Endgame is straighter but by no means simple: a crushed melody split open across an epileptic beat pattern, eventually allowed to morph into sputtering warehouse techno for a searing finale. It’s difficult, perplexing music, and perhaps not aimed explicitly for the dancefloor: but no record left us more dazzled this year.
It’s normal to round up the year’s best albums and tracks, but here at White Noise we like to pay a little attention to the EP format as well. While lacking the depth of a long-player, an EP can still offer a striking mission statement, and a platform for more than a simple collection of dance tracks. The best EPs work like miniatures, exploring a single idea from several angles or allowing a producer to flex their creative muscles over a series of different styles. Here we’ve collected the EPs that really stood out to us over the year, by either offering something a bit different or showing an artist at the very top of their game.
There were so many excellent releases this year, and the cruel selection process meant that many couldn’t make the list: superb outings from Big Doint, Innershades, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Palms Trax offered some of the year’s best house tunes, while DJ Rashad, Call Super, and White Material returned with a vengeance on a series of ace records. The EPs on the list gave us just a little bit more, and while some came out almost a year ago, the following vinyls are still on regular repeat here at White Noise HQ.
If you want to read more, click on the title of any release to read the full WN review.
11: Mix Mup – After The Job [Hinge Finger]
Mix Mup broke away from Kassem Mosse’s shadow on this fantastic outing for Will Bankhead and Joy O’s Hinge Finger, plying a pitch-perfect brand of lofi house and techno. Doomed and Copa Jams were menacing rollers with a strong undercurrent of funk, while closer Bungalow was a radical left-turn into glistening beatless territory. It was on the title track, however, where Mix Mup really hit the mark, a warped collision of Tina Turner, clicking percussion and an unholy bassline.
10: Martyn – Newspeak [Dolly Dubs]
Martyn proved why he’s still one of the best in the game with this expert three-tracker, with glistening bass music backed by two retro-house bumpers on the b-side. Oceaniawas a beautiful trip, but it was on the low-slung grooves of Newspeak and What Is Room 101 that Martyn really got his jack on. It’s rare to get an EP where every tune is a highlight, but you can trust a producer like Martyn to really nail it.
9: Laurel Halo – Behind The Green Door [Hyperdub]
Hyperdub’s Laurel Halo was responsible for two of the year’s best releases: this EP and her Chance Of Rain album, and it’s a credit to her remarkable talent that the two couldn’t have been more different. While the LP saw Halo toying with icy, autumnal textures, Green Door was a masterclass in machine-fed funk, from Throw’s beautiful piano to Sexmission’s suffocated techno.
8: Visionist – Snakes [Leisure System]
Logos may have secured the year’s best grime album, but this year’s 12” crown belongs to Visionist. The restless producer let out a slew of lethal productions across the year, but it was on Snakes for Leisure Systemthat he conjured a high-def psychedelia which sounded like nothing else.
7: June – Don’t Be Seen With Me [June]
We’d be the first to admit that there’s a lot of hardware-driven retro house going round, but none hit that sweet spot of past and future like June did this year. Don’t Be Seen With Me was a masterclass in mood, offsetting glistening melodies with taut drum machine workouts and the occasional foray into acid and new age territory.
6: Romare – Love Songs Part 1 [Black Acre]
After topping this list last year, Romare once again scored a winner on his second EP for Black Acre. His collage of samples and genres is executed with a fascinating socio-historical bent, making Love Songs a feast for the mind as well as the feet.
5: Levon Vincent – Rainstorm II [Novel Sound]
After a blistering mix for Fabric, Mr Vincent returned to our decks on the superb NS08, where he plied his unique brand of warehouse stomp. Rainstorm saw a return of the untreated synths we loved in Impressions… and Man or Mistress, while the gargantuan ??? saw Vincent aim squarely for the dancefloor, all thanks to the year’s most distinctive bassline.
4: Dopplereffekt – Tetrahymena[Leisure System]
Leisure System’s second coup of the year was beckoning Gerald Donald back into the dance game, where he issued an update of his singular scifi funk under the storied Dopplereffekt moniker. Doppler’s hi-def electro has never sounded better than on the propulsive Tetrahymena, or in the tunnelling bassline that reinforced Gene Silencing’s slo-mo menace.
3: Tessela – Nancy’s Pantry [R&S]
Not content with issuing what might be the year’s best single, Tessela took to R&S in the Autumn to expand his staccato experiments with breakbeat dynamics. This is techno at its most visceral, from the searing test tones of Nancy’s Pantryto the giddy abandon of the rave-indebted Horizon. Tessela’s palette couldn’t be more current or more vital, even allowing for patience in the simmering threat of Gateway.
2: Anthony Naples – Ill Still [Rubadub]
P O T, El Portal, Moscato: Anthony Naplesreleased a lot of brilliant music this year, but for us it was Ill Still that had them all beat. Taking a smoother approach than on other releases, Naples allowed his melodies to shine on these addictive grooves, and all three were superb in their own right. The simplicity of these tracks was addictive: the whirring synthline and straightforward drum programming of Ill Still, or the ghosted vocals and shimmering melodic haze of Faceless: both made for two of our most played tracks. On I Don’t See Them Naples turned a little psychedelic with effortless style, a throaty bassline complimenting a sifting soup of synths and atmospheric detail.
1: A Made Up Sound – Ahead / Endgame [A Made Up Sound]
Perhaps more a single than an EP, Dave Huisman’s staggeringly strange single was undoubtedly the most futuristic music we heard all year. Ahead throws dance convention out of the window: no comfortable beat pattern, no melodic hooks to latch onto. Huismans takes a stuttered beat pattern and guts it, splicing in jagged funk samples and splintering percussion. It’s wildly unpredictable and jarringly, brilliantly broken, and we wanted to keep returning just to see if we could manage to make some sort of sense of it all.