The majority of artists tally up a great deal more EP releases than albums, yet the extended players are often notably absent from music publications’ year-end lists. Here are White Noise we like to give credit to the artists who stretch the EP format beyond a killer club tracks and a handful of remixes, those who search out a coherent musical experience that’s more than a handful of disjointed tunes. These are the EPs that we’re still listening to a year on, and felt deserving of an extra recommendation.
A wide range of styles made it to our list, and you can click on the titles to read our original reviews. Huge respect to all the artists here who went one step further this year, and here’s to a 2013 that’s just as exciting.
20 – Machinedrum – SXLND[Lucky Me]
Travis Stewart’s first release of the year was a real palette-cleanser after last year’s heady (but excellent) album Room(s). Here the footwork fanatic lowered the tempo and brought out brighter textures, offering a stylish and bouncy collection that entered the mainstream through a couple of tracks that ended up as Azealia Banks backing tracks.
Fitzgerald ruled the dancefloors this year, and nowhere were his House chops more apparent than on the excellent Child EP for Will Saul’s Aus imprint. His distinctive style fuses deadly basslines and thumping beats in a polished package, and the release spawned two tracks, Child and Lights Out, which were impossible to miss in clubs everywhere over the summer.
Pangaea put out Hessle’s longest release to date this year with the formidable Release double-EP. Mining elements of Dubstep and Jungle, the Hessle owner never sounded like anyone but himself across the course of these tracks which veered from ambient to breakneck 2step in the blink of an eye. Propulsive, frightening and cerebral, here Pangaea made good on the promise of his excellent early singles.
Midland has always occupied a space slightly outside contemporary trends. With each release he offers detailed and meditative House cuts that amaze through headphones as much as the do on the dancefloor. From the slick vocals and pounding beats of What We Know to the restrained atmospherics of opener Tape Burn, every track on this release was a small marvel.
Shadowy American oOoOO continued to mine his utterly unique style this year with a much-anticipated follow-up to his self titled debut. A postmodern collision of Pop, RnB and the grimiest Hip Hop resulted in another excellent collection where razor-sharp beats complimented unsettling atmospherics and the inimitable vocals of collaborator Butterclock.
Kenny Dixon Jr hardly became a House legend by accident, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to see him put out something so different after all these years. While the title track here is something very special, one of the year’s most nakedly beautiful dance tracks, the definitive cut of the unstoppably groovy I Got Werk and a surprisingly good Lana Del Ray remix filled out a pretty perfect package from one of the Dance scene’s most impressive stalwarts.
Another shadowy group of producers putting out dark sounds on their own label. Boring right? Not with Δkkord. Their debut release fused intensely atmospheric soundscapes with hard-as-nails beats that ranged from a slamming 4/4 to IDM-style twitches. Every track on this release is phenomenally powerful and impeccably produced, providing a whole range of DJs with the moodiest secret weapons for the clubs.
Newcomer Zeké Africa blew us away with his debut EP, an impressively diverse array of sophisticated House cuts. This release really had it all; Flying High and its partner Have To Tell You were expertly detailed dancefloor numbers, while other tracks focussed on mood (superb opener No Light) and even went as far as Trap in the deeply unsettling Bake Take.
For us at White Noise, Jimmy Edgar and Travis Stewart (Machinedrum) are a match made in heaven. Their two distinctive styles were impressively fused on this debut collaborative EP, where lightning-fast beatscience duelled against warm synth textures, resulting in an relentlessly innovative EP that continued to amaze us months after the release date.
It was clear that Jacques Greene was going to have to change up his style a bit to keep afloat. After a blisteringly successful 2011, spawning one of the year’s very best tracks, his signature airy style couldn’t compete with the darker sounds coming onto the dancefloors this year. But he did change, and for his debut on Martyn’s impeccable 3024 imprint he came out with one of his best releases to date. Here Greene delved deeper and darker, with Ready’s shuttering beat patterns providing a foil to Prism’s searing synth-work. This EP exuded class, right down to the noteworthy digital exclusive Dakou, where a bridge was drawn between this new, darker style and Greene’s early signature of skipping 2step rhythms.
Beneath is one of the producers who emerged this year with a unique voice right out of the box. His moody soundscapes are home to skeletal UK Funky beat patterns and spare atmospherics that sound right at home on London’s darkest dancefloors. With his first EP for Keysound the fresh producer stepped up his game, with a more complete package that expanded his palette without ever losing the potency of those lethal drum patterns, including a deadly remix of Ballistiq Beat’s Concrete Jungle.
After a long period of silence, San’en wasn’t really the FMF follow up that we were expecting. San’en toyed with live vocals, RnB styles, delicate textures and detailed soundscapes. It all goes to show that sometimes a little surprise is a very good thing indeed. Overlooked by many, here at White Noise we felt San’en was Mr. Fox’s finest hour (along with the brilliant one-sider Power); an impeccably produced collection of diverse tunes that looked out to the future of Bass music. And let’s not forget the gorgeous neo-pop closer Yesterday’s Fall, which was easily one of White Noise’s most played tracks this year.
Another slightly overlooked record this year came courtesy of Shades of Grey label-head Duct. Although the Bass music / Post-Dubstep genre may be a little dubious in its vagueness, not since Mount Kimbie’s debut LP or Sepalcure’s early EPs have such lush and delicate sounds found their way into the dance sphere. Each of these tunes is an immaculately detailed landscape of clipped samples and unusual rhythms, showing there’s still life in a genre many critics are doing their best to avoid.
Dawn Day Night’s first foray into the exciting middle-ground separating DnB and Juke was utter madness from start to finish, and we loved it. Combining deft drum patterns and floor-killing sounds with ghetto sensibilities and a real sense of humour, it was easily one of the year’s most joyous releases.
Dresden’s Cuthead creates House cuts drenched in mood, with great samples sounding so smooth over those punchy beat patterns. It all just works for Cuthead, which is why we were so amazed when he chose to end the EP with two hilarious (and brilliant) slices of instrumental Hip Hop, capping off a great release with impressive diversity. It’s one of those releases where you’ll put on the first tune and sit transfixed, unable to turn it off until the end.
We were a big fan of Indigo’s output this year, and nowhere was he more on form than on this untitled release for Auxiliary. Here was the perfect example of what makes Indigo’s style so unique; amazingly delicate melodies combined fluidly with superb drum programming and a host of atmospheric details. The second and fourth track showed how successful a producer he is outside of conventional beat patterns, pure mood pieces that oozed style and dread.
A Techno release made entirely out of field samples taken from a trip to Jordan? Could go very, very wrong. But not in the hands of 2562, one of the genre’s most consistently brilliant producers. Dave Huismans managed to keep it all under control, introducing his whiplash rhythms and rattling bass to these organic and exotic sonic textures. The concept reached its apex with the gloriously hypnotic closer Noctural Drummers, which brought a Technoid claustrophobia to textured tribal drum patterns.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to call us Shlohmo fanboys here at White Noise, but there’s a reason for that. No one out of the LA beat scene bridges the electronic and the acoustic quite so beautifully. With the follow-up to last years superb Bad Vibes album, Shlohmo let loose a trio of lushly atmospheric beat pieces with a few surprises along the way. Add that to an unusually excellent remix package (featuring a star turn from wonderkid Nicolas Jaar), and the Vacation EP easily made its way into our top three.
What is there left to say about Burial really? White Noise has certainly said more than enough for one year. Everyone knows, he’s just something very, very special. The Kindred EP was the moment where Burial did the impossible, matching (if not bettering) his classic Untrue album. These tracks saw the return of William Bevan’s grit, as well as a new experimentalism in his sonic structure that proved he’s still willing to push just about every boundary going. Almost a decade on, Burial is still peerless in his field. If you’ve never heard the Kindred EP, drop everything you’re doing and check it out right now. If you’ve heard it a hundred times, listen again. It’s still that good.
Music can have profound meaning. Anyone who’s ended up reading this blog will already know that. But it’s not often that a real message can be found in an EP, let alone one that delves into the tropes of Dance music, a genre which more often than not aims purely to get bodies moving. Romare’s fascinating Meditations On Afrocentrism (ironically the only EP on this list we never got round to reviewing) is an electronic tour-de-force, fusing African rhythms and samples with modern dance structures and beat patterns. The tracks explore a range of BPMs, from the Footwork of the brilliant The Blues (It Began In Africa) to the venomous Hip Hop crunch of Down The Line (It Takes A Number). But this is more than simple culture-collage. The 13-minute cut-and-paste spoken word closer that comments on the artist’s own process is a (terribly post-modern) masterstroke, underlining the amount of research and work that went into these pieces. An EP which offers brilliant tunes while making a point is already worthy of our number one spot, but this message: on institutionalised racism in the music industry, on the deep roots of black music in our contemporary musical culture, is so vital that it positively demands to be heard.