profound depth behind the lyrics. Sometimes we listen for a carefully constructed atmosphere that is painstakingly created and delivered through careful attention to detail. Sometimes we just listen because we like the way it sounds. Metronomial Boy is a brilliant take on innocence and youth. There are no words to distract from the pure jubilation, exuberance, and also melancholy that is created through it's melodies. There are a few motifs present which exist in electronic music, but at it's best, it is devoid of preconceived idiosyncrasies.    

6. Bad Vibes - Shlohmo

Shlohmo will not be able to escape the fact that he sounds a lot like many producers from California. The mutated, hip-hop, faux glitch-hop beats that he produces are strikingly similar to the label Brainfeeder. The only difference being that Henry Laufer (aka Shlohmo) is a songwriter at heart. Many songs from Bad Vibes sound like they could have been indie-folk songs in another life. This serves the album well across it's generous length of 58 minutes, as it never feels like a bloated, and overly lengthy beat-scene LP, where anyone doing the same thing wouldn't even dream of attempting an album of that length. The fact that Shlohmo has been able to create a solid album that is almost double the length of many of his contemporaries, shows how the 21-year-old is on another level.

5. Pinch & Shackleton - Pinch & Shackleton

Two legendary producers team up to create a legendary album. At first it seems like an unlikely meeting, but the two both approach production from an r n' b stance: rhythm n' bass. Percussion is both exotic and intense as the two work their tracks over until suspense is abundant. Enjoyed on a good sound system, it also reveals the foreboding and suspense-centric nature of the bass, which is very, very prominent. With no moments to remind the listener which reality they are currently residing in, P&S can be a very hypnotic album to descent into.

4. Wander/ Wonder - Balam Acab

Wander/ Wonder is difficult to pin down. Is it blissful or depressing? There are vocals present, and melody is very pronounced throughout the entire album, but they could be seen as being both hopelessly optimistic, and soaringly miserable at the same time. Big hip-hop beats have been slowed to a crawl and layered with sappy strings and harps, while distorted and pitched up vocals provide the words to this indiscernible story. In the end, it leaves the listener to decide which emotion to take from the experience.    

3. Blanck Mass - Blanck Mass

Crescendos are a beautiful thing. Patience is a rewarding thing. The moments that occur on Blanck Mass are so wonderful and so rare that they remind us why it is that we listen to music in the first place. Simply put, this is one of the most original, best executed and special albums I have heard ever. There isn't a need to put a lot of words to it, listen to the track "Sundowner" and you will have experienced what words could never hope to convey.

2. Until We Meet The Sky - Solar Fields

There is a part on Pelican's 12 minute epic "March to the Sea" where the chaotic atmosphere and frantic playing that had occupied the first 7 minutes, gives way completely. It is as if the ground breaks beneath your feet, and you are left dangling by a spindly melody that is painfully, yet perfectly, juxtaposed to a beefy drum beat. A moment of perfection is achieved, and lasts for about three and a half minutes or so as the song rebuilds itself off the same fragile melody until the whole track has been consumed by it.. A similar moment of perfection is achieved on Until We Meet the Sky. On the track "Night Traffic City", a 10 minute epic in its own rite, there is a point in which everything that had been established until then gives way to a melody. That melodies builds and builds, until it too consumes consumes it's respective track. The point I guess I was making, is that sometimes an artist is so skilled at creating, that the canvas simply cannot be limited by size.

1. Sunday Gift - Blue Daisy

Rather than write something new, I think I will quote myself from Resident Advisor's message boards. This was after what I would consider a pretty large bitch-slap of a review. Also, I had some support after my post.

"3.5? This is a serious contender for album of the year! I absolutely love how 90's it sounds. I guess when you get to be a certain age, you start to long for the sounds that you grew up on. I love new music, but for me, electronic music was in it's prime in the 90's. Underworld, Chemical Brothers, Tricky, Massive Attack, Fat Boy Slim, 90's house and techno, jungle, early Warp stuff... Hip-hop was at it's best, and rock would never be as good again.

To me, this album symbolizes all of that. It is vast, it is expansive, it has depth that requires multiple listens and above all it takes it's cues from an era that often gets overlooked by anyone who didn't come into musical age in that one brief synapse in time when everything came together perfectly.
The Sunday Gift is Big Beat. It is Hip-hop. It is Trip-Hop. It is Grunge. It is Stoner Metal. It is Psych Rock. It is House. It is blissful electronics that come together in a beautiful soundscape. In short, it is close to perfection."

According to this post I am in my late 20's early 30's, (real age 24) and am completely jaded when it comes to music. I guess upon reflecting after the great year that was 2011, I can honestly say that I have never been more excited for the music that is yet to come.           

Monday, 19 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 5: Top Compilations of 2011

With the advent of Soundcloud and podcasts there really isn't an inherent need for commercial mix albums anymore. In addition, thanks to sites like Beatport, Boomkat, Juno and iTunes, music has never been more accessible and available. If a label wants to put out a compilation, it almost has to include a majority share of unreleased material, just to keep up with it's own fan base. Indeed, the compilation has become discounted in recent years.

But despite all this, many labels and clubs soldier through the saturation era and continue to not only release mixes, but release them frequently. Rinse has released 17 mixes in the last four and half years, and fabric releases them at the break-neck pace of one a month. Of course, fabric has become an institution, not only in it's walls and on it's dance floors, but through it's catalogue of mixes. Rinse FM too, is an institution of fresh urban UK dance music.

Certainly, it would be difficult for any newcomer to start a successful series of compilations in todays internet age. With top-notch and quality podcasts from big-name producers and DJs readily available on a myriad of high traffic music sites, and for the low, low price of absolutely nothing, the commercial mix is a hard sale to make indeed. Not to mention all of the mixes that float around for free on Soundcloud, or other blogs. In fact, its so easy now for anyone to make a relatively high-quality mix, some bedroom DJs have actually ousted their former idles from the spotlight completely. Every other week it seems that we are hearing about some plucky young 22-year-old, still living at home, who has risen up to prominence, simply by being able to showcase his or her music and mixes on the internet. What can the commercial mix do to catch up?

One thing that can be said about this surge of mixes is that they keep the big boys on their toes. Quality now becomes paramount when publishing something that people will have to pay for. Also, a shift must be made when deciding who it will be that mixes for your series. Big labels now have to cater to the needs of the same younger generation who want everything fresh and free. This paradigm shift has resulted in a changing of the guard when it comes to how a commercial mix is approached. The following is a list of mixes and compilations that I felt reflected this mantra from the past year. Apparently me and Resident Advisor agreed on this list.

10. Hessle Audio: 116 & Rising

What is bass music? Besides a catch all term for the bastard spawn of dubstep, it really doesn't have any specific rules in place. Beats are often syncopated, but not always. Heavy low-end and prominent 808s are associated with the UK flavor of bass, but not always; and sometimes the North American sound converges with the UK sound. Sometimes it comes from bizarre places in the world and sounds nothing like anything heard before.

116 is a bass record. It is an unmixed collection of tracks from the label Hessle Audio. It features a disc of brand new material, and a disc of older, back catalogue stuff. Producers like Pearson Sound, Blawan, Cosmin TRG, Pangaea and Untold all make appearances. This is not a cross-over compilation, these are very raw and real cuts that will probably satisfy only the most hardened of bass-heads. However, it is a very important look at some contemporary UK music.

9. TKOL RMX 1234567

A Radiohead remix album should be a joyous event in music. Especially when this lineup of remixers is assembled. But when the album is question is The King of Limbs, is isn't hard to understand why TKOL RMX has been maligned since day one. Every single major music publication reviewed it, and they all basically gave it the same score. It is hard too imagine a list of producers that includes so many talented names, could not live up to it's billing, despite the resounding "weak" source material that they had to work with.

While "The King of Limbs" the album was disappointing and sparked several discussions about the "beginning of the end" for Radiohead, the remix album that it spawned show us exactly where Mr. York is right now, and what sounds he is digging. I think that as long as Radiohead fans embrace the current direction in which music as a whole is going, and as long as they keep an open mind, no one should be worried about Radiohead. I hope to maybe see some collaborations with some of these remixers.

8. Rinse 16: Ben UFO

Ben UFO has quietly become on of the most important figures in electronic music today. That is one thing, but the more phenomenal thing is that he doesn't produce at all. You will not find one production credit to his name. He is a DJ, and only a DJ. That alone should tell you that he obviously has skills behind the decks, and while that may be true, it isn't his main draw.

Ben is a Rinse FM DJ who is privy to some special things. He obviously has an extended network of friends who provide him with exclusive tracks , months before they are released, if they are even released at all. The man always has a healthy supply of dubplates everywhere he goes. Rinse 16 however, focuses more on joining the sounds that are percolating and gestating together at them moment.

He mixes classic house and techno right along side the fresh sounds of Jam City and Dro Carey. He throws in old favorites from Shackleton and Kode9, with contemporaries from Pangaea and Objekt. Rinse 16 throws many curve balls, and crosses many barriers. But what makes it so special is how in the context of a mix, and in Ben UFO's capable hands, all these songs that sound like they shouldn't be together, end up complimenting each other.

7. Hotflush: Back & 4th

It should be no secret how I feel about Hotflush. The brilliant compilation that come out early this year features mostly exclusive and unreleased tracks from many notable members of it's roster. The title Back & 4th can be taken a few different ways as well. It could be that this album looks back at some tracks, and forward at others. Or it could be the general shift towards more 4/4 material being released on the label.

Whatever the reason for the title, it is a perfect look at Hotflush. If you are new to the label and want a place to start, it serves wonderfully as a start up point. But if you were, like me, looking for something new and exciting, it is able to do that too.

6. Fabric 55: Shackleton

With a late release date last year, this has had the benefit of a whole calender year to work it's way into me. That is pretty much what a Shackleton track does, it acts as a liquid that soaks through the porous surface that is your brain, until it has saturated your entire mind and psyche with it's grooves. This mix works in much the same way. Exotic rhythms and percussion dance throughout this Shackleton-productions-only mix.

5. Shogun Audio: Way of the Warrior

Aside from being an awesome Samurai-themed label, Shogun Audio is one of the leaders when it comes to creative drum and bass. Shogun boasts a roster that is as strong as any drum and bass label: Rockwell, Alix Perez, Friction, Spectrasoul and Icicle, all of whom are featured here. But WotW also features cuts from other prominent drum and bass producers like Break, D Bridge, Commix and a dark dubstep cut from Distance.

4. Exit Records Presents Vol. 1

Last year Autonomic sounded like it was going to be the next big thing. Drum and bass was going places again, things were exciting. D Bridge and Instra:mental looked poised and ready to take the world by storm with their new sounds. Then Instra:mental left the picture only a year after their groundbreaking FabricLive was released. Listen to an Instra:mental track from 2011 and you will instead hear techno and electro. And that's only if they are producing together, as both members have created other monikers to produce... more techno and electro.

This left D Bridge to carry the flame of this new stripped down sound on his own. This was something that the Rinse FM DJ seemed to embrace this year as his label Exit has become the go-to for chill d n' b. Mosaic features tracks from some of the veterans (if you can call them that) of the Autonomic scene, and some from newcomers that have no official release.

All in all, 22 unmixed songs, across 2 discs gently perforate the notions of what drum and bass should and can be. There are a few that maybe don't stand up as well as others in the unmixed form, but most of the two discs are an overwhelming success, and proof that this sound should be here to stay, for at least a little while.

3. FabricLive 59: Four Tet

When a DJ decides to use only his own productions in a commercial mix... it is a brave move. Three times in Fabric's history has this occurred, all three times have been successful. When it was announced that Four Tet would be mixing a FabricLive, people wondered if maybe this would be the fourth. And indeed it could have been. The mix could feature unreleased Four Tet productions, it could resemble his wonderful live sets, it could be fresh and groundbreaking it was immediately given unprecedented hype.

Instead, Kieren went completely the other way. Rather than focus on his own material, Four Tet instead focuses on the club itself. He contains field recordings from the club as intros and interludes throughout the mix. He conveys the feeling of waiting in line at the entrance, and traveling from room to room. The mix isn't about him as a DJ, but rather a collection of great tracks that have probably all graced the Fabric's walls at some point, along with others that are rare and possibly unheard of by even the most enthusiastic vinyl connoisseur.

The mix is also 100% vinyl. Some of the tracks are rare garage cuts from the 90's, which seems to be the ethos that is being displayed with this mix. The front portion contains aging UKG tracks, juxtaposed with new tracks from Floating Points and Caribou. In the context of the mix, everything seems to work. The second portion is house, and slowed down. But everything keeps in line with the 2-step feel. What makes FabricLive 59 so special is how despite the fact that many of these tracks are decades apart in age, they all feel as though they were meant for each other.

2. FabricLive 56: Ramadanman/ Pearson Sound

David Kennedy really rose to the forefront of everyone's attention this past year. As Ramadanman, his productions were sparse and majestic. As Pearson Sound, his productions are percussive, up front and aggressive. As a DJ however, David Kennedy is more of a mixed bag. He isn't opposed to playing house or techno, two things that he normally doesn't produce. But it is the way in which he blends these styles together that sets him apart. In many ways, it is almost a more contemporary-centric version of Four Tet's FabricLive.

The tracks selected are top-notch, but what makes this mix so great is how each track is used. "Battle for Middle You" blends into "Grab Somebody" which then creates an interesting blend with the Carl Craig edit of "Void 23". The juke-happy beat of "Fuk Tha 101" is brought into Mala's rolling "City Cycle". The finest moments, arguably, are the classic cuts from Burial and Pinch, which somehow fit perfectly with all the new and cutting edge sounds that inhabit the mix. All in all, this is one of the best Fabric/ FabricLive compilations ever conceived.

1. DJ Kicks: Scuba

Sometimes a DJ mix comes along that not only breaks ground, it transcends what the notion of a conventional mix can be. Scuba's DJ Kicks is such a mix. One of the biggest draws for the series Balance, or DJs like Magda, John Tejada and Richie Hawtin, is that they create and symphonies of electronic music. Producers create elaborate blends of harmonies and poly rhythms using Ableton. They skillfully weave tapestries out of various sources to create something holistically better, or at least vastly different, than its original parts.

The thing that truly makes Scuba a great DJ, is that he accomplishes this same feat not with Ableton, but with rotary mixers. There is rarely a moment on this mix where two, maybe even three tracks aren't playing side by side to create something spectacular. The blends and transitions become songs themselves. If one quickly surveys the tracks individually, it becomes very apparent that while they are great tracks, many of which were exclusive to this mix at the time of release, they feel as though they are missing something on their own.

32 tracks in a mix of this length might sound a little superfluous, but because each track is given the opportunity to unfold and develop, even if it is along side another track, the mix never feels rushed or remotely gimmicky. Instead, Scuba delivers a masterful take on the infusion of techno and bass music that showcases his ability as a DJ, just as equally as the material with which he has chosen to craft his masterpiece.  

Friday, 16 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 4: Top Movers and Shakers

The following is a list of DJs, producers or live acts that have made a big splash this year. Just a group who I felt had big and successful years, counted down from 50-1. They either have produced massive tracks, run successful labels, mixed commercial compilations, been featured in high-profile podcasts or headlined major festivals. This is probably pretty MUTEK biased, since I don't get out much to actually see any of these guys play... Also, I didn't count the break-through producers from that list, since they got their own list.

50. Lunice
49. Shackleton
48. Chrissy Murderbot
47. Jesse Rose
46. Untold
45. Girl Unit
44. Dark Sky
43. Max Cooper
42. J. Phlip
41. Roska
40. Canblaster
39. Blue Daisy
38. Amon Tobin
37. French Fries
36. Nguzunguzu
35. Kode9
34. Samo Sound Boy
33. Brodinsky
32. Paul Kalkbrenner
31. Anstam
30. Nicolas Jaar
29. Marcel Dettmann
28. Elektro Guzzi
27. Renaissance Man
26. Robag Wurhme
25. Bok Bok
24. Jackmaster
23. Deadbeat
22. Motor City Drum Ensemble
21. Caribou
20. Martyn
19. Claude Vonstroke
18. George Fitzgerald
17. D Bridge
16. Boddika
15. Falty DL
14. Worthy
13. Maceo Plex
12. Cosmin TRG
11. Tom Flynn
10. Kingdom
8. Modeselektor
7. Soul Clap
6. Catz N' Dogz
5. Four Tet
4. Justin Martin
3. Julio Bashmore
2. Pearson Sound
1. Scuba

Thursday, 15 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 3: Top Labels of 2011

There is an interesting juxtaposition that exists in music today. It seems that the further you have to dig to uncover music, the more valuable the label from which it comes is. For example, most of what you hear on major radio comes from four big labels. That's it, four labels, or the divisions of those labels. Then as you make your way through independent rock and alternative music, there is a little bit more diversity. Labels like Merge, Anti-Pop, Matador, XL and 4AD are relatively well known and have housed many high-profile, radio-friendly acts. There are several labels, besides the ones I mentioned, that are of similar ilk, but they don't really specialize on a particular sound or style.

Then climb a little further down the ladder of obscurity into not-so-accessible genres of music such as punk, metal and hip-hop, and the record label becomes all the more important. In these genres and sub genres, many more labels exist and specialize in particular sounds and styles. For example, Profound Lore is a label that fosters atmospheric and artistic-metal, while a label like Hydra Head specializes in more monolithic, post-rock and post-metal sounds. 

In the world of Electronic music however, there are hundreds of labels that are very distinguishable from one another. Prominent labels exist all over the world, and are often run by major producers and DJs. Many of these labels will never get a sniff of radio play, nor will they get attention from major festivals for sponsorship. They are however, very instrumental in shaping the landscape of electronic music. The thing with having so many labels is, that many of them are extremely small and even self-funded, and thus most of them will inevitably fail. Many will have good runs before the sound in which they are championing dies, or they simply have to change to keep up.

The following is a list of labels, which I feel have had particularly good years. A few of them have come out of nowhere and risen to immediate and dramatic success, and some have been around for a while but are still relevant and innovative by todays standards. This is once again, only my opinion. Obviously I have some labels, which are considered to be pillars of the electronic community, a little lower than they probably should be, or maybe not even on the list. This only serves as a guide to the labels I felt this year. Here are my top 20 labels of 2011.

20. Hot Creations
Co-run by Jamie Jones and Lee Foss, Hot Creations represent a new sound of house music that infuses elements of boogie and disco in such a way as to not sound generic. Hot Creations tracks are stripped down and in no hurry as far as tempo is concerned. Certainly the most groovy label of the year. They have released tracks from Waifs & Strays, Manik and Hot Natured

19. Gimme 5 
A brand new label that just launched in 2011. Little informations is available other than that it is based in Russia. So far, all releases feature cover art that would be more suitable on heavy metal records. The sound that they purvey is also wrought in dreariness and wretchedly heavy. It is certainly no coincidence coming from Russia.

18. Anabatic
Operated in the U.S. by a great DJ/ Producer who goes by Worthy. You will see his name on my Top 100 Tracks list later on. Comparisons were made to fellow California label dirtybird, and while that is certainly complimentary, Anabatic are definitely their own label. Featuring everything from tribal rhythms to tricked out 808 jams, Anabatic was one of the most fun labels of the year.

17. Sound Pellegrino 
Several years ago, the term "trendy French label" might have evoked completely different thoughts than it does today. Gone are the days of "French Touch". Sound Pellegrino instead represent a growing movement of distinct ethnic and tribal rhythms, syncopated bass and percussion, and most notably sans electro. It is run by members of the French rap group TTC, and had released tracks from Bok Bok, Style of Eye, TWR72 and High Powered Boys.

16. Pets
Run by hot-shit DJ/ Producer duo Catz n’ Dogz, Pets is all house, all the time. Specializing in European deep house, they have released tracks from Maceo Plex, Coat of Arms, J. Phlip and most importantly, an absolute smasher from Bristol’s Eats Everything. More on that track in a later list.
15. Palms Out Sounds
POS is part of a growing trend that sees successful blogs turn into successful labels. I remember in 2007 eagerly anticipating every Remix Sunday on their site. I never would have guessed that the blog I read when I was 19 would actually grow into a label that I could love in my 20’s. Again, it’s a change of form that has kept this New York based label relevant. Electro has given way to a fresh North American take on many of the sounds that percolate in the U.K.

14. Exit
I just noticed that my entire year-end wrap up is almost void of any drum & bass. That is a little disappointing considering that I do love drum & bass. Next year I will have to give it more attention. But one label that was impossible to ignore this year was Exit. It is run by dBridge, and it houses the minimalist, stripped down, barely-there-d n’ b that was made famous by he and Instra:mental’s groundbreaking Fabriclive last year.

13. Discobelle
 When one of the most influential and widely respected independent blogs in the world, decides to make a label… what does one expect? The Swedish blog-turned-label not only has a penitent for quality, they have an uncanny ability for staying ahead of the curve. The latest offerings from them seem to hint at returns to classic sounds of house and electro.

12. dirtybird
Justin Martin and Claude Vonstroke aren’t radically reinventing their label’s sound in 2011. They are keeping things right where they were in 2006. The funny thing is, only now is the world starting to catch up to them.

11. Ostgut Ton
The German juggernaut is a perennial label-of-the-year candidate, every single year. Many, many solid releases, including some top-notch full-length albums have kept the techno stalwart right at the top for many critics and music fans alike.

10. 50 Weapons
Modeselektor started two labels when they parted ways with Ellen Allien and bpitch. The clearly superior, and infinitely more interesting of the two is 50 Weapons. It emphasizes all the sounds that you would expect from label run by Modeselektor: bass, more bass and weird.

9. FoF
Friends of Friends, or FoF, is an L.A. label that encapsulates the L.A. beat-scene sound better than anyone else. At first glance, FoF sounds like a brainfeeder knock off, but upon closer inspection, they are not only their own label, but they actually have brainfeeder trumped in many ways, in my opinion. Only a handful of releases this year, but all of them were top notch, including two very solid full-lengths.

8. R&S 
 Blawan, Lone, Space Dimension Controller, The Chain, James Blake, a brilliant compilation. Enough said. People were wondering if they could follow up last year’s brilliant effort, and while 2011 may not have as many releases, they were all ace.

7. Car Crash Set
Something about Seattle breeds quality. Maybe the damp conditions foster a rare type of fungus that enters the human brain, and causes sudden and violent outbursts of unbridled creativity. CCS deals with everything bass related, no matter what tempo, no matter what motif and definitely no matter what it sounds like. If it’s fresh, it’s game.

6. Tri Angle
Every Tri Angle release has become like a worldwide cinematic event, like a Chris Nolan film. There are posters, trailers, teasers and the album covers always serve to provoke thought. But it’s no coincidence that they have this much notoriety after only two years. Every single thing that comes out with the Tri Angle name on it, is a complete and total game changer.

5. Planet Mu
Planet Mu is one of those labels that has been around for a while, but has had to significantly alter its course of direction. Gone are the days of dubstep/ 140bpm, in are the days of footwork and juke. While the sudden shift has brought new artists and new sounds, the quality has certainly remained. Planet Mu is also responsible for one of the most critically acclaimed albums of year.

4. Pelican Fly
This was, without question, the most badass label of the year. The label is based out of Belgium and only has five releases to its name, all from 2011. How does that qualify them to be number 4 on this list? Everything they brought to the table was the most ridiculous, nastiest, freshest thing I have ever heard. 2012 is going to be huge for these guys, as they have picked up a lot of publicity so far.

3. Numbers
The Glascow club-turned-record-label didn’t release a lot of tracks this year. They did however release some of the biggest tracks this year.

2. Mobilee
Based in Berlin and run by Anja Schneider, Mobilee really came into it’s own this year. Mobilee released tracks from Maceo Plex, Maya Jane Coles and Sebo K, just to name a few. I can’t think of label (besides #1) that dominated my ipod as much as Mobilee did this year. I really had to check myself while making my Top 100 Tracks list to keep Mobilee from running away with it.

1. Hotflush
Based in Berlin and run by Scuba, Hotflush has simply become one of electronic music’s brightest stars. Every release features not one great track, but several, if not all. Hotflush, along with Mobilee, not only dominated my ipod this year, but also my up coming Top 100 Tracks list.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

2011 In Review - Part 2: Who to Watch in 2012

I probably should have done this list first in hindsight, but I think it is more exciting, so it gets released later on. This is a group of producers who will probably be completely unknown to some people, but I think that these are names that will be a lot bigger come this time next year. The criteria for this selection was simple, anyone who doesn't have a large number of releases, they also can't have podcasts or reviews from big sites. They basically can't be making big waves yet.

10. Incyde
Let's start off by breaking my own rules. Incyde would have been a perfect candidate for this list, but Scuba had to have an Incyde remix on his DJ Kicks. I guess Incyde was also featured on Back and 4th... but he hasn't quite hit his stride yet. Being surrounded by the Hotflush crew should serve this Boston naitve very well in 2012.

Incyde- Teleophase Ep

9. Kon
Kon is really, really going off the map. He only has one official release! But it was a very good one. He makes bass music that is akin to Lucid. He rocks the 808s and keeps it sounding ghetto. There is no reason to think that he won't continue 2012 with more goodness.

Nah Like - Blessed (Kon Remix)

JTRP represents a more minimal take on the bass scene. He's another producer who seems to be surrounding himself in good company, and is poised for a big year.

Busta Rhymes - Woo Ha (JTRP Remix)

7. Liar
I might get a little bit of heat for this one... let's just say that Liar has a very "North American Friendly" sound. I see it, however, as someone who is using harsh and aggressive sounds tastefully. I only hope that he doesn't stray too far next year.

Liar - The Lichborn EP

While having your debut EP on BNR hardly puts you "under the radar", this guy is only 18. Same age as RNH... what was I doing at 18? I certainly wasn't in the top ten in NHL scoring and putting tracks out for Boys Noize.

Slap in the Bass - Nada (SCNTST Remix)

5. Pasteman
Pasteman is going to have such a big year next year that it isn't even funny. This guy just keeps picking up more and more steam with every release. Also, this EP isn't going to be out until early 2012, so I already know he will be starting the year off strong!

Mak & Pasteman - Get With The Program EP

4. Sticky Stockholm
Swedish house producer with a pretty large body of work, definitely set to break out soon and get noticed by the big labels.

Sticky Stockholm - Fat Fish EP

3. Orphan101
He has actually been around for a long time, pretty much since the proper dubstep days. He runs his own label, and he may have already reached as much notoriety as he is going get. I feel that his productions are too solid to be ignored by this list though.

Orphan101 - Junker EP

2. Cosmic Revenge

I have been a big fan of this guy since late last year, and I originally thought that this would be his break out year. He has put out some very solid tracks and remixes but nothing to get him the attention that he deserves, so I will continue to rep him.

Cosmic Revenge & FBOM - Hustle Up

1. Sinjin Hawke
I almost feel bad including him in here since The Lights EP was so massive. I think he has the attention of a lot of people now, but next year should prove to be even bigger for the Montreal Native.

Sinjin Hawke - The Lights EP

2011 In Review - Part 1: Break-Through Producers

I know it's been waaaaaay too long between posts, and there is currently no one following yet, but both of those things are going to change starting now! Now for the obligatory year end wrap-up lists that are all too common around the web. Sure there are bigger, and more reputable sites that do the same thing, but after reading so many sites for so many years, and even a few from this year... I am just getting tired of things getting missed.

So after a lot of work and reflection, I have compiled a series of lists to reflect the year that was 2011. Now I should warn you, these are only opinions, and only one man's at that. I felt like I listened to a million albums and tracks this year, but there is always going to be stuff that I missed. In fact, the best albums list will likely be last, since I am still tabulating some last minute releases. I do however have this list ready, a list of producers that are either new, or have been around for a while but never really risen to prominence until 2011. Without further adieu, I give you Break-Through Producers of 2011!!!

10. Lucid
This young Australian producer is the champion of a new breed of bass music. It's raw, it's bizarre, and it's catching on. He hasn't seen a lot of accolades yet, but if he isn't on your radar, he should be.

Thy Lucid EP Sampler

9. Blawan
Blanwan has crafted a very distinct and unique style that has set him apart from his techno contemporaries. His tracks are always recognizable immediately. 2011 saw him release a myriad of smashers, many of which had been getting massive support from major players.

Blawan - Getting Me Down

8. Lone
Lone is another brilliant, young and British producer who made major waves this year with a unique take on... music in general. His remix of Feral was pretty much the only thing the critics could agree on when talking about TKOL.

Radiohead - Feral (Lone Remix)

7. LOL Boys
Sometimes you just want to have fun and get insane on the dance floor (or in the bedroom, or on the bus with the headphones). LOL Boys represent a growing sound of unique, and innovative dance music that is coming from North America.

Gun Selectah - Villa Ghetto (LOL Boys Remix)

6. TWR72
Seriously? Why has no one been on these guys yet? Dutchmen The Walk and Roger 72 have teamed up to create one of the best, most consistent and most prolific production teams of the year. They have a bouncy and stark  electro/ techno sound that gets into your ears and bores through your skull until it's deep inside your brain.

TWR72 - Paradox

5. Mosca
Mosca has been around for a while, and it could be argued that last year was his breakout year. Also, you could say that he did more last year than he did this year. Although, at this time last year Mosca wasn't a house-hold name, and now he very much is. Plus anybody that builds a rewind into their track, is just cool.

Mosca - Done Me Wrong

4. Addison Groove
The alias of Headhunter has gotten some major attention this year, and rightfully so. He had one of last years biggest tunes in the form of "Footcrab". He hasn't released a lot of material, but every single track he did release has been played a lot this year. Not too mention his name popped up in some pretty good compilations/ commercial mixes as well. Look forward to an album on Modeselektor's 50 Weapons label this March.

Addison Groove - Fuk Tha 101

3. Jamie XX
It's hard to imagine that I have this guy only at number three. He has produced a brilliant remix album of the late Gil Scott Heron, mixed an essential mix, mixed a FACT mix, he remixed Radiohead, he  remixed Adelle, he has been sampled by Drake, and he is responsible for one of best tracks of the year: Far Nearer, which you can catch on a later list...

Drake feat. Rhianna - Take Care

2. Maya Jane Coles
Was there a bigger name this year than Maya Jane Coles? Well, according to me there is one more name that is bigger, but to many she epitomizes the term "Break-through". She released very good EPs for some very good labels: 2020, Hypercolour and Mobilee. She's compiled and mixed an RA podcast (the site for which she  slotted in at number 9 on their top 100 DJs Poll aka the real top 100 DJs Poll), and an essential mix as well. She has also become one of the most in demand DJs in the world.

Maya Jane Coles - Focus Now EP

1. Eats Everything
Dan Pearce is a guy you can like. He has been DJing/ Producing for over a decade with no notoriety. Last year, he couldn't find any label to release one of this year's undisputed best tracks. He represents Bristol and a completely fresh and fun take on house music. Until this point I had been saving these artists' best tracks for my "Top Tracks" list, but since I am putting him at number one, I figured I had to go with the big guns.

Eats Everything - Entrance Song