More so than ever this year seems to be rife with end of year lists. Most decent things have gotten a nod off someone at this stage so maybe this is redundant. Oh well. This is not a definitive list of 2012′s top music (even for me). I bought less music this year than any other year I’ve been writing on the blog (not out of choice) and I’ve tried to keep this to music I own. So, even in my eyes, there are a few glaring omissions – mostly due to me practically giving up buying online, and Dublin didn’t stock everything - but it’s just a post highlighting some tings that happened, most of which I enjoyed, in a somewhat scattershot fashion. As is the way expect a bit of cross pollination with Pipecock’s.
I usually start at home and will do so again right now. My own label, Apartment, released a few records from NCW, Tr One and Lerosa. Huge thanks to all those who purchased and enjoyed. It’ll be back in early 2013.
Tr One followed up Drum Dance with Living In, Now on Pogo Recordings during the summer. It was their most dance-floor heavy offering yet, all rasping hi-hats and chest-rattling kick drums. One of the most played-out records I heard in Irish clubs this year, and with good reason.
Lerosa didn’t have any other original material see the light of day in 2012 but he did provide a stellar remix on Never Learnt’s 3rd release, Marbled World by Christopher Rau. Never Learnt is a new Irish label that put out 3 12s in 2012, the pick of the bunch being October & Borai’s Level Abstain cut. Signal Code and Earwiggle / Sunil Sharpe continued their techno missions with confidence while electro producer DeFeKt had a big year for himself with releases on AC Records, Shameless Toady and New Flesh. Signal Code’s next 12 will feature DeFeKt and is looking like being both parties strongest release to date, so more good things yet to come.
Lunar Disko had another busy year but, somewhat surprisingly, their strongest release was probably the most over-looked. The VC-118A album International Airlines wasn’t an easy sell in this day and age of 90sec on-line samples. Nearly totally bereft of melody, it’s sparse yet absorbing take on electro, techno and dub sounds was definitely one of the albums of the year. You may have passed it over but buy it and spend some time with it, it keeps on giving.
Lots of time has been spent bitching about the worn out revival of Chicago house music over the last couple of years. Well fear not, house music is coming out of the 80s finally…and into the 90s. Blatantly retro but somehow featuring a slightly modern sheen Krystal Klear’s We’re Wrong was an unapologetically simple dance floor hammer that came out on Dublin’s All City. It went for a 90s pop-house feel unlike the increasing amounts of east coast deep house knock offs. 2013 is sure to see this Kerri Chandler/New Jersey sound mined even more. The main problem with this is that it wasn’t an interesting sound in the first place with little variance compared with Chi-town. I’m already bored senseless by it.
All City also delivered another killer 12″ from GB, Seven in Twenty Four/Dogon. His dusty mesh of house and electro was also on display on the wonderful The Abstract Eye on Eglo and he continues to be one of my favourite producers around these days.
For me the success story for Ireland this year was Dublin’s techno duo Lakker. Their Arc and Death Mask eps were 2 of the strongest techno 12″s from anyone this year, not just Irish. Obvious influences such as Surgeon and AFX are melded with modern bass influences and their own sensibilites and they’ve deservedly gotten a lot of notice outside of our isle and 2013 should really see them take it to the next level.
Let’s cross over the Atlantic for the next bit. I didn’t get to pick up most of what Further put out this year but the Mechanical Rain LP by Bunker affiliate Ian Martin was one of the album highlights of the year. Deceptively sparse, the louder you played it the better it was. Eerie and engrossing, it was capable of sending shivers down yer spine in a way a lot of ambient never properly achieves.
Philly’s Bee Mask went for a much bigger and crisper sound than Martin and really their music isn’t that comparable in the first place. But it joined this paragraph from the last. His Vaporwave/Scanops LP on Room40 was immense. Simple as that.
Everyone and their mum got all up in a tizzy over L.I.E.S. this year. The label’s output was relentless this year which is why I’m presuming they managed to be RA’s top label while practically no individual releases managed to make it onto the websites run down of tracks of the year. Either way, no one mentioned the Torn Hawk 12 that they released which was outstanding.
Willie Burns 12 on L.I.E.S. was a big favourite of mine from last year and he delivered the goods again on the rowdy t’fuck The Overlord 12″ on Trilogy Tapes. Has been known to cause uncontrollable fits on the dancefloor.
The Pittsburgh Track Authority/In The Machine Age gang got their ting into full swing this year with the highlights being Untitled on Pittsburgh Tracks – a proper big room techno beast – and the unearthing of French producer Anaxander who’s Moons Of Jupiter on this V/A 12 was an intoxicating collage of deep house and rave stabs. This guy is gonna be big. Kevin Reynold‘s contribution to the same 12 was another stand out cut of the year.
I still haven’t managed to aquire either Robert Hood or Terence Dixon’s albums from this year – kinda shocking esp. regards Robert Hood as I’m such an insatiable fanboy – but the Torque One/Movement 12 from Hood and The Return from Dixon under the guise of Population One were both extremely enjoyable.
Unlike many others I didn’t think this was a particularly amazing year for FXHE. I couldn’t fucking stand Tonite or S.E.X. mostly because of the dreadful vocals that appeared on both. The stand out releases were the Gunnar Wendel/Aaron Fit collab Enter The Fog and the nutty Beverly Hills Cop house of Wayne County Hill Cops Part 2 by Omar S and OB IGNITT.
It would just be contrary of me not to mention Andres’ New For U, one of 2012′s biggest anthems (I guessed this would be a hit back in April. cough cough, ahem). As amazing as that strings sample was, don’t forget that rolling bass-line that leads into it; that’s what really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. His follow up on La Vida was killer too. Great to see him blow up after so many years floating around the edges.
It took me a little while to warm to the latest Storm Queen, Lets Make Mistakes. It Goes On still remains my favourite but it was another welcome addition to the moniker. The Dub was a killer.
I’m gonna step back in time for a moment for a few of the very best releases of 2012. The Personal Space Compilation that came from Chicago’s Chocolate Industries is easily one of the most over-looked releases of this year. A gathering of strange, lo-fi 7inches of producers from 74-84, it offers a wonderful insight into a time before the “bedroom” producer became more omnipresent in electronic music. A brilliant oddity and a buy on sight recommendation.
Another great compilation was Kindred Spirits Surinamese Disco collection, stemming from the years 76-83. From a similar period as the Personal Space Compilation but a very different beast altogether.
PPU provided me with my 12″ of the year with another journey back in time, into the skewered world of The Trash Company. This music had previously not seen the light of day and it’s truly unique proto-electro and fucked up hip hop beats (it’s the only way I can describe the booming drums of the title track) was as original as any amount of “future” music dumped on us this year. (Special shout out to GMOS for putting me on to these last 2 releases)
While I didn’t think all 4 of the J Velez series on MMT were essential buys 1 & 2 were beautiful excursions into deep house/techno and electro. From what I can gather they stem from some time in the 90s and as above they show that music from the past can still sound as fresh as something made last week.
I’ll hop back over to Europe with a quick join-the-dots stop off at Golf Channel Recordings, who put out Juju & Jordash’s JEWSEX 12″. I don’t think it’s hugely unfair to say that the Jujus aren’t known – on record at least – for their lighter touches but the goofy title and artwork combined with the epic Italo riffing of the music was pretty distant from the likes of Unleash The Golem and their monstrosity of an album, Techno Primitivism. Said album was a brave move and one that paid off in spades. It took many listens to fully digest but it turned out to be the most rewarding release in electronic music this year. The only other artist who pushed the boat out as much as these guys in 2012 was Shackleton, though, for me, his results were slightly more erratic. I also had the chance to catch them do their live thing twice, once with Move D as Magic Mountain High and once on their own. Both shows were totally improvised and while this will always mean that you’ll have yer lulls, when they hit their stride on both nights it was pretty special.
Undoubtedly the title of 2012′s comeback kids goes to Sweden’s Frak. The only thing is they aren’t kids and I doubt many (certainly not me or anyone I know) knew that they were away cause we didn’t have a fuckin’ clue who they were until this year. But after 20 years in the game we all started paying attention. The first notice for us came with the bonkers, drugged out electronics of the Musika Electronic album on Digitalis – another label I frustratingly didn’t get more material from this year – which was then followed up by a trio of 12s on Kontra, one on Sex Tags, another on Borft and even a contribution to a Workshop 12. Their live shows look hilarious too and I’d love to see their battered take on techno and acid in a club in 2013. Or a shed. or wherever would have these oddballs.
Keeping up the weirdo acid vibes was the Starfighter 12 from Jagdstaffel 66 on Creme Organization. You can guess from the 66 that this was the work of Ruud Lekx, aka Rude 66. A strange concept ep based around old fighter planes (I think) it featured unsettling voice samples, creeping acid and the stomping Alle Piloten Mit In Den Tod. That track gets my vote for most slept on dancefloor wrecker of the year. The packaging was a pretty cool extra layer to the release too. Creme Org also took John Heckle’s sound in a different direction with The Last Magic Maker 12, which fitted in perfectly with the labels’ love of house and oddity soundtrack work. Again Godspill did the bizness with the artwork for this one.
The big Dutch players continued to pump stuff out like there’s no tomorrow. We all know that Legowelt ain’t shy of this but I was really happy to see him change things up somewhat on The Paranormal. His rugged house sound was getting a bit tiresome for me but here he has added a sheen to things and stripped the elements back a little and it’s more successful than his last 2 long players. It divided people a bit but it was a good step in the right direction for this guise of Wolfers and along with the pitch-perfect, Detroit influenced Burning Love Ensemble by Marco Bernardi delivered the highlights of Clone’s year. Wolfers’ release with Xosar on L.I.E.S. as Trackman leFonte feat.Bon Qui Qui was a cracker from him too (Though I think Coastal House would have been a preferable title) I think it’s also notable that in a year when everyone got obsessed with all things lo-fi Wolfers decided to clean up his act even when using old gear.
I’ve sorta lost interest in much of Delsin’s output over the last few years but Delta Funktionen’s album Traces was an understated thing of excellence, showing no air of pretension as it jumped between electro, techno and even the odd disco (in a dutch stylee) bit. It was the Dutchman’s strongest release to date. He get’s another shout out for his brilliant closing Dj set at this year’s Free Rotation festival. Jumping all over the place for a second John Heckle brought his relentless live show to the floor at Free Rotation this year too, and it was as thrillingly rush-inducing as I’d hoped for. Going back briefly to Delsin their 10inch featuring old MK and Luke Slater’s 7th Plain was superb too. As much loved as the MKapella is, you can’t beat the break beats of Lost.
Rush Hour had another busy year and my favourites we’re the re-issue/re-earthing of James Mason’s lush proto house gem Nightgruv along with Heatsick’s barmy casio techno (?) Convergence, which I preferred to his work on PAN.
Final shout out to the Dutch is the sludgy yet weirdly euphoric Mr Floyd by Aroy Dee on his own MOS imprint. The flipside from Ma Spaventi was another groggy winner.
Joining dots again, another PAN related artist who I thought fared better away from the much lauded label was Mark Fell. It’s still bugging me that I don’t have the Sensate Focus 12s but I did pick up the remix album Sentielle Objectif Actualite which continued on his unique – if, the odd time, frustrating – re-assessment of minimal electronica and, I s’pose, house music. There was some beautiful melodies whirling around all those off time minimal shuffles.
Now that I’ve moved over to the UK it’s time for another selection from my favourite album’s of the year, Umberto’s Night Has A Thousand Screams on the Scottish Rock Action imprint. While the hype machine smeared itself in it’s own shite over the Drokk album this was the far more successful nod to the work of John Carpenter. At first it did seem like a bit of a pastiche but after repeated listens it’s own identity started to shine through. Those encroaching drums especially added a great layer of unease.
The Slabs of the Tabernacle clubnight originated north of the English border too and it’s off shoot label Tabernacle Records – now based in London but ran by a Scouse – had a bit of gem of a year. The 2nd of it’s Lost Trax/Connection Machine 12s was one of the electro highlights of the year while the Phantom Planet Outlaws release (especially the B-side techno monsters) and Mark Forshaw’s (who is also a part of PPO) Atavism were the other 2 stand outs for me. Forshaw’s Primitive Streak has seen some serious dancefloor carnage in the last few months.
Keeping it UK(ish) our own Jitterbug came out with his finest 12 to date, Arcane Theory, which I’d also put forward as Uzuri’s strongest release so far. All 3 jams were pretty fantastic but the entwining acid of Nomads was one of my cuts of the year. His workmate in Reckless Records, Scott Ferguson went for the Unknown Artist tip this year with my choice being the JBSF1 12, most notably the gloomy A2 cut. Hell, even Jamie XX has jumped on that Nightbus (though he’s opted for the nearly as good B1 cut).
Bleep43 finally got their label underway this year, the highlight of it being the lilting electronics of Orphan’s View From Delfguaw, which I think I managed to play more than any other song on my radio show. Was a really special number.
Can’t talk about the UK, I guess, without talking bout the BASS. I still only dip in and out of this as much of it still bores me. As expected more and more artists are bringing techno and house into the equation, most notably Blawan. His novelty attempt at being a rapey-donk version of Green Velvet on “Why Does My Garage Smell Like A Herd of Cows Farted In It” was especially bad, but I just can’t help but mention it as somehow the novelty still hasn’t worn off and it’s been all over every end of year list. Awful shite. On the other hand Kowton’s rasping More Games channelled the kind of percussion we expect from Omar S with some proper rave sounds and a booming broken beat. Not really sure why Des Bisous was so much more lauded. More Games kinda kicked it’s arse and most other UK Bass music this year. Jon Convex’s collab with dBridge on Lied To be Loved was another choice cut for me and a stand out release from 3024, who’s popularity for the most part goes right over my head.
I’m going to finish this strain with mentioning Objekt who this year was most noticeably associated with Hessle Audio. While his 12 on Hessle was one side utter pants (Cactus) and one side pretty good (Porcupine) the repress of Objekt #2 on his own imprint gets the “12 from last year I slept on” mention I like to do on this post every year. What a shuddering techno bomb.
I’m only going to mention one edit 12 in the run down. It sort of came out in 2008 I think but got a different run through this year. If the deranged oddness of Rene Bandaly Family’s Tanki Tanki has passed you by, take a listen below.
The year in music can’t go by without mentioning what happened on the dancefloor. There were 2 performances that stood head and shoulders above everyone else for me. First off was Jeff Mill’s utterly, utterly incredible Dj performance at Corsica Studios in May. For someone coming on 30 years in the game he showed every pretender how to turn heads inside out with a 7hr odd performance that was nearly entirely made up of his own material. We got a run through of a tonne of the Mills classics (it was an Axis 20th Anniversary show after all) but it was when he delved into the new material – much of it unreleased – that he raised the bar for every other DJ out there. The mid section of the set was some of the most hypnotic and psychedelic techno music I’ve ever heard and words really can’t do it justice. Anyone who was there knows what I’m talking about.
My only festival trip this year was to the aforementioned Free Rotation. As thoroughly enjoyable as some of the previously mentioned sets were it was Shackleton’s nerve shredding live set on the Saturday night that is up there with Mills. I seemed to spend a lot of the set gripping on to the back wall of the room as he assaulted us with some of the most envelope pushing music I’ve heard in some time. Terrifying waves of “ambient” were attacked by the most insane timbered beats that left me half cowering in fear while totally in awe. I’d seen him a few times before but this time it really clicked. Everyone goes on about Future this and Future that, but he was way out there ahead of everyone else during this performance.
Not many other performances really stood out for me this year and it nearly makes me feel bad to mention Donato Dozzy’s set in Dublin in not as quite hushed tones as the last 2. One always gets a bit worried when they hear so much about a Dj, if they can possibly live up to the hype. While he seemed to alienate half of the already sparse audience, I personally really loved that I had loads of room to wig out to his fucked up techno. I pretty much didn’t recognise one track all night but wanted all of them. His only reason for not being my Dj set of the year was that he had the misfortune of playing when I’d already seen Mills do his thing at Corsica. Finally, I was going to give a shout out to Kassem Mosse’s performance at Free Rotation but he surpassed that again in a recent show at Twisted Pepper here in Dublin. That guy just keeps on getting better and better.
Finally, if you haven’t checked out Aardvark’s podcast for Little White Earbuds, you really should.
See you all next year.