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Metropolis – Unify

Last year saw Dutch producer Nick Lapien enjoy acclaim through a record from his Artefakt project on Delsin and a solo release on Fed P’s Soul People label, but it’s as Metropolis that he most effectively captures the zeitgeist. Metropolis shares creative space with Giallo Disco, and artists like Roberto Auser and Timothy J. Fairplay  – both of whom have put out records on Charlois – but also has common ground with the Viewlexx/Murder Capital axis closer to Lapien’s home. Like those labels and their producers, Unify, his latest Metropolis release and Charlois debut, goes to great lengths to push electronic disco down a dark alley.

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Nico Motte – Life Goes On If You’re Lucky

Like many of electronic music’s most interesting labels, Antinote has always been comfortable embracing the contrast between dark and light. The Parisian label has managed to find a balance between moody, murky electronic darkness – see the releases by Stephane Laporte, Albinos, and some of Iueke and Geena’s more robust moments – and releases that reach-out towards the afternoon sun with all the hazy enthusiasm of a newborn child. In fact, many of these more obviously picturesque moments – particularly D.K’s wonderful album, Drop, and Domenique Dumont’s stunning mini-album, Comme Ça – could be considered among the imprint’s finest releases to date.

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Tapan – The City

After WT Records releases this year from Florian Kupfer and Entro Senestre, William Burnett’s label comes up with a wonderful, left of centre release to close out 2015. Tapan is the work of Serbian duo Nebojša Bogdanovic and Goran Simonoski, and their WT debut, The City, is dense, dark and compelling at nearly every turn.

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Parris – Burr

This new plate for Bristol’s Idle Hands by young Londoner Parris bears the familiar markings of a producer with a sub-bass obsession, who you can imagine perhaps cut his teeth on Youngsta’s Rinse FM shows. Parris has indeed followed that pioneer’s tradition, from working at the BM Soho record shop to running Soundman Chronicles, and releasing music with Wen on the iconic Tempa imprint. It’s producers like Parris that not only keep the dubstep flame burning, but, deeper still, in his own production he holds close the legacy of the original heads-down swingers El-B and J Da Flex who helped create that genre.

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Shanti Celeste – Being

2015 saw the South West of England flourish as a home for dance music with all eyes on Bristol. From the more established labels – Livity Sound, Idle Hands and Pinch’s Tectonic – to the newcomers such as Shall Not Fade, Hotline and Happy Skull, we’ve watched the city become ever more important hub for house, techno and grime. One of the most central figures of the city is Bristol-via-Chile’s Shanti Celeste who has risen from Idle Hands employee to amongst her current talents being a co-runner of label Brstl, an excellent DJ and also producer.

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Broken English Club – Suburban Hunting

To speak for the likes of Oliver Ho is not possible without tracing the trajectory of one exceptionally prolific career. For two decades now, the London-based artist has released using over half a dozen aliases spanning techno, occasional forays in house, drone rock/noise and, more recently, modern post-punk reinterpretations. Throughout these many phases, he’s seemed to abandon the projects, be it the seminal Meta imprint, short lived electro-pop outfit The Eyes in the Heat or his more well-known Raudive project, once they’ve reached a creative peak, only to return reinvigorated under a new alias. His new project Broken English Club project first appeared in 2014, as the fourth release on Silent Servant’s Jealous God imprint.

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Tolouse Low Trax – Rushing Into Water

Even if you haven’t witnessed a Tolouse Low Trax set in the club, it’s hard to escape the influence Detlef Weinrich has had on the Düsseldorf scene centred on the charming Salon Des Amateurs. When I spent a weekend in the city to interview Lena Willikens last year, she was effusive in her praise of the club’s co-founder and his capacity to make the strangest music work in the Salon. Dip your nose back into Aaron Coultate’s profile on the Salon for RA in early 2015 and Weinrich’s ambassadorial role becomes all the more clearer.

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Fred P – Modern Architect

Modern Architect is a collection of tracks from Fred Peterkin’s studio that have only previously been aired in his the US producer’s DJ sets. According to a note from the newly formed Energy Of Sound label, this is the first in a series of releases, so it seems that Fred P fans can look forward to more such albums in the future. Modern Architect turned out to Peterkin’s second album of a productive 2015, but stands in stark contrast to his 5 album as FP-Oner on Mule Musiq.

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CP/BW – Untitled

As the bleak mid winter marches on, and we take stock of the past twelve months worth of music in an attempt to draw some kind of moral from it all, I stand on the threshold sending you best wishes with a copy of this Corporate Park and Beau Wanzer album under my arm. And it’s terribly fitting: between ripples and waves of archival releases and collaborations, Beau Wanzer has been one of the protagonists of this black-lit, and backlit, electronic circus of a year, and this third release on his own label seals his reputation as one of the great madmen of our times.

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L’estasi Dell’oro – Every Light Is Blue

It has been yet another productive year for Berlin imprint Macro. With releases from regular staples such as label head Stefan Goldmann and Austrian trio Elektro Guzzi, Macro has expanded its roster to include recent releases by Bulgarian hardware maverick KiNK, edgy French experimentalist rRoxymore and now another outing from Christopher Ernst’s L’estasi Dell’oro project. Likewise, this Brooklyn artist also had a rather productive 2015; alongside running the labels Voodoo Down and Flaneur Audio, he presented his second full length album I Look Upon Nature While Living In A Steel City on Field Recordings. Offering up eight tracks of haunting, industrial edged hypnotism with a nod to modern classical as heard in his two previous aliases: the UK bass influenced Subbway and the textural dub techno of Penalune.

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D5 – Sides of Space

Techno that doesn’t either pummel the listener into submission or rain down sixth-form misery on its audience is often the subject of harsh criticism. Labelled ‘intelligent techno’ during the early ‘90s, this style was picked apart for being by turns, too bland, not aggressive enough, too pretentious and exhibiting too many auteur-like qualities that placed it in proximity to progressive rock. In short this music was deemed just too smart and cleverly made for the average bald-headed, roll-up smoking techno raver who wanted to get it on all night to some proper music of the people like gabba or ‘ardkore.

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Szare – The Rain God Has Cursed The Golden Land

As last year’s debut album Lost Shapes proved, Szare’s music comes loaded with meaning and coded with secret messages. Initially, the duo’s arrival on Dutch label Field with The Rain God Has Cursed The Golden Land would seem to continue in this vein. However, on closer inspection, this appears not to be the case. Rather than imbue their music with grand statements, Szare prefer to take a tongue in cheek approach to techno. The way they see it, using politicised titles that hint at half-formed manifestos is their way of initially grabbing the listener’s attention to their abstract, complex techno.

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Omar S – Side Trak’x Vol 4

In and amidst the grin inducing, life affirming productions like “Here’s Your Trance, Now Dance” and the innumerable skeletal house and techno 12”s that form the vast FXHE discography, the Side Trak’x series from Omar S has proved an intermittent and intriguing bookmark. Here the Detroit producer explores his beat making at a markedly slower tempo, though the signature grit of his productions remain intact. In the case of tracks like the Streetfighter II referencing “I know Chun Li”, witnessing AOS roll out cuts at a hip hop tempo makes it all the easier to marvel at his beat programming skills.

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Peter Scion – Through My Ghost

Music for love, music for oneself, music for exorcism. When Swedish musician Peter Scion was still cloistered in the internet underground of his blog, publishing his many albums online following the interest of those heroic suspects such as Mutant Sounds, he wrote an entry to his 2000 album Through My Ghost in which he described the record’s emotional environment as follows: ‘I was a bit like a ghost to myself, and the album is the sound of that ghost performing.’ The meander through Peter Scion’s ghost is uneasy, shifting, yet delicate. You tread on autumn leaves and you race through cosmic landscapes. There’s violence and there’s warmth.

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Petre Inspirescu – Vin Ploile

It was back in 2007 when a young Romanian collective emerged, seemingly out of nowhere with [a:rpia:r] 01. They brought with them a fresh sound that adhered to the key principles of what always made the minimal techno sound so edgy, before, to quote Oli Warwick, “it became self-conscious about its reductionist values.” Stripped and hypnotic grooves that focused on the raw essence of house music, defiantly unreliant on elements like vocals, big melodies or swing. They weren’t reinventing the wheel per se; there’s no doubt their sound was as much indebted to Perlon or Playhouse as it was to Max.Ernst or even Accelerate.

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Luxus Varta – Everything is Nothing: Hubble Telescope Series Volume 1

It was inevitable that an electro label would pay homage to Hubble, the space telescope that has been beaming back images of the cosmos to Earth for the past 25 years. The only surprise is that it took so long for a label that represents a style of music so inextricably linked to space travel to realise such a series. Few imprints are as well qualified to execute a project like this as Solar One Music.

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The Explosion – The Explosion

In May 2014, Chateau Flight released Terry Riley Covers, a two-track 12” that saw them deliver fresh interpretations of two works by the great American minimalist, with the assistance of new wave French electronic explorers Cabaret Contemporain. As collaborations go, it was a rip-roaring success, with both tracks taking Riley’s works in fresh directions whilst retaining the original spirit and ethos of his compositional method.

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DJ Stingray 313 – Communications System

Communications System by DJ Stingray follows on from other high-quality, electro-leaning releases on Barba from Heinrich Dressel and Marco Bernardi. However, this a broad reference term and no one makes or plays music like Sherard Ingram. On the decks, the Detroit DJ has a supernatural touch, playing records at the wrong speed, seamlessly merging improbable sounds and textures and cutting between tempos and rhythmic structures. Ingram applies the same approach to his productions and Communications System shows again that he inhabits his own sonic universe.

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Joey Anderson – Invisible Switch

When some artists turn to face the daunting prospect of their second album (or first, third, or any other for that matter) it can be viewed as an opportunity to dig deep and draw upon some new musical idiom they’ve not tackled before. No doubt some feel the pressure of expectation, not least if they have a fan base and supportive press that generally laud everything they have done before. Even if we don’t know how Joey Anderson felt as he worked on the follow-up to 2014’s After Forever, those aforementioned stereotypes of ‘album approaches’ don’t seem valid when considering his music at all.

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Various Artists – Shark Story of the Century

Young Glaswegian imprint Contort Yourself is only three releases in, but already creating a buzz with its lo-fi, DIY, sludge techno jams. With an aesthetic already defined by such imprints as Mathematics and L.I.E.S who are often imitated, but hardly matched; where does this label fit into the current musical landscape? As Richard Brophy most clearly summed it up earlier this year, Contort Yourself “draws a neat circle between the present and the past” with young guns such as Helena Hauff, Perseus Traxx and Slugbug appearing alongside ‘80s industrial legends Die Form or Pankow and the imitable Jamal Moss. On Shark Story of The Century it’s business as usual: bemusing titles and more bizarre experiments in sub-genre crossover.

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