It may be hard to believe, but here I am making a post on my blog yet again 😉
2012 was a pretty crazy year for music in my opinion. It always seemed that there were far more cool records than I had money to purchase, so that seems to scream GOOD YEAR to me. Looking at most of the year end lists that have made their way out there thus far, it seems much harder to remember how good it really was. I feel sorry for people if this kind of stuff is what they hear when they go out to dance. This is why I am here now.
I’m not going to do separate lists for tracks, albums, mixes, etc. I am going to group them all together, and discuss them in groupings that make sense. I do it this way to hopefully showcase how certain artists, labels, and scenes are really doing good things on a larger level than just one song on a list. It’s amazing how much variety can be found within the boundaries of house, techno, and disco music, even after they have been around for a long time.
All of this music is wonderful, the tunes near the end are just as good as the ones at the beginning. So let’s get into it…
CHICAGO NEW JACKS
While they may not really be NEW, this current generation of Chicago producers is definitely doing great things. 2012 saw WAAAAYYYYYY too many cats jacking the sounds of old 80s Chi trax, while the greater public maybe wasn’t paying enough attention to the artists who are really carrying that torch.
Ike Release’s most excellent “Phazzled” appeared on MOS Deep, and if I had to choose a favorite record from this year this would likely be it. Beautiful, deep, dancefloor devastating jams like this do not come around often, and when they do they are worth their weight in gold. A true classic from 2012. Ike’s production partner in Innerspace Halflife, Hakim Murphy, also had a good year with my favorite being his collaborative EP with NYC’s DJ Spider on his own Synapsis label.
Amir Alexander certainly had a breakout year worth noting. Between his excellent Gutter Flex EP and possibly his best track “Eyes Open Mouth Shut”, that would be an excellent year for most producers. But he put out even more great music across a number of labels!
Steven Tang also had a great year, with his Since The Accident EP on his own label Emphasis being the highlight. “Mmmmmusic” was also dope, and with those two records he managed to get remixes by two of the 312’s best: Specter and Chicago Skyway.
Noleian Reusse took the plunge into starting his own label in 2012. After the craziness of last year’s Black Tekno EP for my label Love What You Feel, his new label Black Tekno refines his raw sound just a bit, providing balance between hi tech soul and jacking drums.
Stilove4music dropped a couple sick EPs, one from label head Jerome Derradji which edited up an old disco jam I have avoided playing out for years because of some wackness. No more! Devin Dare also represented with some sick soulful disco shit.
My homie Andrew Emil dropped a sweet EP of dubbed out edits of 90s garage jams. In a year when many were trying to achieve this sound, his knowledge of the music shines through making this one a very effective dancefloor record with banging beats, unlike many of the knockoffs.
OLD SCHOOL CHICAGO
Still Music also had quite a year with the reissues, primarily based around the 122 BPM compilation. I was fortunate enough to have been involved in writing the liner notes for this release, detailing the birth of house music through the hands of Mitchbal and his son Vince Lawrence. The classic “Out of My Hands” by Omni and Unfinished Business was also reissued, making many students of early house music very happy indeed.
Also keeping the relationship between house and disco close was Mike Dunn, whose House Spot edits are serious underground shit. Congrats due to Mr. Dunn for joining the Chosen Few DJs this year! Old schooler Glenn Underground also had some nice moments in 2012, my favorite being “7th Trumpet”, a deep house jam that got trainspotted EVERY single time I played it.
More great reissues from Chicago this year came from Larry Heard, whose previously impossible to obtain record as Disco D got the treatment as did the classic “Black Oceans”. Parris Mitchell’s “Life In The Underground” also got reissued, hopefully just the first step in making some of those Dance Mania classics available once again!
DETROIT HUSTLES HARDER
2012 was clearly the year for Andrés! While most will recognize “New For U”, the best joint he released this year was actually the lovely “Seasons So Long” on M1 Sessions. It really doesn’t get much better than that, another one in the running for track of the year in my opinion. He didn’t stop there though, with “Second Time Around” and “Ribena” also bringing serious heat to the table. Another all-killer, no-filler year for a guy who has been making dancefloor bombs for over a decade.
Theo Parrish had a very odd year. His best solo effort, the Handmade EP on Running Back, took its A side from his Sketches LP. In extended form (and with full sided loud pressing), “Black Mist” really shines as a nasty, dirty acidic banger. I won’t comment on “Any Other Style”, but the most underrated Theo related jam of the year has to be Andrew Ashong’s “Flowers” which is all about twisted, repetitive soul music. Very distinctive and very catchy!
Moodymann seems to have a good year every year, and 2012 was no exception. “Why Do U Feel” was the standout, with the EP containing it being very strong throughout. “I Guess U Never Been Lonely” featured Junior Boys oddly enough, and this jam really grew on me after not loving it initially. Kenny’s A&R game was no joke either, releasing a killer EP of Marvin Belton jams (produced by my homie Scott Ferguson!) as well as the best posthumous J Dilla album, Dillatroit.
Omar-S is another Detroit producer who doesn’t appear to have off years. The oddly titled (complete with ridiculous label art!) “Wayne County Hill Cop’s” is another distinctive style from the man, this time using Axel F and Miami Vice vibes. The co-producer Ob Ignitt also released a solo EP that keeps the synthed out feel up, a very promising debut. Aaron FIT also got some love on Fxhe this year, dropping two dope 12″s: “Tonite” with L’Renee and “Enter the Fog” with Gunnar Wendall.
While his year may not have been prolific, Robert Hood’s 2012 output was powerful enough to guarantee it will be remembered for years and years. Dropping the single “Torque One” was enough to get him mentioned on this year end list. Sounding beautiful and driving, but at a very reasonable house tempo unlike many of his floor jams, this is classy Detroit electronic music that sounds like no one else. The thing is, the single was just leading up to the album that contained nothing but music of the same quality level! Motor: Nighttime World 3 might be the best in this series, and shows a level of production prowess and sophistication that makes it a classic techno album that will be getting played for many years.
He may no longer live there, but Recloose’s Detroit lineage is still quite apparent through all his music. “Magic” was a big summer anthem for me, sounding like Stardust producing a UK garage record. On the B side, “UHF” is also quite a serious banger. Delusions of Grandeur dropped “Don’t Get Me Wrong”, and it is another vocal disco anthem. It is crazy to me how he can seemingly pump out jams like this and still be wildly overlooked at the end of the year. To top it off, he called on Andrés and Oliverwho Factory to remix some of his tracks, firmly reminding everyone how they do it in Detroit!
There was plenty of dope Detroit house released this year, but some of the best came from the names you would expect. Mike Huckaby was busy as hell this year, seemingly everywhere in the world doing his thing. “Bassline 89” was the most fun new release he had this year, a hypnotic techno/house jam that easily trumped the A side. Norm Talley also dropped a couple nice records, but again choosing the highlight was easy: “Travlin” is a future classic, with a spaced out sax riff paving the way. Reggie Dokes had a relatively quiet year, but the twisted acid soul of “Child of the Sun” is another essential record from him.
Mark Flash’s “Dark Symphony” may have actually dropped in late 2011, but it was an anthem for me this year. With a particularly heavy version of those UR strings carrying the track, it’s easy to see why! Scan 7 also did their own version of the string heavy techno anthem, and they too knocked it out of the park. “The Resistance” is exactly what you want it to be: hi tech funk with militant robot vocals. The always-dope hip-hop producer Waajeed is branching out into more house/techno/electro territory on his own new label Dirty Tech Records. Mad Mike, Theo Parrish, and Andrés all help make the first release a memorable and abstract release worth tracking down for all those into underground Detroit sounds.
Kyle Hall continued his mission to try his hand at many different electronic styles. FunkinEvil, Kyle’s collaboration with Funkineven, dropped a sick EP on Wild Oats that manages to have two standout tracks that sound nothing alike. “Dusk” is the one I reached for most often, a funky house jam dripping with boogie influenced synths. “Night” takes things down a more rugged road of overdriven techno, one of the few jams in that (heavily abused) style this year that got the amount of distortion just right. I hope to see this collaboration continue! Wild Oats also released the first solo EP by another collaborator of Kyle’s, Manuel Gonzales. His EP as M Gun was a deep, dirty techno jam backed with an airy ambient track. Very good work!
ISM CREW 4 LIFE
This year was definitely a good one for the extended infinitestatemachine family. The homies Juju & Jordash were up to BIG things this year for sure! Their album Techno Primitivism is a classic electronic record, moving from dubbed out weirdness to jazz fusion to dancefloor house jams with the greatest of ease. It really is a record that easily reaches beyond most underground albums, looking for a wider audience who want to be challenged. Their taste and production skills are unimpeachable; people will be namechecking this album for years to come. To add some contrast, their single for Golf Channel “Jewsex” is a ridiculously fun and demented Italo jam, quite unlike anything else in their catalog. Head for the dub mix if you want the synths toned down a bit!
Kenny Hanlon’s Apartment label only released three records this year, but each one was very strong and useful in very different kinds of sets. TR-One’s “Drum Dance” dropped first, with the original mix being my pick with its hypnotic percussion and minimal but warm synths. Juju & Jordash and John Heckle each do a good job on their respective remixes in taking that vibe and meshing it with their own production aesthetic, completing the package. Lerosa’s No Mad Rush EP came next, showing a different side of his music than most are used to seeing. Techno and electro of the heavily synthetic variety are offered up, but still with the ear for melody that make Lerosa jams superior to those of many other house producers. Throw in some acidic touches, and these give vibes similar to mid 90s Detroit techno but still sounding very fresh. NCW’s second record for Apartment dropped most recently, and it is quite a strange one. Long, tripped out deepness is the uniting factor, but each track reaches it in a different way. “Pharoah” jacks loops from the jazz saxophonist’s classic rendition of “The Creator Has A Masterplan”, abstracting it out into oblivion. “The Goose” is trance music in the best possible definition of the word! It is really inspiring to see Kenny having success, especially with a group of artists so closely associated with what we do here.
Our London homies Scott Ferguson and Jitterbug dropped some ill jams in 2012. Jitterbug’s third release on Uzuri contains his most dancefloor friendly track so far, “Rise of the Machines”, as well as his most abstract, “Nomads”. Scott’s Ferrispark label released three sick EPs that are all in a very sample heavy, hardware drum boxes kinda vein. My favorite of them was the excellent slowburning JBSF EP, which unfortunately is not on YouTube. You need to go check it out if you are a fan of the slower KDJ records, or cats like James Duncan. The two Black Boxx EPs step up the tempo and dancefloor appeal. In a year when music with this aesthetic was obviously quite popular, these were some of the most interesting EPs in that style despite not having the hype machine behind them as other labels and artists do.
EAST COAST PLAYERS
Okay so Atlanta isn’t exactly on the coast, but it’s close. And few had a year as good as Kai Alcé did this year! “Willow”, which appeared on the Deep Explorer label, is one of Kai’s very best tracks. Intensely deep and soulful, Azulu Phantom’s lyrics and delivery create an overpowering sense of longing for past times. An amazing track, and one of this year’s very best that you won’t hear much about elsewhere. Similarly heartwrenching are Kai’s remixes of Robert Owens’ “Sacrifice”. This is soul music of the highest order, another absolutely beautiful song that will set off emotions on the dancefloor or when listening at home. For an artist to drop two tunes of such high caliber is pretty amazing to me, both of these will be staples in my sets for years and years. To top it off, Kai’s NDATL label dropped another exclusive record at this year’s Music Institute afterparty on DEMF weekend. The party was once again one of the best over the whole weekend, and the record is just as killer, featuring tracks by Specter, Marcellus Pittman, and Kai himself.
The DC crew kept the pressure up this year. Future Times itself was pretty quiet, though the white label edit/remix/whatever that they dropped was pretty much a serious house banger. Max D and Protect U also dropped records for other big time labels this year that definitely raised their profile, quite deservingly. Jay Simon, another DC cat with ties to Future Times, started his own label Must Have Records in 2012 with its debut release by Saine. Soulful blunted house and funky hiphop influenced dance jams are the order of the day, and with a nice set of artists ready to contribute to the upcoming releases, it looks as if Must Have will be one to watch in 2013.
Old school New York house music has been all the rage this year, but since most reissues and sound a likes bug me, I like to look to the cats making good new jams. Any year where Storm Queen releases a record is a good one, and they did it again this year! “Let’s Make Mistakes” is another instant classic, and will be surely played well into the future. Nathaniel X saw a number of his old releases getting the reissue treatment, but I am mostly loving the new jams on The First Supplement EP. Swung like garage should be, but with deep synth work, all four cuts are different enough to offer something useful for good deejays without being redundant. Very classy music!
The LIES camp has certainly seen lots of year end love, but for me three of their releases were essential this year. Delroy Edwards’ EP was the pick of the litter for dancefloor gems. All three cuts are dope, but “Bells” is the jam for me, a simple and funky house record that is super catchy. Steve Moore slowed down the BPMs from his LIES debut for the followup “Panther Moderns” and it works out wonderfully, keeping a similar sound palette but going for a warmer tone and hitting the mark quite successfully. There were not many more beautiful records this year! Svengalisghost also went in for the kill on his record, mixing up Chicago drum machine action with some heavy sci-fi synths to create a record that somehow sits right between the Delroy Edwards and Steve Moore releases in feeling and energy, but makes it all work together perfectly.
Baltimore may not be a city with the biggest reputation for house music, but it is not joking around. 2012 saw the return of Brett Dancer with a release on a sublabel of his own Track Mode records, TMR Essentials. Deep house loooooooooonnnnnnnnnng before “deep house” was cool, Brett shows why he is a legend in this business with tough drums to balance out the thick pads. Karizma, another Bmore legend, dropped a compilation album this year that showcases some of his best work alongside new jams. If you don’t have many of his records, this is pretty much essential, and even if you have some of them there is enough previously unreleased stuff here to keep it in your box for a hot minute.
WEST COAST PLAYERS
Somehow it seems as though 100% Silk has already become less talked about, and when it is mentioned it is often derisively as “hipster house”. Whatever. I am only concerned with good records, and Silk had more of those this year than they did in 2011. Magic Touch’s 12″ with Sapphire Slows is seriously ecstatic house music, while Sir Stephen’s album House of Regalia calls to mind Technotronic and other early 90s pop dance. Octo Octa came through with another EP of dreamy deepness, while Fort Romeau layer in the atmosphere on their Kingdoms album. Their catalog is not flawless, but each release contains something different and in the case of 2012’s releases much of it is a little more deejay friendly.
Aybee and his Deepblak label stepped up the release rate with lots of cool west coast deepness, even though Aybee himself recently moved to Europe. His Worlds EP is a prime example of his deep space techno, while Damon Bell’s Nommo EP features more organic grooves and sounds without sacrificing depth. Damon also released a sick downtemnpo house jam as D-Bo on 10″ for The Do-Over…
One of the strongest albums of the year came from San Francisco producer BV Dub under his Earth House Hold guise called When Love Lived. Following up on a remix he did for Love’s Label back in 2010, this album features beautiful bassheavy deep house grooves that are perfect for late night or early morning sessions.
FISH AND CHIPS
There is a pretty strong contingent of British cats doing sick house and techno, and they’re not the cats getting all the love in other places for nonmelodic bullshit. Floating Points is definitely the leading producer of this crew, and his remix of The Invisible is quite simply one of the best things he has ever done. Working with cool atmospheric music in the first place, he takes it up a few notches anyway. A perfect end of the night tune that will work just as well in 10 years as it does now. Labelmate Funkineven teamed up with Fatima for the funky “Phone Line”, the immediately obvious jam on a solid EP that somehow ended up as the B1 cut. It is still number one in my heart, though.
I first heard Vince Watson’s “Every Soul Needs A Guide” when Kirk Degiorgio ended his set in Pittsburgh with it all the way back in February. It is pretty rare to hear people going for that full on live broken house vibe anymore, but he hits it just right with epic strings and slick percussion. A standout tune from a solid album in that same style.
Four Tet also had a year that buries most other UK artists, but somehow avoided the full shine of the hype machine. The “Lion” single was a choice slab of thick minimal techno, full of surprises and funk. It reminds me almost of some of Mr. Oizo’s first singles for F Com back in the day, but with ethereal synth pads. His remix of Neneh Cherry went in a totally different direction, riding jazzy loops past the point that feels sane until letting it really rip near the end, giving a payoff that is unexpectedly nutty.
PITTSBURGH IN THE HOUSE
My homeboys in the East Liberty Quarters dropped another EP on Rotating Souls, adding some vocals to the mix to create some sick disco/boogie jams. These are their most fully realized tracks so far, with a clear step forward in songwriting and arrangement. “Worlds Away” in particular is already well on its way to becoming a Pittsburgh anthem.
I’m not going to try to choose favorites out any of the records I had anything to do with, but as working on them pretty much defined my year I must mention them. As Pittsburgh Track Authority, we dropped “Untitled”, a collaborative EP with Nice Rec of ELQ fame, a remix of Jennifer Hudson, “Giza/Crosstown Blvd” for Argot, and we also had a track on a compilation we did on Love What You Feel. We also released a full EP by our French homie Anaxander on Love What You Feel. All of these projects were deeply special to me, and I appreciate all support given to us all year long.
So that sums up a large part of my 2012. I had lots of sweet deejay gigs this year that allowed me to drop these tracks to great responses. Big ups to all those producers who helped make my job easier in 2012! I’m sure I forgot some dope shit that will come to me as soon as this posts, so if that happens I will make note of it here. Feel free to chime in on the comments section!!!