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Best of 2014: Top 50 Singles


A year’s worth of releases has been sifted through and put into order as Tony Poland, Scott Wilson, and James Manning run down their favourite 50 12″s, EPs and tracks of 2014.

Whilst our previously published lists focusing on albums and labels were both expanded to reflect the overabundance of quality music in 2014, our selection process for the top singles, EPs and tracks has been cut by half from previous years. Why the sudden shift? Well, having sat down to discuss the subject, there was a general consensus that we should scale things back in order to better focus on the releases we really had to include rather than fill the list with some unnecessary records just to make up the numbers.

The resulting list is about as accurate a reflection of our collective tastes as we’ve probably come up with in some five years, covering everything from weightless grime to punishing hardware techno, through heartfelt house music, steroid-enhanced hip hop trance, futuristic club music and more. Like our list of 2014’s top albums, this is a list that shows just how much invention has been going on behind the scenes in all corners of underground club music this year.

 

50

Baba Stiltz

Palats / Crypt

Studio Barnhus

For pure wow factor, let’s not lie, this record’s all about the bassline of the A-side, “Palats”. That siren-sounding moment is as much a surprise as the death synth line in Breaker 1 2’s “DMT” from last year. Baba Stiltz manages to create something that begins with a sun-drenched, big room festival house vibe – the type of track you’d expect from a Bicep or Talaboman set – which then enters mayday-mayday rave territory with the noise of a detuned air horn played until it breaks. Pair this with clockwork percussion similar to Richie Hawtin’s “Spastik”, re-enter those original chords and you have one hell of a secret weapon. Magnifique. JM

49

Bruce

Not Stochastic

Hessle Audio

“Who is Bruce?” became a recurring question over the course of the first few months of 2014 as the name consistently popped up in mixes from Pev, Kowton, Ben UFO, Joy O and the rest. We were quite happy when Bruce turned out to be a “music producer and DJ” whose press shots betrayed a penchant for wide grins, sheepskin jackets and immersing himself with the leafier surrounds of his hometown Bath, Somerset. Brandishing the best unassuming producer’s name since Joe (43), Bruce (40) delivered two very different records for two very good labels this year in the aptly titled Just Getting Started on Livity Sound and Not Stochastic for Hessle Audio. Both were worthy of inclusion here but perhaps the latter just shades it as Not Stochastic demonstrated that Hessle Audio was only interested in releasing music that causes a “surprise on the dance floor”, as Ben UFO explained to a captivated audience during his lecture for RBMA Tokyo earlier this year. How that will reflect on the label’s forthcoming debut album from Pearson Sound will be most interesting indeed. TP

48

Kutmah

Our Mannequin

Technicolour

Ninja Tune could not have been any busier this year, but perhaps the best thing they did in 2014 was continue to offer their support to Dean Bryce, part of their A&R department, and his quietly impressive Technicolour label. Very much living up to its name, Technicolour has been wonderfully unpredictable since it first emerged last year with some material from Michachu affiliate Raisa K, and really found its voice this year. Releases from BNJMN, Hieroglyphic Being and the Name Brand Sound partnership of broken beat dons IG Culture and Alex Phountzi were impressive, but it was Our Mannequin from Kutmah that really hit the spot. Consisting of rare original material recorded in the immediate aftermath of Kutmah being deported from L.A. back to the UK, there was an obvious darkness to the tone of this collection of tracks. Inspiration came from the goth and industrial clubs of L.A. Kutmah frequented as a teenager and this clashed with his own hip hop leanings, resulting in some of the most unique music committed to vinyl this year. TP

Gage & Kevin Jz Prodigy - Bad Bitch
47

Gage & Kevin Jz Prodigy

Bad Bitch

Crazy Legs

Bristol producer Gage debuted on Crazylegs earlier this year with a two-track release fusing grime and techno into a form something akin to the contemporary ballroom productions of MikeQ. While they were solid, they felt like they were missing a certain something, and the addition of legendary vogue performer Kevin Jz Prodigy on the follow-up proved to be just the ingredient Gage needed. As well as making the ballroom connections in Gage’s sound more explicitly clear, this threshing, contorting combination of vocal gymnastics and speaker-blowing bass provided the best opportunity for gunfingers this year. SW

46

Eschaton

Eschaton

Token

Take a look at Token’s release rate – and subsequent back catalogue – over the past two years and it’s clear the Belgian label like the idea of domination. And in terms of one-off collaborations in 2014 it didn’t get any bigger than Token’s bringing together of Ancient Methods and Rich Oddie as Eschaton. What made this release all the more rewarding was the self-titled EP sounded exactly as you’d want an Ancient Methods and Rich Oddie collaboration to sound: heavy. Of its four tracks “Kali” and “Degenerate” pull all the right moves for rhythmically swung, battering-orientated techno, while “Age Of Iron” and “Seven Signs” are malevolent onslaughts of nihilistic doom beat you’d expect from British Murder Boys at the peak of their success. JM

45

The Durian Brothers

Das Macht Modern

Kontra-Musik

The grass is always greener, they say, but the ever decreasing circle of interesting club nights and small venues in London town has us casting envious glances at places such as Frankfurt, Hamburg and Düsseldorf. The more you read and learn about Robert Johnson, the Pudel or Salon Des Amateurs, the more you want to experience them for yourself. A round of applause then to Ulf Erikkson’s Kontra-Musik label, whose best release for us in 2014 also added to our urge to taste the air in Düsseldorf, take in a sip at Salon Des Amateurs, and perhaps catch a performance from The Durian Brothers. One of several ‘mini-albums’ released this year, Das Macht Modern suggested Stefan Schwander, Mark Matter and Florian Meyer had few peers when it came to loose limbed, polyrhythmic electronics that led your attention down a deviating and unpredictable path akin to watching a moth buzz around a lamp. TP

44

Strict Face

Fountains/Highbury Skyline

Gobstopper

This year Mumdance and Logos coined the term “weightless” to apply to grime productions described by the latter as “spatially untethered club trax”. One of the best examples of this sound came from Adelaide-based producer Strict Face, whose two-track single for Mr Mitch’s Gobstopper Records took the classic square waves and gunshot snares of grime’s past and placed them on a futuristic backdrop of synthetic choral pads and aqueous structures you could almost touch. Much like Oneohtrix Point Never did on R Plus Seven last year, Strict Face created a three-dimensional world out of simple tones you could imagine exploring with an Oculus Rift headset, and created some of the most emotionally complex club music of the year while he was at it. SW

43

Stanislav Tolkachev

Right Angle

Semantica

With every record roll of the tongue Stanislav Tolkachev releases the closer the Ukrainian’s reputation gets to being as recognised as it should. He’s been putting out music digitally since 2005 but it wasn’t until Modularz included his track “Building Peaks” on a various artist EP in 2012 that the right type of attention was cast his way. Right Angle is Tolkachev’s second record for Semantica, following up last year’s sublime Simple As A Miracle EP and here he continues to prove his free-flowing production technique will forever remain varied and fresh. The childlike tones of “Like No One Is Watching” and doleful rave of “Past” are this EP’s go to tracks, whereas “White Blood Cell” is yet another nod to the more hardcore strains of Underground Resistance-styled Detroit techno done the Stanislav Tolkachev way. JM

42

Karl Lukas Petterson

Paradise Island

Acido

The universe Dynamo Dreesen’s label occupies along with Sued and the Sex Tags Empire seems far removed from what anyone else is doing, even if occasionally their artists appear elsewhere. Acido records are measured by a sense of the abstract and trippy, making it pretty redundant to call them simply techno or house; they are simply records that belong on that label. In the end the most surprising Acido record ended up being our favourite from the label. Who would have thought the best example of dilapidated EBM and faltering primitive electronics released this year would have been an Acido record from Luke Eargoggle? It’s never crystal clear with Acido but both “Paradise Island” and “Travel The World” sounded like genuine discoveries from Karl Lukas Pettersson’s formative years of musical experiments. A delightfully strange addition to the Acido canon and hopefully a sound the Gothenburg electro icon will explore further in the future. TP

41

A.G. Cook

Beautiful

PC Music

It didn’t matter what side of the ideological divide you were standing on – it was impossible to avoid PC Music this year. The label’s fusion of glossy surfaces, ‘90s dance tropes and contemporary pop certainly didn’t deserve the hatred thrown at it, and those who gave the catalogue a chance usually found something to set off some part of their musical palate. However, no track encapsulated the PC Music approach this year better than label mastermind A.G. Cook’s “Beautiful”. Throwing happy hardcore, trance and K-pop into a 3D-printed blender, it was probably the most direct PC Music track of the year. “Hey QT” might have been more accessible, GFOTY might have made the weirdest tracks on the label and Hannah Diamond might have had all the star quality, but no PC Music track was as honest in its love of pop as “Beautiful”. SW

40

Ena

Bacterium

Samurai Horo

The grand total of productions Ena released this year – all of which were put out by Samurai Horo – checked in at 36. But it was this four-track Bacterium EP that best represented the ingenuity of Yu Asaeda’s unclassifiable style of production by the way of two particular stand outs: “Behind The Loops” and “Midair”. Pressed into an emerald green marbled 12”, its eerie colour compliments the record’s sci-fi-horror atmosphere. Weave percussion that sounds like billiard balls knocking against each into shuffling white noise, the super-sized sound of a gurgling stomach and other muffled mutant dialogue and the resulting bi-product is a malformation of deformed sound design derivative of dubstep and drum and bass that just works. JM

39

Geena

On The Top Of A Deep Hearted Fern

Antinote

The wayfaring spirit that has defined Paris label Antinote this year has resulted in many records that were candidates for inclusion on this list. Nico Motte’s melding of the primitive and the futuristic on the excellent Rhealogia was a most compelling suggestion, but the 12”s from Iueke and Panoptique were also given serious consideration. The development of Geena, Antinote’s figurehead for more club focused material, has been a pleasure to witness and his most recent record On The Top Of A Deep Hearted Fern warranted presence on this list most. Nicolas Molina’s approach to club music is almost childlike in its simplicity, which can be reflected in the artwork from Check Morris adoring each of his records. Simplicity does not negate effectiveness however, with each of the four cuts within On The Top Of A Deep Hearted Fern showing Molina is capable of a ever widening range of styles – be it the ever shifting acid of “Gamma Sector”, the Novel Sound worthy “Niagara Galleries” or the tough haze of “I Gotta Wear Shades”. TP

38

Jack Murphy

Points Zero

Don’t Be Afraid

Jack Murphy might be known on Twitter as “The Techno Detective” for his wide-ranging knowledge of the genre, but his own music resists the temptation to try and shoehorn in too many influences. It would be easy to dismiss these tracks for Don’t Be Afraid as simple DJ tools, but there’s elegance in their simplicity missing from a lot of contemporary techno. These tracks aren’t showy, and that’s what makes them work; much like Levon Vincent, Murphy is able to mine every bit of dance floor potential out of the most basic drum kits, and create the strangest moods with the most sparing of tools. Nowhere was this more evident than on “Prefec-R”, whose simple prismatic backdrop provided one of the most satisfyingly hypnotic techno tracks of the year. SW

37

The Healing Force Project

Strange Apparitions In My Recording Room

Berceuse Heroique

The foundations laid down by Berceuse Heroique last year were expanded upon in 2014, with the label demonstrating it has little interest in remaining bound by the expectations of others. Want to dismiss them as simply a label that puts out grotty techno with no consideration to presentation beyond a racy photocopied insert? Good luck mate, we’re too busy listening to reissues of Cousin Cockroach bruk classics or admiring the fact they started to commission full artwork with the assistance of some highly respected designers. The combination of design by Bill Kouligas, original music from Healing Force Project and remix from Mood Hut’s Hashman Deejay was always going to be something special, and proved our favourite release from the BH 2014 schedule. The spiritual brand of techno Antonio Marini has developed as Healing Force Project is quite under-rated despite his work for Acido, Eerie and Sequencias. Arriving late in the year, the extended psychedelia of “Strange Apparitions In My Recording Room” will hopefully open Marini’s project to the wider audience it deserves in 2015. TP

36

Svaag

Sade

Semantica

Keeping up with the many pursuits of Andreas Tilliander is simply too much, so it’s reassuring to know we have a tastemaker like Svreca to point us in the right direction. Saade was the debut release from Svaag, a new and disgruntled techno alias Tilliander’s created for something…a little different. As I wrote in my review for Juno Plus, “every session begins with a loop that’s fundamental to each production,” with all three tracks defined by its crude bass rhythm. Much like Sendai’s productions, the music of Svaag swerves from what is considered functional while wholeheartedly being embraced as techno. Laced into the more synthetic elements of the music are sizzled themes of punky power electronics combining scientific Raster-Noton rigidity with Gesloten Cirkel rawness and funk. And if there’s a label you can trust to deliver you the best in cutting edge techno of all shapes and sizes, it’s Semantica. JM

35

Jack J

Something (On My Mind)

Mood Hut

Vancouver’s Mood Hut collective has been house music’s worst kept secret for a while now, and for good reason – everything they put out is solid gold. It’s a certain psychedelic intangibility that generally makes their take on house music so unique, which made this record stand out a mile. While Mood Hut would probably have no time for any music described as “anthemic,” that’s just what Pender Street Stepper Jack Jutson’s “Something (On My Mind)” on the B-side of this record is. A straightforward piece of sample-based house music with the rhythmic clatter of Theo Parrish’s best and earworm qualities of Andres’ classic “New For U”, it may not have been quite the future classic some made it out to be, but it was still a high point for house music in 2014 nevertheless. SW

34

An-i

Kino-i

Cititrax

Recent times have seen the Cititrax label find a distinct identity of its own to match that of its archivally-focused elder sibling Minimal Wave, and 2014 was undoubtedly its most impressive year to date. Releases from Further Reductions, Bruta Non Calculant and the transatlantic dust up between Silent Servant and Broken English Club all played their part in this, but it was Doug Lee’s emergence as An-i that was the label’s crowning glory. The project had been hinted at for some time by Veronica Vasicka but nothing could really prepare you for the assault on the senses that was Kino-i. 2014 wasn’t exactly short on records purporting to be straight-to-tape improvised techno produced with hardware, but it’s hard to think of another record that did it with as much deranged glee and punkish delight as the main version of “Kino-I”. Another Cititrax record plus contributions to the Power Vacuum and Born Free label suggest Lee was only getting started with An-i which is very good news for us! TP

33

Antigone

As I Walk To You

Construct Re-Form

What to say about functional techno in 2014. Does it still have a place in end of year lists, or does everything have to be different, unique or genre-bending? Of course not, like the three-track As I Walk To You 12” by French artist Antigone demonstrates. It was released on Construct Re-Form, a label run by fellow Parisian Zadig, and this record was all about “The Fugitive” and “And When The Sky Was Open”. Two examples of what straight up four-to-the-floor techno sounded like this year; one cut tough, the other delicate. The former is mean enough to make its way on to Clone Basement Series (matching the dogged beats of Literon’s “Knob Explosion” and Randomer’s “Percussion Workout 1”) while the latter has the deepness of an ambient Northern Electronics record, the echoing motion of Function’s loved productions on Sandwell District laced with the type of euphoria of a Mathew Jonson classic. JM

32

Moleskin

Moleskin EP

Goon Club Allstars

Compared to the emotive, fluorescent grime of last year’s Mssngno record, Goon Club Allstars’ follow-up from label co-head Moleskin is much more straightforward in its aims. However, from the moment the horns go off at the start of “We Been Ready” to the moment the buzzsaw bass of “Chain” peters out, Moleskin’s debut EP is never anything less than some of the most enjoyable club music of the year. What the producer does throughout these four tracks isn’t particularly new – there’s much here that the Night Slugs crew have been doing for years to grime and Jersey club – but rarely is it quite as grin-inducing as this. SW

31

NMO

Nederlandse Maatschappij Ontwikkeling

Anomia

For the past two years, Arnau Sala and Ivy Barkakati’s Anòmia label has been responsible for issuing diverse and highly enviable array of musical documents, everything from Bookworms 12”s to tapes of early material from NYC no wave band Mars. Undoubtedly our favourite Anòmia document this year was the riot-inducing Nederlandse Maatschappij Ontwikkeling 12” from Morton J Olsen and Rubén Patiño’s NMO project. It was their first appearance on vinyl and almost managed to capture the chaotic energy and booming percussive force of NMO’s “military danceable space music” in a live capacity. Thundering down similar awkward angles as Powell and co. on Diagonal, NMO’s Anòmia record featured a quartet of dizzying productions that mixed acoustic and computer generated sounds with genuinely mind-bending results. The appropriately titled “Dirty Huts” sounded like Olsen and Patiño had sampled spades digging out wet concrete and applied it to a blunt new wave rhythm sat atop booming sub bass. In other words, it was like little else released this year. TP

30

Marco Shuttle

Fly Like A Bird

Time To Express

It’s been a pleasure to watch the gradual yet fully deserved rise of Marco Sartorelli unfold. The London-based producer has covered a lot of ground a since his lauded The Vox Attitude EP was released in 2011, with the Italian now purporting a booming sound of lumbering techno (check out “Beyond The Mass” from his album for an outrageous example). With his self-released album now warranting a ‘long-awaited’ tag upon its impending release, Marco Shuttle’s other solo output this year came through The Bunker New York, while with Donato Dozzy he formed the Anxur collaboration for his own label Eerie. But it was “Sing Like A Bird” for Peter Van Hoesen’s Time To Express – a track clocking in at just under 12 minutes – that made for something functional yet trippy, melodic and vivaciously haunting. Straight up techno in 2014 didn’t get better than this. JM

29

Theo Parrish

Footwork

Sound Signature

It took Theo Parrish six years to follow up his last album – Sound Sculptures Vol 1 – with this year’s American Intelligence, and it felt a little like he’d thrown in everything he’d been saving up all those years. Whilst American Intelligence (or the 2CD version at least) came across as a little on the bloated side, the same couldn’t be said about the Footwork single preceding it. While the dusty, clattering hi-hats, playful bassline and gruff vocals were classic Theo, it easily had the most universal appeal of anything he’s done to date, accompanied by a video just as memorable as the track itself. If you weren’t dancing when this came on in the club or even just watching it through YouTube, you needed to check your pulse. SW

28

Marcellus Pittman

Do You Like Music

Downbeat

Resurfacing for the first time on a solo flex since his 2012 LP, Marcellus Pittman’s arrival on the Downbeat label should not have been a surprise – the Madrid operation has cultivated quite the rep for coaxing some fine dance floor swerves out of some highly respected names. Specter, Mike Huckaby and Juju & Jordash have all graced the Downbeat series, complemented by contributions from the label’s inner circle of Jose Rico and Urtzi. Pittman was a fine addition and his Do You Like Music brandished quite the apt title, featuring a grip of cuts that really showcased his diversity as a producer. Each came at you from a different angle, with the hazy, tumbling house bliss of “Our Time Is Now” teeing off against tipsy yet intricate beatdown on “Extra Credit” and the heavy and pitched down distorted bruk of “Happy To Be Here”. Like much of the Downbeat output, Do You Like Music is one of those 12”s you’ll keep pulling for as the years roll on. TP

27

Peder Mannerfelt

PM0001

PMP

A quote from Peder Mannerfelt that didn’t make our feature with the Swedish artist this year was “the first EP on my own label is seven tracks, and the second one coming out is five tracks, so there’s a lot of tracks in the one place which could be seen as an album.” And he’s right. So with some head scratching and pen chewing Juno Plus came to the joint conclusion that PM0001 was what we favoured – just – over his actual album for Digitalis, Lines Describing Circles. Why? The productions that helped inaugurate Peder Mannerfelt Produktions present a medley of experimental techno ranging from caustic sessions of ambient and drone to pulsating rhythms you’d expect from a label like Prologue, to other visceral DIY syntronics he alone can only produce. This year saw Mannerfelt’s reputation as a producer match that of collaborators, friends and colleagues Sendai and Emptyset, and what makes the Swede’s renewed presence in experimental techno all the more exciting is 2014 is just the beginning. JM

26

Evian Christ

Waterfall EP

Tri Angle

Evian Christ has been such a part of the musical furniture since he emerged in 2012, it’s easy to forget Waterfall is technically his debut proper. Having contributed production last year to Yeezus at Kanye West’s request, his first big artistic statement had to impress, and Waterfall showed his time spent quietly honing his sound was well spent. While his early mixtape offered a minimalistic take on hip hop production, the four tracks on Waterfall were entirely the opposite, being comprised of brash trance riffs, ear-splitting trap snares and visceral basslines. There wasn’t a huge amount to differentiate the four tracks, but each was exquisitely crafted to create the maximum amount of sonic damage. In terms of genre, these tracks are structured like hip hop, but feel more aligned with the visceral bodily thrills of Kevin Martin’s productions. If you wanted to bask in the sonic glow of a bassbin this year, little was more satisfying than these four tracks. SW

25

C.P.I.

El Túnel

Hivern Discs

John Talabot’s profile has got to the stage that a lesser label than his Hivern Discs would be sorely tempted to forgo retaining its focus on the weirder strains of house and techno, favouring music with the kinks ironed out in order to watch the Euros roll in. If anything Hivern has become more adventurous this year, eschewing the money-spinning antics of last year’s remixes of The xx in favour of an unpredictable archival flex. An Eduardo De La Calle cover version of UR, a rare Pional white label and El Guincho’s house project Trances were all reissued this year. Of the new material Hivern issued, it was undoubtedly the C.P.I. project from Marc Piñol and Hugo Capablanca that really captivated us, featuring two gurgling powerhouses filled with intense new beat feelings and darkly acidic intent. In his review, Brendan Arnott said there was a “giddy claustrophobia” to these tracks and that sums up C.P.I. perfectly. The accompanying remix of “Proceso” from Cómeme artist Barnt demonstrated how well calibrated he was for devastating dance floor tools too. TP

24

Acronym

Nautilus

Northern Electronics

Acronym is yet to be flooded with the overarching praise that’s found its way to Northern Electronics label mates Varg and founder Abdulla Rashim. For a thick five-cut serving of the pulsating-to-brittle club music Acronym is capable of, Northern Electronics released this fulfilling, no-nonsense slice of arcane, Scandinavian techno. It was the Swedish producer’s second release for Northern Electronics, the only label he’s released with that’s not his own Dimensional Exploration, and for an introduction to – or binge on – the cabalistic sounds he’s capable of, Nautilus is the body of work that best illustrates the precision and lucid flow of Acronym. JM

23

Ekranoplan

Wing-In-Surface-Effect

All Caps

Ekranoplan was one of the year’s most genuinely surprising pieces of subterfuge: a project that turned out to be a collaboration between Kowton and Julio Bashmore. While the pair delivered the floor-friendly house track “Mirror Song” last year, there was nothing across Wing-In-Surface-Effect to suggest the involvement of either – “One Meter Up” for example sounded like a lost Quiet Village cut, while “Ground Effect Vehicle” came across like a piece of proto dub techno. The project is named after a Russian sea plane, and it was well chosen; the sublime “Star Frog” was the sound of flying a few metres above the Atlantic at that special moment just before dawn. It was one of the year’s strangest and most evocative ambient tracks, and was enough for us to forgive Bashmore for inflicting “Au Seve” on the world. SW

22

Lowtec

Workshop 20

Workshop

Whilst Jens Kuhn’s output as Lowtec has seen the German appear on the likes of Laid, Nonplus, and Smallville in recent times, there will always be a sense of relish when he resurfaces on Workshop. Kuhn’s productions have come to typify the label as much as those of Kassem Mosse or Move D, and Workshop 20 – his first full record for the label in some six years – offered plenty of mileage for the more adventurous selectors out there. Fluttering between the lower tempos, all three tracks demonstrated Kuhn’s mastery for making repetitive music sound and feel continually compelling; witness the midway switch up that occurs in “A1” and completely changes the mood. As with the majority of Workshop releases this was a 12” that lacked in immediacy, but came filled with a unique weirdness that had you pulling back the needle again and again. TP

21

Sendai

Monad XVII

Stroboscopic Artefacts

Yves De Mey and Peter Van Hoesen’s Sendai collaboration has proved a unique coming together of power electronics, blurring what techno in 2014 defines as functional dance music. This has been an underlying theme throughout Stroboscopic Artefacts’ Monad series since it took off in 2010, highlighted most explicitly this year by Sendai. It’s as if the pair make music to break BPM counters, as “Isobaric 3” demonstrates, while the static pops and gurgling synthesis of “False Entities”, although beatless, is secret weapon for DJs wanting to terrorise the last standing freaks of a stretched out club night. Pulses are more defined in “Directive” but it’s the unexpected evolution of “Marten’s Deficit” that makes Sendai such a hotwired experimentation of unpredictability. JM

20

Mumdance

Take Time

Rinse

“German Whip” might have been grime’s big commercial moment this year, but “Take Time” showed there’s just as much crossover potential in the new generation of producers and MCs operating in London’s underground circles. Mumdance might be something of an outlier, approaching grime production after formative years spent releasing tunes on Mad Decent, and Novelist might only be a 17-year-old MC from Lewisham, but both came together to make something as true to spirit of grime’s early days than anything else. It’s unlikely that any tune got more rewinds than “Take Time” this year, and with a deal just inked at XL Recordings, it’s probably only the beginning for what could be one of grime’s most promising partnerships. SW

19

Inigo Kennedy

Lullaby

Token

In the lead up to Vaudeville, Inigo Kennedy’s first album for Token, it was nice of label founder Kr!z to lay down a taster with what would be two of its best tracks. “Lullaby” featured all the deep basilica ambience and chantry tones that began to fully materialise following the release of Kennedy’s Cathedral EP in 2013, and this production demonstrated an aesthetic the UK techno bulwark has since honed to the point it’s become a trademark of his high tempo sound. Furthermore, “Petrichor” was a polished example of how techno designed for the club – the serious techno club – could be melancholic and despairing, as well as uplifting and hopeful, even playful, all the while remaining wholly danceable. JM

18

TCF

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88306EC4137FD4EC3DED8B

Liberation Technologies

Though attitudes to electronic music have come on a long way in the past 30 years, you will still meet people who will argue it can’t match the emotional nuance of “real” instruments. This EP on Liberation Technologies from Lars TCF Holdhus is proof of just how absurd this notion is. While Holdhus may be interested in cryptography and Bitcoins, and his track titles may be seemingly indecipherable alphanumeric strings, the music he makes is as complex as any symphony, and his use of VSTs as emotive as any string section. However, it’s the sheer density of his sound that marks him out. Though this is in part down to the manner in which he layers his sounds, it feels as much down to processing thresholds being reached, demonstrating that there’s as much beauty in low bitrates than there is in analogue sound. SW

17

Population One

A Mind Of Its Own

Metroplex

The news Terrence Dixon had decided to retire this year was received in the manner befitting of such an important figure in Detroit techno, but how does this tally up with all the Population One material issued in 2014? Did Dixon cheekily decide this project was separate and not applicable? If that’s the case we can’t argue, as Dixon’s output as Population One has been peerless, with an album for Rush Hour and material for Nina Kraviz’s трип label preceded by this excellent 12” for Metroplex. That A Mind Of His Own was issued by Juan Atkins seems quite fitting as his Metroplex was the first Detroit label to pick up on Population One back in 1996. The four tracks were a continuation of the queasy strain of techno Dixon had been developing on his Reduction label and contained a power matched by few other 12”s of its ilk this year. TP

16

SVN & Club No-No

SUED 9

Sued

There’s something about SVN’s music that makes you feel as though you’re lost deep in a jungle of fluttering insects where flashes of eyes stare out at you from the dark. Teaming up with Dynamo Dreseen as Dresvn for Acido 016, SVN helped deliver a extended cut of deep, tropical ambience (with a DJ Sotofett jungle mix on the flip) and not long after came this new corroboree with Club No-No, yet another spectral presence to enter the universe of Acido, Sex Tags and SUED. When paired with SVN the duo find themselves trekking even further into the darkest marshes of each other’s production abilities, supplying two cuts of leftfield house music idiosyncratic of the aforementioned labels that seem to represent the darker and lighter shades of an enchanted wilderness only they know about. JM

15

Minor Science

Noble Gas EP

The Trilogy Tapes

The Trilogy Tapes put out a lot of records this year – mainly from established artists – but it was this debut from music journalist Angus Finlayson that proved one of its best. As you might expect from a writer with broad interests, the Noble Gas EP sounds like a lot of things: it’s as muffled and downbeat as Madteo, as tongue-in-cheek in its approach as Joe, and as deep as anything in the Workshop catalogue. The drunken vocal samples and stumbling rhythms may have sought to turn the dance floor into quicksand, there was never any sense Finlayson was being experimental for the sake of it – rather this was a record of music that sought to map out new and strange territory for house music, satisfying the feet while aiming at the heart in a similarly oblique way as Lowtec and Kassem Mosse. SW

14

Rezzett

Zootie

The Trilogy Tapes

This time last year, Rezzett were a mystery production unit with an arsenal of deranged videos on YouTube whose redlining lo-fi electronics transferred to an incendiary debut on The Trilogy Tapes. Fast forward a year and still no one really knows who Rezzett are, despite live gigs in Manchester, Tokyo and Moscow, as well another record for Will Bankhead’s label. Zootie was, if anything, more impressive than last year’s Yayla, not least for the series of hand-stamped prints that undoubtedly proved the label’s most eye-catching to date. In terms of music, “Zootie” was a combination of slate grey ambience and speaker-shaking jungle every bit as potent as Stott and Whittaker’s Millie & Andrea project. It was complemented by a “Yavas” mix that brilliantly boiled down the original production’s rhythm to its barest bones. TP

13

JBSF

JBSF2

Ferrispark

With a career of releasing records nearing 15 years, Scott Ferguson is one of Detroit house music’s unsung champions. His Ferrispark label has been operating since 2001 and has put out all but five of his records, with an earlier dalliance of Ferguson’s landing on International Deejay Gigolo Records. He’s an artist alongside others like DJ Qu, DJ Sprinkles and Aaron-Carl (RIP) with a profound ability to uniquely represent what deep house can/should be. This JBSF 2 EP provides a second collaboration with mystery producer Jitterbug, known for releases on Uzuri, and here the two create a complete EP which not only wallows on the blurry, heartfelt depths of ambient house, but the peak time heights of stripped-back dancefloor euphoria. This record, circa 2014, delivers deep house a musical study in what the genre stands for, weeding out pretence and pastiche for something full of dance and unspoken themes of escapism, reflection and ultimately emotion. The real deal. JM

12

Ligovskoï

Dilip EP & Remixes

Demet3d

Ligovskoï is a Paris-Brussels connection between Nikolaï Azonov and Valerio Selig. Their first and only record came through French label Dement3d and featured four long breaths of overcast Gigi Masin-like ambient works with the deftest of industrial touches added here and there. Split across two 12”s, this double pack also featured a well-thought-out cast of remixers. Two French artists associated with Dement3d – François X and Antigone – delivered the more serious of the two techno tracks on this record, while the so far unknown HBTVSK paid the upmost respect to a yearning “Goha” with a rolling salvo of 909 drums sequenced over the original’s luscious textures. In Aeternam Vale provided a subdued, darkly fizzing alternative to a mournful “G.Y”, but it was Abdullah Rashim’s pitter-pattering remix of “Liabate” that makes this release one of 2014’s greatest. JM

11

Hodge

Flashback

Hotline

After an extended period in the spotlight as one half of Outboxx, Young Bristol type Hodge made solo appearances in all the right places this year (as well as turning in an excellent podcast for this site). Of all his 2014 releases, it was pretty hard to choose which Hodge record was most worthy of inclusion on this list. Certainly “Amor Fati” for Livity Sound’s Dnuos Ytivil sub-label provided one of this year’s most viscerally satisfying club tools, while his Berceuse Heroique 12” offered some great insight into his production range (especially the ‘Tim Hecker samples the TARDIS’ feel of “Return To The East”). In the end, Hodge’s Hotline debut just nudged its way to the top thanks to “Flashback”, where a hypnotic arpeggio reels you in before some trademark deadly kicks smack you in the gut. It also gets included for the memorable interpretive dance moves our staff writer made to try and convey the effects of the track’s bassline after hearing it. TP

10

Pender Street Steppers

Openin Up

PPU

Vancouver collective Mood Hut are undoubtedly one of this year’s success stories, and it was difficult trying to decide which record from their nebulous group of members should be put forward for this list. In the end we had to squeeze in two, with the wonderfully breezy “Something (On My Mind)” from Jack Jutson already listed above, and it was bettered only by the record he released with Liam Butler as Pender Street Steppers for DC outpost People’s Potential Unlimited. The tracks may originate from Life in the Zone, the mixtape of original Pender Street Steppers material issued on Mood Hut last year, but both that cassette and this 12” have a timeless quality to them. Both “Opening Up” and “M Flight” were archetypal Mood Hut productions; veritable ear worms built around odd vocal inflections, rubbery bass lines and effortlessly strutting drums. “Opening Up” deserves special mention for perhaps the finest conga led breakdown committed to vinyl in 2014. TP

9

BMB

Live In Tokyo

DNS

Live recordings pressed into vinyl are usually the reserve of The Rolling Stones, KISS or Peter Frampton. British Murder Boys’ Live In Tokyo, released on Downwards, however, is something else. This record truly captures the intensity of what sounds like a historical night in electronic music folklore, with Regis and Surgeon going at it one last time as British Murder Boys. It’s a suitably loud record and credit to the mastering engineer for extracting so much emotion and energy from the original recordings. For DJs paying homage to the group this year “Start” proved a secret weapon while “End” is a screaming retch of hardcore electronics that will give you goosebumps. It’s the thumping post-punk banger “So Above So Below” that steals the show though. It’s likely Japanese punters were expecting a ‘techno gig’ the night this was recorded, but instead they were part of a landmark event in Downwards and British Murder Boys history that, warranted, was captured and put to 12” for everyone to experience. JM

8

Aurora Halal

Passageway EP

Mutual Dreaming

As the figure behind Brooklyn’s Mutual Dreaming parties, Aurora Halal has been informing the city’s nightlife for several years, complementing a wide range of local and international talent with visual attention to detail putting other parties to shame. Passageway saw her transfer the ethos of her parties and DJ sets into a killer debut EP reflecting her interest in techno’s more abstract and psychedelic qualities; each track rippled with lysergic colour and growled with a menacing bass undercurrent that stood out a mile against the flood of stale, bleak 4/4 techno this year. Halal commissioned Terrence Dixon to make a remix for the EP, and it speaks volumes as to how good the four originals were that it didn’t overshadow a single one of her own tracks. There was nothing especially complex or showy about Passageway – it was just sensuous techno done very well indeed. SW

7

Claro Intelecto

Stanza

Delsin

Mark Stewart released just the one Claro Intelecto record in 2014 and it was one of this year’s best. The Stanza EP combined a variety of bass-heavy techno styles split across four tracks, all of which feel as if they wanted to burst out of the speakers and tear up the neighbourhood. Each production here is distinctly different from the next with “Remember” turning from stomping Transformer to an exuberant swoon of uplifting keys and synths. “White Sun” sounds like an industrially dubbed out re-rub of Marcel Dettmann’s remix of Morphosis’ “Too Far”, only injected with the stoned grooves of Intelecto’s Modern Love material, while “A Nightmare Before Bedtime” – like the title alludes – is an unsettling six-minute stupor of hellish club music. And to complete one of the boldest records to fly under the radar this year, “Blank CC” is a disgruntled banger of gnarly Silent Servant qualities. Five stars. JM

6

Finn

Keep Calling

Local Action

Instrumental grime spawned some pretty out-there sounds this year, but the scene’s best track was also its simplest. Taking inspiration from the short-lived offshoot of grime known as RnG, Manchester producer Finn created a track that managed to revive the R&B sample from the doldrums of insipid UK bass, creating what was a deceptively simple edit of Ginuwine and Aaliyah’s “Final Warning”. Both “Dangerous” and “Only Boy” on the flip took things even further, creating music that felt more aligned with footwork than grime, a combination of frenetic beats and slow-jam vocals that combined into something utterly delicious. London’s grime-focused Boxed was the most vital club night in London this year, and “Keep Calling” was its anthem, but the appeal of this record tapped into something far more universal. SW

Daywalker & CF - Supersonic Transport
5

Daywalker & CF

Supersonic Transport

L.I.E.S.

The L.I.E.S. schedule this year reaffirmed the label’s commitment to sonic destruction across its ever-swelling discography, but despite its ‘non stop’ antics there was little discussion needed when it came to the one 12” that most deserved a place in the top 50 of the year. Back when the label announced the full debut of Entro Senestre and William Burnett’s Daywalker + CF project, we were literally knocked for six by how epic “Supersonic Transport” sounded. Those initial comparisons to “Danny Wolfers at his stargazing best” certainly stand up now, and no matter what the context you heard “Supersonic Transport” in, the track tended to singe itself on your cerebral cortex. In future times this is a record that will go down as one of the definitive L.I.E.S. releases without a doubt. TP

4

Holly Herndon

Chorus/Home

RVNG Intl

Like TCF, M.E.S.H. and Arca, the music of Holly Herndon this year used what sounded like advanced software techniques to create what was at times emotionally devastating music. While Herndon’s technique was key, it was also the concept behind these tracks that caused them to stand out. In “Chorus”, she constructed a soaring piece of three-dimensional techno from her internet trawls through YouTube, Skype and other audio sources, while on “Home”, she explored the recent NSA security scandal, creating what she described as “a love song for prying eyes (an agent / a critic)” and “a break up song with the devices with which I shared a naive relationship”. Electronic music is inextricably bound to technological advancements, but rarely does it ever attempt to explore the influence technology has on our lives quite as successfully as Herndon did on these two tracks. Herndon didn’t just improve exponentially on the template laid down on her Movement album, she made two of the most thought-provoking tracks of the year. SW

3

M.E.S.H.

Scythians EP

PAN

2014 was the year in which club music mutated into many strange new shapes, but by far the most striking form it took was in the music of M.E.S.H. While other artists took the DNA of existing genres and bred them into new hybrid species, the Berlin-based producer took his experience as part of the city’s Janus crew and created a truly futuristic vision of dance music, building his cybernetic rhythms and glossy backdrops from the ground up. Like similar music from Holly Herndon and Arca, Scythians revelled in the possibilities of digital technology, creating the scrambled neuron riddim of “Scythians”, the choral hardstyle of “Imperial Sewers” and “Captivated”, which sounded like it should be soundtracking a CGI movie depicting the origin of the universe. You might not have heard it played in many clubs, but nothing explored the boundaries of what club music could be more than Scythians. We can only hope the rest of the world will eventually catch up. SW

2

SVN ft Paleo

It Takes Time

Wania

The terms “eyes wide shut” and “misty-eyed” have become the latest phrases added to the Juno Plus black book of adjectives to avoid. But an exception can be made for the B-side of this Wania 12” from SUED boss SVN and friends. AU is SVN and General Elektro artist DNL and the swooning tempo of “It Takes Time” brims with a tenderness that’s just the right side of cheesy, with the track made extra special by the deadpan but equally loveable drawl of Paleo Logos’ charming vocals. His is a calming voice that purrs ‘it takes time’ as if reassuring whoever’s listening, everything’s going to be OK. There’s nothing spectacular about the track’s production, but its melodies, arrangement, sequencing, and most notably, timing, fall into place so well it’s enough to give anyone a lump in the throat. JM

1

Powell

Club Music

Diagonal

“We like the rough and tumble of it,” Diagonal founder Oscar Powell said to Juno Plus earlier this year. “It’s a place to dance as much as it is a social destination, and for me the idea of club music isn’t just the music, it’s everything that comes with it, seeing your mates, hanging out with people you know, people doing similar things to you. That’s the spirit that I think I want the label to represent.”

While Powell was talking here about the label he founded in 2011 and the enduring appeal of the club, these ideals have always been equally present in his own music. Put quite simply, Powell makes techno – but it’s techno that’s scorched, stretched and thrown off the axis of a stale 4/4 rhythm. There aren’t many people operating in the genre who can claim to have a style that’s genuinely unique, but over the course of three years Powell has developed a sound that’s utterly singular in his field.

Powell has appeared in this list twice before, but Club Music was the record where he really nailed the combination of wrong footed rhythms and visceral, bodily textures he’s been chipping away at since 2011. The satisfyingly meaty crunch of “So We Went Electric”, the swaggering oscillations of “No U Turn” and ear-splitting electronic gristle of Russell Haswell collaboration “Maniac” each punched harder than anything else this year, and didn’t care whose sensibilities they offended. Powell’s next single will be released on venerable UK establishment XL Recordings, a suggestion that Club Music is really only the end of the first chapter for one of techno’s most exciting artists. SW

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  1. Wavatar Kirill says:

    It’d be soooooo nice if there was a “play all” playlist m3u button