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Not quite dance music, badass techno and tough acid: DJs, producers and label bosses pick their tracks of 2013

Once again we end our annual round-up by asking a selection of our favourite DJs, producers and record label owners to ruminate on their own personal favourites from 2013. Looking to keep things fresh, we have chosen a largely new selection of individuals without any sacrifice in standards, with contributions from Ben UFO, Helena Hauff, Paul Woolford, Anthony Parasole, Powell and more. It’s a typically diverse selection too, with rare Mala dubs, underscore-loving Philitronics and EVOL amongst the picks.

Voices From The Lake – 531Khz (Concrete Records)
Steffi – “Attacke” (Bleep Green Series)
Fred P – “Splitting Particles” (The Corner)

After a fantastic year of releases in 2013 I could narrow it down to three records for me that sculpted my sets and (that I) always found myself reaching to. First is the Voices From The Lake’s 531Khz, a two-track single-sided EP where it was a struggle to decide which (track) to play. Both are unique in rhythm and sound design, and both are hypnotic and organic. The Voices side is much larger and more driving, but still very musical, as Minilogue remix is percussive and ever-evolving, engulfing you for a full 22-minutes of sound and music! Next is Steffi’s “Attacke”, which is techno-Steffi at her finest – it’s a timeless deep, driving track that I wish I made, perfect for when you’re totally deep in the mix for the late/early nights – it’s just badass techno!

Finally there’s Fred P’s “Splitting Particles” on my label The Corner. It was an absolute honour for me to release it as I never forget the first time I heard it in Fred’s kitchen – I almost fell off my chair and pretty much nagged him for a long time for it! It’s just such a unique, fresh spin on techno. In a world where everything has been done, I feel Fred’s synths in this record are just so fresh – every time it’s played out it evokes emotion and response as it makes people dance so hard! Thank you to all the great labels and producers pushing such amazing music this year. 2013 was hands down one of the best years for electronic music of the 2000s!

Cancerdog Vs Star-Kid ‎- Untitled (Panzerkreuz)

This record on Panzerkreuz is just fantastic. Cancerdog delivers three uncompromisingly tough acid tunes and the Star-Kid side offers some amazing electro as well as two ‘house’ tracks. Pure Bunker quality! It was a great year for electro anyway with Kan3da on AC Records, DMX Krew’s Micro Life on Abstract Forms and Schwefelgelb’s Dunkel Vor Den Augen Uns on Enfant Terrible! Plus: I’ve found a pretty cool motorik-driven, mystical horror-influenced, psychedelic folk-pop band called Children Of Leir. The plan for 2014 is to set up my own label and release their music.

Pev & Kowton – “End Point” (Livity Sound)

The gigs I’ve played have continued to be extremely varied, and there’s a huge amount of diverse, brilliant music being released, but 2013 felt like a year of renewed focus. It feels like there’s a community of people working towards something together, which is something I haven’t always felt in the past few years. I could’ve picked any number of tracks from the recent Livity Sound retrospective compilation – I’ve played almost every one of them repeatedly – but “End Point” represents everything I’ve been trying to achieve in my DJ sets this year, and everything I would want from releases on my own record label. It manages to be direct, forceful music for dancefloors, whilst maintaining interest and a sense of the experimental – and as a result it works in huge spaces as well as small, intimate clubs. There have been some wonderful moments this year where I’ve been able to watch thousands of people dancing happily to adventurous and weird club music, and this track has been responsible for many of them.

Popnoname – “Change (Matt Karmil Remix)” (PNN)

Cologne! A beautiful little city with a hint of darkness (that gothic cathedral as you exit the train station in the rain!) that seems to have produced a couple of different tracks this year that were big ones for me (Marvin Horsch “Pace” being the other big one). I got addicted to this Matt Karmil remix and would play it everywhere. Then I found out Mr Karmil is room mates with another Cologne favorite, Barnt, and I realized Cologne might be like Sesame Street. You just walk down the street running into all your friends. Pachanga Boys hanging out with some pretty girls in that cafe over there, Michael Mayer and the Voigt Brothers looking out the window of the Kompakt building waving at everyone passing by, and there’s Matias Aguayo going for a coffee saying “Rrrrrr” as he passes anyone. Seems like a TV show to me.

Ancient Methods – Seventh Seal (Ancient Methods)

There would always be a time of the night when I would drop this atomic bomb with some assured damage. I have always been a fan of Ancient Methods’ stuff, but “Knights & Bishops” is one of the finest, and best produced, techno destroyers I have heard in a long time. The progression of the bassline is just perfect, and so dramatic. It still amazes me for its brutality every time I play it. It’s incredibly well produced and full sounding – a real masterpiece.

Lawnchair Generals – “Word Part 2” (Viva!)

The record that I keep going back to is actually an old house thing by Lawnchair Generals called “Word Part 2” – it originally came out in 2003 I think and I played it to death then, as well during my residency at Back To Basics. The record has not aged at all, every now and then there are big booming 808 subs underneath that push it along. It works so well in house sets as both a mood-changer or a groove-maintainer for a looser atmosphere – you can slow it right down and use it in the warm up – the D-Train sample tips the room over the edge – or you can slip it into milder techno and it will take control of the room. Nearly every time I have played a house set in the last two years somebody has asked me its name. I have not heard a better house record for… years actually. Seek it out.

Joey Anderson – “Above The Cherry Moon” (Avenue 66)

Dark, heavy, and supremely twisted… There isn’t another record released this year that fucked with my head so much. Joey Anderson had a great 2013, unleashing quite a few outstanding 12”s. Above The Cherry Moon, which came out on Absurd Recordings sub-label Avenue 66, is the one that worked its way furthest into my brain.

A lot can be said about the sound permeating out of the greater NYC area recently, but in my opinion Joey Anderson is working on a completely unique vector. While his productions share stylistic elements with the likes of Levon Vincent and DJ Qu, there is something about Joey’s tracks that position themselves completely off the grid. This one is just so far out. The mix is unusual to say the least. Sounds enter and exit without warning, creating a really interesting push and pull between hypnosis and brain-jarring moments. Just when you’re settling into the groove, everything gets completely flipped on its head. (Those claps…)

This can be a difficult cut to play out, but to the right crowd, in the right environment, this is liquid fire – whether (you’re) setting the tone for the rest of the night, or standing as a monolith to a beyond-late state of mind. At the same time, playing this record at the wrong moment can definitely clear a floor, so DJs beware. I have so much respect for Joey Anderson, and cant wait to hear what he has in store for us in 2014.

_moonraker – “Offing Glow” (Great Cirlces)

This track is so incredible. It starts off in a slightly ambiguous place, with a tense little beat, and as you’re trying to figure it out, it just takes off. From then on you’re in a glorious head spin. It’s a sick, sick track. Hands down my favourite of the year.

Light Sounds Dark – Dark Matters Too (Light Sounds Dark)

I’m awful at end of year lists – really, really bad – because I’m basically incapable of whittling stuff down to any kind of succinct representation of the year just past. But I’ve gone for this record, not just because when I’m flicking through the bag it generally brings a smile to my face, but because the label is so damn hot. All the tracks are deadly (and old), but the best, for me at least, is the Onyx one – “SOS”. It’s just perfection; not really a dance tune, but you can’t help brockin’ out to it. I like that whole ‘not quite dance music but pretty much dance music’ kind of vibe. Having CHBB on wax is also a pretty big bonus, so yeah, that’s top of my list.

There’s other stuff on Light Sounds Dark that I can’t stop playing: Electrified Tracks, which I think came out the back end of 2012, and more recently the Dance LP from the Japanese band Earthling. “Heavy Feelings In My Mind” is just perfection, and hey, you can probably get away with playing it to your parents this Christmas too – something to get groovy to with granny. The label is amazing. That’s all there is to it.

Blacknecks – “To The Cosmos, Let’s Go” (Blacknecks)

It’s finally coming out now, but I’ve been playing it since I was lucky enough to be sent it earlier this year. At a time when techno is more saturated than ever with bland, unimaginative tracks revolving around the same kick, hat and stab combos, productions like this are few-and-far between. For me, techno has always been about taking chances, even if that means you occasionally fail or people don’t ‘get’ what you are trying to achieve. Not everyone will get “To The Cosmos, Let’s Go” and for me that just makes it even more special. More open-minded DJs such as Surgeon are all over the track and its fusion of the harder elements of European techno with italo disco synths sounds so fresh to me. A real mood-changer in the club, which always provides one of the most memorable moments of the night. It will live on long after this year is over.

EVOL – Something Inflatable (Alku)

This has been one of my favourite releases of the year without question and forms another chapter in EVOL’s singular and disruptive vision that irreverently connects the dots between computer music, rave, compositional theory and art production. I always look forward to their releases and the focus of their particular aesthetic and grammar. Whether working in physical or digital mediums they have a distinctive and refined approach that to me makes them one of the most important interdisciplinary projects of the last ten years. Their label Alku has consistently pushed the boundaries of what we can think of and classify as music and Something Inflatable marks the latest transmission from this unique and groundbreaking project. Long may it continue.

Mala – “Too Much Chat” (DMZ)

This song means a lot to me for many different reasons – one being that it was a key dub around the time when I first started getting into music and going to a club kinda-regularly. Another being that it’s completely and utterly devastating on a loud system. I’ve only heard it a couple times in the last five-to-six years, but every time I do, I lose it.

Adjowa – “Red Leather (Funkineven Remix)” (Happy Skull)

In a year dominated by experimental techno and electronica of varying quality, it has from time to time been difficult to find straight club tracks that felt fresh. Happy Skull, the Bristol label owned and run by The Kelly Twins, twice proved an exception to that rule though, firstly with the Kowton and Hyetal produced Systems Of Desire EP, and then with this debut release from boogie aficionado Adjowa, which sports an absolutely slamming Funkineven remix. Adjowa’s original calls to mind the early-mid ’80s boogie which you might have heard on labels like Sunnyview, and the Funkineven remix picks up where that era of music left off, veering head-on into acid-house territory but with a distinctly UK twist.

Urban Culture – “The Wonder of Wishing (For You)” (Eclipse Records)

The way a bag gets unpacked and repacked gig-to-gig is kinda interesting. The real mainstays are often certain ambient or tool tracks that in many ways are less defining because they aren’t usually the focus of the set. I have two tenets to the way I approach my sets: One is to hammer tracks over and over for years on end, the other is to mix it up drastically (and) regularly. Anyone who has heard me (DJ) at any point in time, ever, will have heard me play tracks like “Healer“, “Zeno Xero” or “There Was A Time“.

This year I always had something off Sued Records in my bag, but I always change which ones I take out. I usually had something by Stanislav Tolkachev too, he’s hit a real run of form… but again I don’t think I could point to a single one of his tracks as so many offer something special. 2013 began with me joining Ben UFO for their Hessle/Rinse FM show and I played Urban Culture “The Wonder of Wishing (For You)“. Since then it’s been with me most gigs (and I think Ben has been playing it too), so I’ll go for that one.

Murlo & Famous Eno – “Ariel VIP” (unreleased)

Truth be told I could have had dozens of different tunes in this list, and did have. I think at least five of them were Murlo’s, but this is probably the one I’ve played the most. It’s been a big tune at our night all year and it’s just mental really – part of the percussion is a crow squawking, it jumps from a ridiculous niche-esque bassline to a big choir and string thing every 16 (bars), I’ve just battered it. It’s been a good year on the grime side of things for slightly weird music that batters the floor, and I think this probably falls into that category.

Charles Manier – Charles Manier (Nation)
Charles Manier – Electrocution (Kode)

2013 was definitely a good year for records. There were several amazing singles, but unlike other people, I went the opposite direction, expressing my thoughts and emotions of various different moods of music. (I went) from old tapes, to minimal wave, rare italo, new-beat, obscure disco, cosmic, electronics, punk and DIY – to dark-acid from 808 State, 2AMFM, 2 Dogs In A House, Gemini, Hieroglyphic Being, Credit 00, Beau Wanzer, MBD, Svengalisghost – to rare music box exclusives, music from Morphine, a few L.I.E.S. 12″s, lots of Dark Entries, lots of unreleased D’Marc Cantu and JTC, In Aeternam Vale, and even more…

One of the people who stood out for me is Charles Manier, and if I have the chance to play his material out, I would, but I would never tell anyone what it was as I wanted people to think, if they did realize it (might be Charles Manier), that it could have come from Liaisons Dangereuses. Since I released it (Charles Manier) this year I’m still playing something from this incredible piece of serious music, and, for anyone that truly values the elements of the Jakbeat approach and moments of darkwave techno, will understand why the self-titled Charles Manier is the album that will be cherished by the lucky few that investigate and embrace this incredible concept from a genius, that, since the start, has brought to life one of the most important influences the world owes homage to, which Nation provides. Without ever being the key record of the set, it always found its place. Despite its extremely minimal character, it isn’t forced to sound different or necessarily obscure. It’s very refreshing and like nothing else. This is the collected works of a celebrated producer finally feeling the time is right to share this side of his creative streak with the world.

The second part of my answer of which artist I’ve been playing out most this year is the Charles Manier Electrocution EP from my new sub-label of Nation called Kode, and once again Manier destroys every expectation of doubt with three deadly blades of truth. Giving a raw version of “Waiting For Electrocution” (different than on the album version), then a new production of amazing contemporary music called “Sift Through Art Collecting People” that deplores the insincerity in art culture and art as a commodity. Lunging, distorted guitar tones into a cavernous landscape penetrating the dense, bustling hive of rhythm.

On the flip-side is “Bopside”, the EP’s lengthiest track clocking in at over ten-minutes and it has a CHBB influence with an authentic homage as Manier imagines what CHBB may have sounded like in an extended, long playing, dance 12″ manifestation. Laced with an ever changing unpredictable funk, it’s relatively long so it gives me lots of room to start building something of my own, or continuing on as you can hear in a live recording from me playing at Plastic People back in September, or another session I did at Honey Soundsystem in early August. But at the same time it’s so commanding that it doesn’t feel like an energy drop to the audience. This is guaranteed to turn heads wherever it’s dropped and it sounds absolutely lethal on a good system, and even though it was released as a limited one-time pressing of 200, I’m still going to play it religiously…