Fresh year, fresh music! People aren't wasting any time in getting stuck in to the New Year and we couldn't be happier. Our bank accounts on the other hand, well, that's another matter.
10. BULLION – SAY ARR EE / WHAT DOES SHE KNOW (R&S RECORDS – RS1201)
Following astounding outings on OHM and Young Turks, as well as a track on the recent R&S compilation, Bullion makes his first full appearance for the label with this single. Marking a decisive progression for the producer, these two tracks explore a newly refined songwriting style as he drops the samples and incorporates live instrumentation and his own vocals for the first time. Say Arr Ee is a delicately crafted slice of boogie infused pop. Built around a brilliantly simple bassline bounce and easy drum groove, he lets the rich horns and lush pads flow through the track. On the flip, What Does She Know is slightly wonkier, as Bullion masterminds layers of arpeggiated digital keys over the delayed snare shuffle and melting rhythmic foundations.
9. WARRIOR ONE – FYAH ft. AYAH MARAR (BLACK BUTTER RECS – BLKBTR019)
Warrior One steps up to the burgeoning Black Butter Records with a little help from singer Ayah Marar for a slick slice of jungle-baiting dancefloor flair. Led by the rattling break and soulful vocals, this one is all about the sharp synth stabs and heavy detuned bass hits. Warrior One himself takes on the VIP alongside Bojcot stripping back the rave fireworks and taking it into darker territory. They also gather together an impression selection of remixers to round off the package. Baxta rebuilds the euphoric keys and touches of the break around a fierce 808 drum line, Des Demure takes it into dark 2-step territory replete with spiralling effects and dark bass pulses while IO rounds off the EP with a more sedate and spacious re-imagining for the late night head nodders.
8. MIKE G – THROW BACK / DISCO RADIO (CAR CRASH SET – C/C/S2070)
The prolific Seattle-based Car Crash Set label is evidently not planning on slowing down any time soon with a busy released schedule already stretching into 2012. However, they are certainly not letting the quality dip either as is proven by the new single from LA-based producer Mike G. These two 808 dance floor cuts don't pull any punches. Throw Back is straight up dance floor power: with its snapping 808 drum line, distorted bass contortions and simple but effective vocal chops, this is guaranteed to do some damage in a club. Disco Radio accompanies it well taking the same foundational elements and switching them up with a lighter rave-infused melody.
7. MIDNIGHT DAVIS – AFTERSHOCKS (FIVE EASY PIECES – FEP003)
This - the third release from burgeoning label Five Easy Pieces and the debut EP from mysterious London-based producer Midnight Davis - is an enticing and immersive listen. Built amongst a rubble of decaying dance floor constructs, echoing glimmers of some of pop's more individual proponents and the transient frequencies of the city's lost pirate radio stations, it is imbued with a visceral (as well as literal) static that surges through its downbeat and understated malaise. Perhaps put most succinctly in the producer's own words, “It's the sound of being in the middle of London, of taking all those rhythms and frequencies in”. The 4×4 heartbeat of house is slowed to a lumbering march, the growling subs are wrought in to cavernous abysses and the dub echo chambers are stretched into infinite orbit.
6. LOCKED GROOVE – ROOTED EP (HOTFLUSH - HFT020)
Hotflush start the year with a label debut from newcomer Locked Groove. The three-track Rooted EP acts as a powerful opening statement from him exploring his raw and rugged take on house. The eponymous lead track opens on a bed of pale hues and soft melodies that slowly locks itself into an easy groove around the building drum line. Confidently layering percussion and melodic trails through the track it unfurls into a much harder, darker entity half way through as the drums open themselves up and a squirming acid synths erode their way through the track. You may well recognise Drowning already, a track which has had people going mad ever since its inclusion in Scuba's DJ-Kicks mix. Taking things deeper and darker still driven by its cavernous thump and subterranean filtering, this is pure dance floor energy. Change rounds off the EP nicely with its solid groove and deft fluidity.
5. ARTIFACT – ARCHAIC LINE EP (DEADPLATE – DPL002)
The still-young Deadplate label start off the New Year with their second release, this time pairing up with Artifact who here gets his debut vinyl release. The three track EP comes with the added bonus of a remix from hotly-tipped producer Graphics to round off a stellar release. Lead track 'Archaic Line' is a streamlined lesson in dance floor construction. Built around a propulsive and well-structured drum line, the loping bassline and melodic fragments fill out the mix well. On the flip 'Deserted' goes in harder, marrying a bumping Funky drum line to tough detuned bass hits while the repeated vocal phrase adds a human touch. Graphics takes some of the edge off 'Archaic Line' giving it an easier groove and softer colour that opens it up nicely.
4. SPAM CHOP – THE CUCKUP EP (MIMM RECORDINGS – MIMM002)
Wigflex main man Spam Chop finally gets his first solo release courtesy of fellow Nottingham label Mimm Recordings. Following a couple of collaborations with Geiom and plenty of internet chatter, his first outing on wax is well worth the wait. The three-track The Cuckup EP is stamped with Spam Chop's unique voice as a producer marrying swung garage rhythms, intricate electronica edits and woozy, sound-bending techno melodies. Lead track Cuckup builds a slick 2-step drum line laid over a warm bed of bass while the whirring melodies take centre stage. Contorting their way through the track, the melodies melt into the atmospheres in a shower of FX only to re-appear brilliantly for the final third. Blergzz strips back the melodies leaving an ultimately effective rhythmic bump and uncompromising bass while Frames takes a more linear approach, with driving drums riding through waves of detuned synths and warbling atmospheres.
3. KOWTON v DUSK – FRACTION EP (KEYSOUND RECORDINGS – LDN025)
Having had a stellar 2011, the Keysound Recordings imprint isn't wasting any time in kicking off the new year with a deadly three track EP shared between Dusk and Kowton. Lead track Fraction is dark, dubby and deep in a way reminiscent of dark garage and early dubstep experimenters. Built upon a rattling tribal shuffle, eerie pads and deep subs give the track its impact. Kowton takes on Fraction ironing out the tribal edge into a penetrative shuffle. To complete the EP Kowton also delivers Looking At You, an impressive exercise in sparse dancefloor construction. Built around the lilting keys and chopped vocals, the deceptively simply drum line carries with it an enormous amount of weight.
2. GOLDFFINCH – ARABIAN PRINCE / POINT OF ENTRY (877 RECORDS – 877:002)
Following an impressive outing on Numbers at the tail-end of last year, Belgian duo GoldFFinch return with another killer 12” for the 877 imprint. Picking up where the last single left off, the two tracks on offer here serve up more 808 heavy, techno-tinged club bizness. Eerie pads and pitched-down vocals open Point of Entry as ripples of pitched-up toms skate across it before dropping into an effective drum shuffle and deep sub hits. Keeping it pared down, each element cuts through the mix with maximum efficacy. On Arabian Prince on the flip they inject the drum line with a tribal bump led by the snare shuffle, complimenting it with the dubbed out atmospheres and echoing vocals.
1. THE PHANTOM – EP2 (SILVERBACK RECORDINGS - SIL010)
Polish producer The Phantom brings Silverback's first ever vinyl release in fine style. Opening with Ceremony the EP cuts across a lurching intro before unfurling some deliciously smooth 4×4 garage vibes; Warm piano keys and slick vocals float easily over a deftly deployed rhythmic swing while pitch-bent synths poke their head out through the track at intervals to hint at something darker underneath. Gothic leads on from Ceremony, taking the bright colours with it while injected some Eski-influenced constructions. Built around a sparse drum line, a more downbeat affectation is drawn through the warped sino grime synths. On Voyeur he diverts down a different path yet again, using a tumbling Funky shuffle as the vehicle for the rapid-fire synth cycles to shock you into motion while Colossus rounds off the EP ever so slightly nearer to where it started, injecting a low-slung boogie into the sun-kissed g-funk synths while still riding a wave of heaving low-end.
3. DJ ADLIB – HI HAT CLUB VOL.6 (MELTING POT MUSIC)
In the sixth instalment of their Hi Hat Club producer series, Melting Pot Music call upon renowned turntablist and producer DJ Adlib. Famed as a member of the Noisy Stylus crew and with production credits including MED (Stones Throw) and Dynas (Rawkus), this marks his debut solo album. The 14-track deep Haus & Garten delves into a love of hip hop past and present that makes for a brilliant listen. From the smooth break-driven soul of opener Enter to the latent funk of Electric Cars and the woozy electronics of Lorwdamercy, his music in turns recalls the classic productions of the likes of J Dilla and the new generation of instrumental hip hop producers led by the Brainfeeder imprint. The album comes across as a love letter to hip hop from someone that has devoted their life to it, and that love and care is imbued in every track.
2. SDUK – ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN (SLIT JOCKEY)
Seclusiasis sister label Slit Jockey don't hold anything back with this, their first artist album, courtesy of SDUK. Built upon the foundational elements that were in evidence in previous releases Clunge and album single You Nyt, Anything Could Happen is a bold sci-fi exploration of expansive terrains, explosive synths and cavernous bass tones. SDUK invites a selection of friends along for the ride with Bristol MC collective featuring on the darkside RnB of 'Fire', Starkey joining him behind the boards on the gigantic vibrant stomp of Oahshens and Karizma joining him on the synth heavy grime-jam of single YouNyt. More album highlights come in the form of the more downbeat 'Fog', the funk-infused grooves of 'Fallin' and the scattershot pyrotechnics of Asterisk. Tied together by ambient interludes and short sonic sketches, overall the album is a well-executed and immersive listen that spans the club and home listening effectively.
1. BENJAMIN DAMAGE & DOC DANEEKA – THEY! LIVE (FIFTY WEAPONS – 50WEAPONSCD05)
Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka team up for a long player on Modeselektor's boutique Fifty Weapons imprint. All recorded during a two month visit to Modeselektor's Berlin studio, the outcome is the brilliant They! Live. Featuring a number of tracks that people will no doubt be familiar with, the albums blends the sounds of UK and Berlin in equal measure, re-emerging as a deep exploration of house and techno tied together by the UK's bass heritage. The metallic pulse and melancholic vocal tones of opener No One featuring Abigail Wayles, set the tone for the album nicely, with Wayles also reappearing to lend her beautiful vocals to the infinite haze of Battleships and the delicate poignancy of Halo. The album edit of Creeper loses none of its impact with those detuned sharp synth tones and symbiotic drum shuffle. Deaf Siren, Juggernaut and Elipsis Torment show similar mastery of the dance floor, while other softer moments come with the swelling synths and whispering vocals on Charlottenburg and the fluid melodic tones and easy swing of album closer Bleach & Penicillin. Here Benjamin Damage and Doc Daneeka prove that they are capable of much more than just moving a dance floor, delivering a full and compelling listen.
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