Best of 2015: Top 50 singles
A year’s worth of 12″s, 7″s, EPs and double-packs have been sifted through and sorted to compile our top 50 singles of 2015.
Electronic music certainly made its own headlines over the past 12 months but as December grows and the end of year lists begin to roll around it marks a time to forget about the brouhaha of the year that was and concentrate on the music. It’s a mentality we like to maintain at Juno Plus and the list below is the result of keeping tabs on the EPs and 12”s to 7″s, cassettes and digital-only material that makes its way through the annals of our Camden HQ each week. Agreed upon and compiled by Tony Poland, James Manning and Oli Warwick, you’ll find a rundown of music from 2015 that undeniably proffer all the hallmarks of a smash hit to others yielding a different bent of house, techno, ambient and other anomaly forms of club music and experimental sound design.
Sidetrakx Volume #3
While John F.M. may not have the international profile of FXHE label boss Omar S, his music spearheaded the label’s output in 2015. FXHE’s double drop of John F.M. material this year introduced an artist quite capable of R&B instrumentals (with the croon to match) in addition to his ability to produce a bona fide dancefloor hit in the self-affirming “Where My Roots Lie (New Detroit Anthem)”. Although John F.M.’s discography is still small, a recommended place to start discovering his music is the underground soul of “Faahhuuuuuu”, written and sung by the man servicing one half of the hottest 7” to come out of Detroit this year. Omar S’ cheeky and cheery bassline pop of “Ah Nother One” provides a playful two-minute vignette on the A-side, but the real diamond of FHXE’s output this year is the deep B-side swoon of Side Trakx – Volume #3.
Such is the clever management of Workshop, a sense of unpredictable thrill awaits as the needle hovers over the platter listening to a new record from the label for the first time. That sensation is felt strongest on the various artist 12”s, which tend to reach to lesser represented artists who share a spirit with the German oddballs. On this occasion, it’s the jam from Manchester newcomer Willow that makes this record essential, with “Feel Me” sounding strong at home but taking on a special power on the dancefloor with its wild layering of vocal tones. Tapes meanwhile delivered a curious lo-fi ballad, The Horn laid emotive synths on as thick as is sonically possible, and Herron made the leap from meandyou. with a moody slab of 4/4 drama that shirked convention in a most affecting of ways. As this record perfectly demonstrated, Workshop continues to play its maverick card impeccably.
V I S
This year veiled port-side entity SPR surfaced from the industrial centre of Hamburg with a haunted four-track EP which gave Golden Pudel associates Nina and partner Tobias Duffner the inspiration to launch their label V I S. In the interview attached to Nina’s hallucinatory podcast for Juno Plus this year, she told us, “SPR isn´t someone you meet in the club often. He prefers staying at home screwing. F#X luckily invited Tobi and I to play at the same party where he played live and it was pretty clear we wanted to do something together.” The resultant EP1 delivers sounds and soundscapes that converges on a point overlooking tense, industrial and science-fiction bouts of ambience alongside reflective shimmers of plaintive harbour city sorrow sprinkled with dub and most macabre field recordings. For fans of Blackest Ever Black’s more ethereal output, this is a must, as is SPR’s follow up Her Eyes Are An Abyss record on the emerging JSMЁ Records.
Abul Mogard / Harmonious Thelonious
Out of the sprawling empire of labels and series Stuart Leath continues to turn his hand to, there was something particularly appealing about the four-part Schleissen series of split 12”s. There’s no doubt that on one hand the chosen artists were drawing on the much-touted Dusseldorf scene, but they were pitched against an interesting array of other fringe artists. Abul Mogard has been strongly represented on a wide spread of labels this year, and his effort on the first installment was a perfect demonstration of his rousing, emotional drone music. Meanwhile a very different experience was waiting on the B-side, as Harmonious Thelonious delivered the most explicit demonstration of his love for classical American minimalism with two hypnotic tributes to the Terry Riley et al. While the shifts in these determined loops were incredibly subtle over a huge stretch of time, it shone a light on just how finely tuned the sounds involved were, as should always be the case with such approaches.
Formed in Athens, but now based in Berlin, Nous Disques has built up a cultish following since it first emerged with the debut sounds of Miltiades. And with good reason, as Nous really stepped up their game this year; coaxing Call Super away from the Houndstooth bosom for one of his best 12”s, introducing more unheralded names like O Xander and YPY, and landing this killer blow from Karen Gwyer. The london-based US producer has made waves in recent years with releases on Opal Tapes and NPIP, and Bouloman represented the most accomplished display of her grotty, abrasive brand of long form techno yet. Let’s not gloss over the mind-bending patterned artwork on the record sleeve either. More of this please Karen!
It can be quite hard for straight up techno to earn a place in these almighty end of year lists, in part due to the sheer amount of booming Berghain fodder that’s released on a weekly basis. So what makes this 12” by Italian producer Domenico Crisci different? Take a listen to both tracks which bookend this EP and that should be answer enough. While the Jeff Mills, Surgeon and Regis influences are apparent, both “Ceremony” and “Strong Experience” are far from naïve, fan-boy replicas. A third track “Lash” provides the record with a sense of acid stained melody, which is given the wormhole treatment on Marco Shuttle’s subsequent remix, however should you ever get the chance to play a cavernous powerstation-turned-nightclub one day here’s a record you should arm yourself with like Schwarzenegger in Commando.
As Flora Pitrolo stated in her feature on Mannequin, label founder Alessandro Adriani seems to have found a finely tuned balance “swinging between two fundamental identities as a reissue label and as a hub for new artists”. Of the latter Adriani got his hands on this year, the Untitled 12” from Brussels-based Maoupa Mazzocchetti was a towering highlight. The superbly named producer first surfaced via fellow Berlin stronghold Unknown Precept last year, with his Mannequin debut feeling looser, more confident and less beholden to notions of noisy techno. Channelling a similar vibe to Beau Wanzer, Mazzocchetti brought a sense of humour and unbridled chaos to this Mannequin 12”, elements absent in a lot of other music of this ilk.
LIES 026 5
Want to know who belongs among the finest techno selectors currently operating within the US? Check the two hour podcast Lori ‘Antenes’ Napolean did for this site back in August – she’s also a very interesting interviewee to boot. Her full debut as a producer also served to be the best thing L.I.E.S. put out in 2015, no mean feat given the swathe of high profile artist albums and 12”s that surfaced from Camp Morelli as the year progressed. Behind Napolean’s productions as Antenes is a curious discipline involving repurposed telephone switchboards and self-built modular synths and these machines were implemented to craft some truly abstract and mind bending techno shapes on LIES 026.5.
This year saw a lot more focus land on Vancouver’s nascent house scene, or the ‘Canadian Riviera sound’ as it seems to have been dubbed, with many fine records landing on an increasingly wide spectrum of labels. One of the best actually came through a Glasgow channel, All Caps, whose innate ear for excellent music saw them champion the Vancouver scene before many others. Not that many people outside of Vancouver would have been familiar with Florist, though his Phenomena 12” for All Caps certainly left a lasting impression. Whilst quite separate to the pleasant, new age indebted house sound proffered by Mood Hut, Florist’s music was still quite redolent of a byegone era and felt like a charming house relic excavated for a new generation to enjoy.
Pev & Hodge
It’s been another fine year for Livity, one of those labels who stand so far out on their own it can be easy to discount just how special each missive is. After time spent indulging remixes, 2015 saw a renewed sense of purpose amongst Pev and co., with Kowton’s On Repeat single drawing plenty of favourable attention while Pev’s recent Undulate / Grit was equally essential, but this first appearance for Hodge on the parent label alongside the boss man takes the prize. The lead synth hook in “21 Versions” neatly defines the new colourful strains of sound that are creeping into the Livity diaspora, while none of the soundsystem pressure has been diminished. “What Your Heart Knows” certainly whirls with that unmistakable Pev rhythmic kink, while the strafing bleeps and squeaks bounce with Hodge’s unmutable energy, proving that Livity Sound can progress while maintaining the carefully curated aesthetic of all the component artists.
Koehler & Kuno
Anti Gravity Switch
2015 was the year of controversy; for many Berceuse Heroique’s year is defined by that misogynistic tweet and the fallout of opinion that followed it. Misogyny in society shouldn’t be condoned, and the reaction proved that we are perhaps moving towards that in electronic music. Yet does this controversy discount Berceuse Heroique’s releases this year from consideration? Separate the antagonist behind the label with the music they have put out, and Berceuse has released some excellent records from Beneath, Don’t DJ, Ekman, Marcello Napoletano, Hodge and more. The one Berceuse release that stood out most was the brash and ugly Anti-Gravity Switch 12” from Koehler and Kuno, whose mutated acid assault was perfectly balanced by the stripped back dub remix from A Made Up Sound.
Taken before their time, it’s something of a rite of passage for the greatest in any musical genre to have their music released posthumously. From Elvis Presley and J Dilla to Amy Winehouse and Aaliyah, previously unheard or new music by the departed has made its way out, and Hyperdub pays homage to the late DJ Rashad with this 6613 EP. With all proceeds of the release going to Rashad’s family, it features production touches from the likes of long-time Rashad collaborator and Hyperdub label mate DJ Spinn, Dance Mania graduate Gant-Man, Taso – who collaborated with Jessy Lanza and Spinn on Hyperdub this year – and DJ Manny, presenting a record that’s both wistful and nostalgia-inducing in its highs while deep and heavy in its lows. With euphoric female vocals and the up-beat, major keys of “CCP2” and “Cause I Know U Feel” giving flight to the A-side, heated clubbier fare takes over on the flip. And if there’s a footwork track to be immortalised, it’s the Kill Bill siren sampling, epic bassline drop of “Do Not Fuck” featuring Rashad’s all-star cast of DJ Manny, DJ Spinn and Taso.
Fight/Kiss & Make Up
Draped in the mystique that clings to talented yet understated new artists, Germany’s Matt Karmil still managed to establish himself this year with confident outings on Idle Hands, Yumé and Studio Barnhus. It was this single, though, which appealed to us most at Juno Plus. Karmil’s sound is a brand of deep-reaching house music loaded with character, but still clear on its purpose as proper, DJ-ready dance music. The concept of the record also held appeal, made up of two alternative takes on the same motifs with different emotional accents, as marked out by the cunning titles. The lead hook, a spooked-out chime loop loaded with tension, was enough to make this a head-turning record whether you wish to express the harder edge of “Fight” or the smoother embrace of “Kiss & Make Up”.
DJ Spider & Marshallito
Contest For Supremacy
The Trilogy Tapes fan base was well served in 2015 with yet more variants on the label logo appearing on numerous t-shirts, a Beautiful Swimmers tape that almost broke the internet due to ID requests and a wealth of 12”s. Of these 12″s, the one record that truly stood out for us was Contest For Supremacy, which saw DJ Spider and Marshallito return to TTT. The bizarre chanting, sticky drum programming, and piano breakdowns of lead cut “Nuclear Winter” had been bugging out listeners of Rinse FM for months before it finally landed. This track alone made for the finest example yet of the paranoid Bronx techno Spider and Marshallito have developed together.
At this stage, it has become quite tricky pinning down an overarching definition of Portuguese trio Niagara. After first surfacing in the early days of Lisbon-based label Príncipe amidst the wave of hot new artists Nigga Fox, Marfox and more besides, the unhinged punky qualities of this unfamiliar concern suggested a wholly different kind of creative alchemy at work, and this unpredictability has faithfully continued into their recent output. As well as an excellent single for From The Depths, this five-track firebrand of a record served as a perfect demonstration of the live thrill that three collaborators can inject into dance music tropes. The post-punk snarl in “Abacaxi Limao” was a fine case in point, while “Legume” was equally rough shod, but these wild tendencies never came at the expense of forthright grooves, making for potent dancefloor ammo of the most exciting kind.
According To Obalski
There was a lot of great music released on Public Possession this year, further highlighting the wonderfully eclectic nature of the Munich-based label. Bell-Towers dropped one of his most pumped up house cuts in the form of “Hyper-Realised-Self” and Konrad Wehrmeister drifted out into a wonderful dub reverie, but the most ear-snagging offering of the lot came from Obalski. Marking his second ever EP after surfacing last year with the Introducing Obalski 12”, this new outing brought a little more focus to the burgeoning producer’s sound as he drifted from spaced out synth reverie to cyclical dream techno. Most importantly though, every track still sported the unconventional approach that had marked out his first record, and so an intriguing new chapter has been written for an artist that promises much for the future.
The Hangout Project
Sword Of Light
Out To Lunch
While Lowtec may have remained visible for a long time – from his early career through to his time spent with Workshop and Nonplus (amongst many others) more recently – there was a distinct gap for ten years where his fine Out To Lunch label was absent from the weirder corners of European house music. It was certainly a surprise when this release from anonymous artist The Hangout Project landed, heralding the return of the label with a typical minimum of fuss. The unconventional style certainly made it a return worth embarking on, whoever is responsible for the music. While the sounds may be coming from identifiable machines, their arrangements fizz with that surreal bent that can only come from the world that Lowtec himself inhabits, whether he made the music or not. It’s also worth mentioning that the second record from Out To Lunch this year, by Black Point, was an equally essential transmission from the ether.
Even if their label has been slow to take shape with just a handful of 12”s and cassettes, the consistent quality of the music in both meandyou.’s event line-ups and releases has ensured the Manchester-born collective receive knowing nods of approval when they get mentioned amongst fans of outer-reaching house music. Herron, one of the founding members of the crew, has edged into view as the most productive of the bunch, and after multiple split releases this EP gave him the chance to truly display his capabilities as an artist. From the woozy thrum of rhythmic, house-like tracks through to the taciturn pulse of the more experimental excursions, this is music wrought from an appealingly gloomy place of inspiration, and it does a great credit to both artist and label alike.
Always a label adept at keeping its followers on their toes, it sounded as though Antinote had found a forgotten gem of French pop in one of their fabled flea market scrambles when they released Domenique Dumont’s debut EP. As it happens, the record was in fact created in Latvia very recently, but it doesn’t stop the charm of the music whisking you away to an idyllic, sun-kissed scene in the campagñe with every listen. This evocative effect is helped no end by the delicate vocal charms of the unnamed female vocalist, but even without her captivating coo the production itself has transportation qualities. Just listen to the dusty lilt of EP closer “La Chateau De Corail” and you’ll find it hard to resist being swept away to some distant romantic reverie, at least until the artful stopping of the record platter that managed to stay in the final mix.
There are many facets to the work of Samuel Van Dijk, the Dutch producer behind VC-118A. As Mohlao he surfaced on Meanwhile, and as Multicast Dynamics he released no less than four albums over the past twelve months, but it’s his work as VC-118A that has really caught out ears. Following turns on Lunar Disko and TRUST, he made a second appearance on Tabernacle earlier this year and essentially slayed the competition in terms of deep, deviant electro. In a genre that has been mined by every Drexciya obsessive for the past 20 years it can be hard to find something new to say, but the message that beams out of Propulse transmits in stunning new formations that turn the stylistic traditions on their head. From eerie minimalism on “Central Zone” to icy machine soul on “Virile Frame”, every move Van Dijk makes is unique.
Lotic turned heads last year with the release of Damsel In Distress, a mix of all-original material and twisted club refixes of tracks like Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” that marked him out as a most interesting talent. An integral part of Dan Denorch’s Janus crew, Lotic took his form of 2014 and channelled that into this sound-bending five-track Heterocetera EP for New York’s Tri Angle, and it remains a defining record of the label alongside Vessel’s Punish, Honey, Forest Swords’ Engravings and Evian Christ’s Waterfall. The music lurches from industrial screeches of sound design fit for Terminator 2 laced with a natural horror thematic good enough for a 2020 remake of Irwin Allen’s The Swarm, however it does have an instrumental grime touch too that will bring to mind the depleted sounds of Visionist to genre-bending artists to like fellow Tri Angle artist Rabit and The Sprawl collaborator Logos.
Garnering attention for his Twitter game as much as his music in the latter half of 2015, it’s easy to forget that Hodge was flooding the scene during the earlier months of the year. He made some big steps in linking up with Berceuse Heroique and graduating to the main Livity Sound label in collaboration with Pev, but this release on Untold’s Hemlock label was surely the most seismic of all his moves this year. There is clearly a point being made in spreading these four modestly sized tracks across a double-pack, and indeed if they aren’t excessively lengthy they make up for it in sheer artistic intent. “Blood Moon” surges forth in a hailstorm of techno pressure and grime strings while “I Don’t Recognise You Lately” plies a more melancholic, introspective trade. With each piece a unique window into Hodge’s ever active imagination, Blood Moon went some way to solidifying the Bristol producer’s ever-rising reputation.
Where to Now?
Where To Now? and Beatrice Dillon clearly bring out the best in each other. Last year’s Blues Dance cassette from the London-born musician was our favourite piece of music released by WTN? and Dillon repeated the trick in 2015 with Faces A/B. Villalobos may well be seen as an icon of minimally-flavoured house and techno, but beyond other crews stemming from eastern Europe there are few new artists bringing their own distinct flavour to the sound these days with any degree of critical credibility. On the basis of this 12”, Dillon should be considered one of them, with a standout lead track that perfectly balances the dark, faintly acidic flourishes of Dillon’s production with the wild and unpredictable tenor saxophone of Verity Susman. We are still yet to hear that much from Dillon as a producer, but there are whispers of plenty to come next year and this 12” had us very excited to see how it will all turn out.
Undoubtedly a product of the West Country mutant approach to dubstep and its subsidiaries genres, Omar McCutcheon made good on the promise of his early outings on Ytivil and Cold this year with three strong appearances. His contributions to Mistry and Hotline were all peppered with that confrontational penchant for sound design and wild abstractions of techno tropes, but most impressive was his first effort on his own Timedance label. The lead track “Cardinal” had an almost punky finish with its ragged strafes of percussion and hissing high frequencies, while the peaks and drops seemed to take great pleasure in delivering the unexpected. “Domino Theory” may have appeared to be more measured in its demeanour, but it still sounded daring and dangerous like all the best soundsystem-geared music should.
Herva was everywhere in 2015. The Italian artist born Hervè Atsè Corti started the year with this mini-LP on All City and ended it with a full length for Planet Mu. In between he contributed to the UK label’s colossal anniversary compilation and debuted on Don’t Be Afraid, as well delivering a debut Life’s Track album alongside Marco ‘Dukwa’ D’Aquino. A refreshing sonic unpredictability remained constant throughout all this Herva material and rendered his inclusion in these lists wholly necessary. As accomplished as his Kila LP for Planet Mu proved to be, it was the six tracks of mangled breakbeats, recycled samples and crazed rhythmic left turns on How To Mind Your Own for All City that was most memorable to our collective ears.
Nonplus 028 & Nonplus 029
You may have read Boddika tell RA, “I thought he was one of the guys from Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels at first,” in regards to meeting Source Direct’s Jim Baker for the first time (Steve Sweeney’s Plank character to be precise). It came with the news that Nonplus were to reissue two mid-‘90s Source Direct classics, “Black Rose” and “Approach & Identify”. This wasn’t any old reissue however, with Blawan employed to remix the former – quite the task for a techno producer – while the other remix came from Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker’s Demdike Stare project, both of whom are known for their deft touch reconstructing sampled breaks. With obvious thought put into this double release – and both remixes blessed by Baker – Demdike Stare sucked out the ambient elements from “Approach & Identify” in a bold conversion totally disparate from the floating original, while Blawan’s remix funnelled any sign of 170BPM from his version and pounded the remaining textural elements with his now trademark 4/4 stomp.
NHK yx Koyxen Feat. XiX (3)
Hallucinogenic Doom Steppy Verbs
Something about techno in 2015 makes you want more than what a 909 and Jeff Mills inspirations can offer. If there’s been a label this year to deliver a sound designed for the club that’s bent out of shape, but still obliquely aligned with the dancefloor, it’s been Powell’s Diagonal. Of all the releases the label’s put out this year – taking into account Russell Haswell’s album, Evol and Blood Music 12”s – the one that’s resonated most on the dancefloor has been Japanese producer NHK’Koyxen’s Hallucinogenic Doom Steppy Verbs EP. An undisputed highlight of the record is 11-minute meltdown “845_” featuring XiX, aka London dweller Oliver Fay, while scrapes and hollow suctions of sound somehow hold a groove together on “218”. Furthermore there’s spangled acid techno to be had on “The Spiral Of Babel” to the demented, suffocating muppet rave of “234”. Techno freed of boundaries.
Harmonia & Eno
Where to start with Edward this year? Well, following on from his album debut on Giegling, he may have only put out the one follow up 12”, Birds, however he’s been prolific on the remix front, lending his atmospheric and bumping styles of house music to Hivern Discs, Portuguese label Assemble Music (who released a 12” by his Desert Sky project last year), and these versions of “Athmosphere” and “Sehr Kosmisch” from Harmonia and Brian Eno’s 1997 Tracks & Traces album. Having previously been remixed by Shackleton and Appleblim, it’s seemingly a popular album among a select group of producers, so much so for Edward he’s remixed it twice for Oliver Hafenbauer’s Die Orakel – with the cascading textures of his ‘Close To Pompeii version’ a real highlight. At 14 minutes long that particular mix is good enough to warrant a single-sided release, however the A-side also provides a supernatural, dreamlike mix of “Athmosphere”, and in the process marks Die Orakel as a label to keep tabs on going into next year.
Dubs From The DAT
Steve Mizek’s label Argot has been hard at work putting out its own refined taste in house music since 2012, delivering records from Amir Alexander, The Black Madonna to Gunnar Haslam, Mister Saturday Night’s Eamon Harkin and Smart Bar booker Jason Garden, aka Olin. Then came along T.B Arthur, one of those enigmatic names to appear out of nowhere on Hard Wax with a series of quickly snapped up, self-released white labels. Quite the coup of releases for Argot, Dubs From The DAT provides the label with three, dubby cuts of gurgling, stripped back drum tracks that sound as though they’ve been soaked in kerosene and thrown down a metallic lined well with no bottom. For a record that sounds something like a warped collaboration between artists on FHXE, Perlon and SUED, this is as close as you’ll probably get.
This year Acting Press surfaced with a bang thanks particularly to this five-track Geo Fi 12”, and the label, its sonic aesthetic and artists associated gravitate somewhere around the Sex Tags, Acido, SUED universe. It sold out within hours here at Juno and earned the Resident Advisor Recommends seal of approval; not bad for a record solely judge on the music alone. Similar to Porn Sword Tobacco’s Magnifik Botanik, CC Not’s debut delivers mellow and lo-fi deep house which in some cases could be classed as ambient even though there are drums: see “303 IMUX” to understand what we’re talking about. The 11-minute “Cylinder Avoidance Test” harks back to the gurgling loop techno Acido was putting out on its earlier various artist and Rotorik 12”s from the mid-2000s, while Sotofett styled breaks can be heard on A1 cut “Wearing”. Lots to like about this record, if you can get your hands on one.
Pender Street Stepper Jack Jutson scored what was for many the track of 2014 with the languid delights “Something (On My Mind)” for home team Mood Hut, and he again was responsible for one of this year’s most ubiquitous tracks. Landing on DC brethren Future Times, “Thirstin’” proved above all Jutson’s status as the new age crooner of the Mood Hut era and was undoubtedly one of the most played tracks of the summer. With a slightly unbelievable 79.5k listens and counting on the Future Times SoundCloud, “Thirstin’” took on anthemic qualities and hopefully opened up Max D’s label to the wider audience it truly deserves.
Introduced by Sling & Samo’s Born Free label earlier this year, Powder is a Japanese producer and DJ whose tracks are completely refreshing given the house, techno and EBM tags associable with her music. Delve deeper into the world of Powder and you’ll find a sonic vegetation of watery undertones, mystical motifs and three-dimensional ambience potted around thuddy kick drums, gnarly arpeggiated basslines and tonal percussion. Powder’s debut on ESP Institute, Highly, is a collage of organic textures and jungle/forest atmospheres that thrive among Aphex Twin-like vocal detuning, oriental melodies and touches of melancholia that makes for a record that many times over invokes a neon and new age feel.
Not content with delivering one of our favourite productions of the year under his Black Deer alias, William Burnett also coaxed the best work yet out of Entro Senestre for his WT Records label. The ES 12” demands inclusion here thanks to shimmering lead cut “Rosegold”, whose resonant effect on the body and mind was summed up perfectly in an unofficial video featuring Bart Simpson swaying with hands aloft and a satisfied grin that surfaced online; rarely has a simple looped video proved so effective. Whilst that track and “DOHC” proved Senestre’s innate ear for melody, the New York-based producer also demonstrated his musical versatility on experiments with pristine drum and bass and subaqueous 2-step. Senestre would later appear on Dekmantel with some outright electro, but ES was his finest work.
Errorsmith / Mark Fell
Of all the flung out, atonal sounds being hurled around the electronic music landscape these days, perhaps one of the most recognisably trippy tracks from this year comes from Errorsmith & Mark Fell’s Protogravity EP. With the potential to warp heads as much as DJ Koze’s mind bending “Mrs Bojangles” did back in 2009, the A-side’s title-track, with its punchy, broken Fell beats, detuned metallic percussion and uncanny vocals, makes the listening experience feel more like an endless flight down a time stretched wormhole than ‘club banga’. Unearthly, mouthed vocals are equally queer in “Cuica Digitales” however they’re less unsettling than “Protogravity” and sit batty at the fore of the mix, providing a B-side option for DJs wanting to avoid the hit. Additionally “Atomic #80” sees Errorsmith & Mark Fell indulge in the new-fangled sound of instrumental grime and explosive industrial percussion, taking crews like Berlin’s Janus and London’s Endless into account, that PAN find themselves currently aligned with.
Since the sub-label of Livity Sound started up there have been a few breakthrough appearances. Aside from the more established Hodge and Alex Coulton, the likes of Bruce and Batu were totally unknown before they were snapped up by Pev’s bass-contorting powerhouse, and so it goes that keen followers raised an intrigued eyebrow at the introduction of Simo Cell with the Cellar Door 12”. It’s the first time Livity has reached beyond the UK, instead calling on the Paris-dwelling Simon Aussel to deliver two tracks of cool and deadly dance damage that follows the label narrative to a tittle. Rather than a Livity-by-numbers approach though, both “Cellar Door” and “Piste Jaune” brim with their own flair, from icy melodic hooks to crafty drum programming that urges an emphatic physical response.
Part1 & Part2
Considering his last trip out on vinyl was back in 2007 (alongside a youthful Tom Demac no less), it would be understandable that many had forgotten about Welsh producer Duckett. Fortunately his links to the Freerotation festival and the artists and labels around it eventually manifested in this pair of releases for UntilMyHeartStops, instantly raising the question of where he had been hiding all this time. The label in question is of course known for its wayward taste, but even so Duckett’s ethereal creations dart out into an entirely new space where machines coo in foreign tongues and drums skip gaily around the notion of a groove. At times the textures can be scathing and elsewhere they soothe, but across nine tracks on two 12”s every shred of sound imparts a new, exciting experience.
Blackest Ever Black
Despite their reputation and presence, it’s surprising how little some of the Young Echo crew have put out. One of the later additions to the rag tag Bristol collective, Ossia has been plenty busy behind the scenes organising dances and running labels, as well as sparring with Vessel’s Ape project under the name DJ Oa$is, mostly on the FuckPunk label. Emerging from the murk on Blackest Ever Black, Red X made for a savage statement that joins the dots between nauseating soundsystem pressure and noise in the post-punk industrial vein. Aside from the subliminal heartbeat of low-end rhythm and the sheets of static and feedback, Ossia also brought forth some acutely pitched political undertones by way of Peter Tosh’s diary recordings, filling a much noticeable void in contemporary music to challenge the establishment through subversive means.
Draw For The
While Beneath has always used No Symbols as a vessel for his own thrilling concoctions on the intersection between techno and dubstep, he’s also executed a keen instinct for signing like-minded souls to his burgeoning Mistry label. Of the two releases issued this year, Batu’s Dekalb/Collate was strong, but Laksa clean took our head off with the deadly precision of Draw For The, exuding gritty, staunchly UK-rooted dance music with carry-out cartons full of panache in amongst the snaking bass lines and stark drum hits. The title track certainly has some of Beneath’s Sheffield steel about it, but to our mind “Touch Down” steals the show with its deadly cowbell configuration calling to mind an early Nightmares On Wax hook in amongst an arrangement as calm as it is moody.
Don’t Be Afraid
It’s been a pleasure to see DJ Bone re-enter the spotlight in 2015, with his dexterity behind the decks given extra light through his RA podcast in early January, a mix which helped further introduce his Differ-Ent project. In a September interview with Juno Plus, it was revealed Eric Dulan’s Differ-Ent alias provides the Detroit artist with a new platform to articulate what he calls dark thoughts, and Bone himself describes the music as, “soundtrack techno, but you can dance to it. It’s like the bogeyman actually coming through the wall after you.” That said, it shouldn’t be assumed both tracks from this debut are wonted slabs of clichéd German-sounding kick drums. The darkness Duncan speaks of may be hard to directly pin point as the music is indeed colourful, high octane and Detroit-fuelled, but moreover, as Bone points out: “you can be soulful and hard at the same time.”
After their debut Different Fountains album Shrimp That Sleeps truly announced them to the world last year, Belgian duo Michael Langeder and Bernardo Risquez made themselves an even more vital concern with this self-released gem of intricate percussion. On the A-side “This Snake” whips up a heady broth of looping drums both organic and synthetic and approximates a modern day equivalent of ritual trance music, while on the flip “That Snake” heads out into a most exotic variation of heated broken beat, bolstered by some fine vocal trysts and plenty of dubby feedback. This was definitely a good year for dense, worldly rhythms, and Different Fountains proved to be one of the finest exponents of the craft with the one release they had this year.
Golden Teacher Meets Dennis Bovell At The Green Door
As befitting their status is as one of the UK’s best live acts, Golden Teacher were involved in plenty this year that was worthy of attention in the end of year lists. Having their music reworked by the Dub legend Dennis Bovell was probably one of the less expected turn of events, but the results on Golden Teacher Meets Dennis “Dubmaster” Bovell at the Green Door were truly memorable. As the title suggests, Bovell was invited to Glasgow studio the Green Door by JD Twitch to work his delay-laden magic on Golden Teacher whilst in the city performing. He duly agreed and set about firing music from the sprawling music collective with all manner of dub production trickery resulting in two tracks that breathe new life into a set when DJing.
Attention: Wild card alert! The Maghreban may be something of a new name, smashing his way onto our radar with a prolific flurry of eight 12”s since 2014, however Ayman Rostom has been releasing jungle, drum and bass and hip hop instrumentals since the mid-‘90s under his own name and the Dr. Zygote alias. The Maghreban project, though, is something new and revived which sees Rostom as The Maghreban bring a revitalised approach to producing rough and raw disco and house influenced tracks. Rostom has established Zoot Records as a platform to help launch The Maghreban which has so far released five of that alias’ 12”s – with this year’s Now Easy EP another highlight – however the most prized record to come from the London-based producer is this Wonder Woman 12” on Versatile. The record presents three bona fide party jams with a slight oblique bent, with the funky title track oozing Acid Arab qualities, while both the B-side’s “Frenetique” and “Kung Fu” sound like muddied Italo disco instrumentals stitched together by micro-samples of 1960s cartoon Speed Racer.
Those craving some new material from Laurel Halo will have been more than satisfied with her Honest Jon’s debut. Slotting in alongside DJ Sotofett, Dresvn, Moritz Von Oswald Trio and Tapes, In Situ helped contribute to a peerless year for the West London institution and offered yet another cunning development in Laurel Halo’s ever-morphing sound. Given the length and format, there was some debate whether to include this In Situ double-pack in our albums or singles list. We were however certain it had to feature somewhere! There are plenty of favourable comparisons to be made with In Situ; certain moments conjure up Theo, or Moritz, unidentified bass drops in a Hessle mix or the deepest moments on an Acido record. Collectively it felt like a truly memorable statement from Halo.
Shplittin The Shtones
Overlooking Morgan Buckley’s superb debut 12” for Rush Hour’s No ‘Label’ series in last year’s best singles list is probably the one omission that has kept this writer up at night. Thankfully Rush Hour No ‘Label’ gave us the chance to make up for this oversight with what was potentially an even more eye-opening display from the young Dublin artist. Shplittin The Shtones saw Buckley share sides on a six-track mini LP with fellow Rathmines dweller Olmo Devin and proved to be a most delightful left turn through the recesses of their psychedelic minds. Purported to be in their early-20s, Buckley and Devin clearly possess both talent and music knowledge beyond their years with Shplittin The Shtones ripping through afro-tinged house music, kosmische, ambient forest music and more.
The End of The Edge
Given the scarcity and individual nature of each release, new records from the Going Good crew feel like events. After the long form and freeform abstractions of Aquarian Foundation earlier in the year, Going Good truly reached into the leftfield with The End Of The Edge 12” from Yoshinori Hayashi, a Japanese producer with a seemingly unparalleled talent for mixing sampling techniques with live instrumentation. It’s tempting to ponder the reaction of Going Good founders Brian and Sal upon receiving this submission from Hayashi; likely it was similar to how anyone lucky enough to grip the record was. Outright bewilderment! Funnelling jazz funk, ambient, Detroit house, baby gull samples and more into the mixer, Hayashi came out the other end with one of the most bizarrely brilliant and uniquely sounding 12”s issued in 2015.
Porn Sword Tobacco
If you missed out on this double pack from Porn Sword Tobacco then you should be kicking yourself because records like this don’t come around often. Should dubby techno to lo-fi, ambient or chord driven shades of Chicago influenced house be to your taste, Henrik Jonsson has delivered the ultimate record. It’s an indulgent pressing from Swedish crew Aniara Recordings, with the four sides of vinyl taking in a total of five tracks to provide the label with its most lavish release yet, and for blissful sessions of ambient leaning dance music it’s all about the title track and “Enkel Disko For Hand” that bookend Magnifik Botanik. Mellow Basic Channel influences make their way into “Vildvuxen Gala” featuring SVN while for more upbeat piano styling and sequenced drum machines there’s “Kristallisering”. For a better understanding of Jonsson’s music, we highly recommend you check out his PStories mix published as our 121st podcast.
Tapes Meets The Drums Of Wareika Hills Sounds
When it comes to this Datura Mystic 12” by Tapes and Drums Of Wareika Hills Sounds you’re either one of two things; an A-side person or a B-side person. Allow us to explain. Presenting both original and dub versions, there’s two distinctive elements that will draw lovers of dub, decay and reverb to one track, while melody, chill vibes and percussion will pull you toward the other. Both of course are great – and by our account the best dub single of the 2015 – and there’s something here to please all appreciators of reggae, dub and techno. The original blends thrumming hand drumming and muted swells of a two tone bassline with folky, even pagan-like flutes and subtle licks of surf rock guitars, while the dub version is a earth shaking, slo-mo techno that sounds like some kind of mutant LB Dub Corp production (and still sounds good pitched-up at plus 8).
Pray For Us
Since its emergence a few years ago Rush Hour Distribution’s No ‘Label’ series has grown into the gift that keeps on giving. The chance for full creative freedom is something artists that have appeared on No ‘Label’ clearly enjoy, be it the raw disco madness of Dean Blunt’s one-off Ramirez release, Jordan Czamanski’s Lushlyfe series or Morgan Buckley’s bizarre electronic concoctions. It was this platform that William Burnett first debuted his Black Deer project, described as a chance to indulge in some “sympathetic storytelling for the real Americans”. Black Deer may have appeared elsewhere since but Burnett returned to No Label under the name in triumphant fashion this year with Pray For Us. In truth this 12” is included here on the strength of the title track alone, and with good reason. We heard fewer tracks this year as memorable as this nine minute exercise in spiritual healing via swift handclaps, rattling percussion, warm bass and resonant synth tones.
Reminder Part Three
Something baffling many music lovers out there is the fits and starts of attention labels like SUED and Acido are lent. In the past two years, to be fair, both were profiled by Resident Advisor, but unlike many labels to be given this seal of approval, the estranged yet tasteful music they release only breaches a small, but growing listenership of house. As SVN and SW.’s label approaches its fifth year of operation, its back catalogue is beginning to take hold, and outside of its co-founders productions, SUED has put out 12”s by PG Sounds (featuring S.P. Posse’s Philip Gelberg), Fett Burger and SVN’s XI collaboration, a Dresvn record, and that Club No-No & SVN 12” which found itself positioned similarly in last year’s run down. And Since 2013, SW. has provided the world with a yearly reminder not to sleep on SUED, and there’s no denying this four-track of luscious deep house is the best thing the label has released since its debut 12”.
Type out Fit Siegel into the world’s favourite search engine and the first result will be his blissful track “Carmine”. There’s a good reason for this, as it became one of those productions that seduced everyone that heard it as the year rolled on. Released back in February, “Carmine” was a fine result of the ardent quality control the multi-tasking Detroit figure revealed to Oli Warwick when we profiled Siegel over the summer. “I don’t want to leave behind mediocre music with my name on it when I’m gone,” Siegel stated and “Carmine” was indeed the opposite of mediocrity.
In a climate where average house and techno 12”s arrive on record shelves with unerring regularity, “Carmine” had a timeless quality to it that has resonated more and more with each subsequent listen. The skittering metallic percussion, plaintive keys, and teary-eyed 303 lines may well have sounded understated on first listen, but the innate soul to “Carmine” is hard to deny now. If 2015 was to have an anthem, Aaron Siegel was responsible for it.