Albums, EPs & Labels
For fans of dance music outside the 4/4 mainstream, 2017 was a watershed year. A network of producers across the world are building something – a new sound that has no name; something too diverse to unify under a single label but clearly a product of the same currents and swells of digital culture. Some fuse Western dance tropes with local rhythms, others craft hybrids of experimental electronics and commercial hip hop, the majority utterly defy definition.
In a hyper-connected world where DJs download obscure mp3s from the other side of the planet, the concept of authorship gets muddy. We might not always know who made a track, but it’s generally possible to identify local scenes by their distinct sounds, despite fears that the internet would dismantle the specificity of local cultures.
Still, a few key players in the global club scene were particularly impressive this year. One was Tzusing, the Chinese techno producer who brought the raucous energy of industrial and EBM to his work this year, increasingly fused with traditional East Asian instrumentation. Both his album for L.I.E.S. and his recent EP on Bedouin Records were among the years best releases.
Another artist who got us hot under the collar this year is Parris, the British producer and boss of the Soundman Chronicles label whose pair of releases on Hemlock and Trilogy Tapes blurred the lines between dub, grime, minimal house and elegant experimentalism. Other artists stepped away from genre altogether – Jlin left the footwork influences of her debut behind, careering into a wildly original percussive maelstrom on her second LP Black Origami.
It was a rich and varied year for fringe longplayers. There was Equiknoxx’s welcome return on the inspired weirdness of Colon Man, an immaculately produced slant on Jamaican musical tradition and Iona Fortune’s brilliant journey into Eastern philosophy (by way of Glasgow) on her ambient album Tao Of I, at once soothing and unsettling.
A handful of killer labels kept a steady stream of experimental gold flowing this year. Occult Research issued superb albums from zvλd and Vytear that echoed the omnivorous spirit and restlessness of early Rephlex material. Russian imprint Gost Zvuk (ГОСТ ЗВУК) fired out one of 2017’s very best LPs in the form of Vtgnike’s Collection, a breezy and emotive soup of ambient, jungle and juke. US label Ascetic House dropped eight LPs of raw, ragged electronics simultaneously, while The Astral Plane and Wisdom Teeth continued flying the flag of future-facing club cuts.
For something a little more on the nose, Lyon’s rowdy Brothers From Different Mothers crew continued to cook up a storm of genre-hopping bangers with a grimy aesthetic – check Full Quantic Pass’ lunatic jungle juke or their excellent Rends L’argent EP from last month.
We couldn’t pass up the chance to flag up some of the excellent electronic music coming out of the Arab world, with superb releases from Fatima Al Qadiri, Deena Abdelwahed and Rozzma tangling Arab scales with bass music and techno, while Egyptian producer Zuli went a step further into abstraction on his new release for Lee Gamble’s UIQ imprint. Over in South Africa the gqom sound continued to thrive, with a particularly strong release from Emo Kid that brought big-room melodies and feelings to the signature spare drumwork.
Here’s a mix of club tunes from our resident DJ Moth.
Here’s a playlist, in no particular order, of our top tracks this year from the world of experimental, club and bass music.
Celestial Trax – Not In Control
Kelman Duran – 1984, Primero, Ultimo
Vtgnike – Lutnya Max vip
E.m.m.a – Mindmaze
Loft – Filton recal
Jlin – Nyakinyua Rise
TLC Fam – Tribute to Nomfundo (Ladlal’idark)
Emo Kid – Insimbi Yase Dubane
Superfície – Cerol
Chlo – Ven a mi
Minor Science – Volumes
Fatima Al Qadiri – Galby feat. Naygow
Tzusing – 風雲再起
Soren Roi – When I Come To Die