Trends come and go, but good music is forever. While there are a great deal of unique producers who will always plough their own furrows, it’s interesting to note when a scene as a whole takes an interest in a certain sound: less the result of imitation than a group of like-minded people walking in sync (well, sometimes imitation). We saw it with the rise of lofi house, industrial techno, instrumental grime and jungle revivalism over the past couple of years, and 2014 has brought its own sounds to the fore. The icy future-funk of electro found a place in a lot of the year’s techno output, a range of producers started exploring ambient textures off the dancefloor, and a number of producers known for their darkness put out tunes that were surprisingly bright and – dare we say it – pretty.
Whether you’re into dark or light, revival or futurism, dance fans have been spoiled in 2014. Here are White Noise’s 50 top tracks.
50. Person Of Interest – Call This Number [LIES]
It’s got all the trappings of a classic LIES release: clattering percussion, waves of tape hiss, melodies buried in the mix, but this tune’s simple synthline proved devastating, while its intrepid structure more than justified the ten minute runtime.
49. Deadboy – Return [Numbers]
Deadboy is an interesting case: his tracks always tap into current trends and forward-thinking sounds, but their quality and shelf-life far outlasts most contemporaries. On his wonderfully varied Return EP for Numbers it was this dramatic ambient intro that proved most transportative, a rousing space hymn for the digital age.
48. Gesloten Cirkel – Submit X [Murder Capital]
Gesloten Cirkel’s superb debut LP brought techno and electro with a healthy dose of humour, showcased on the title cut which loops a pitchbending vocal over a taut electro snap that brings the dance despite its brevity.
47. Even Tuell – Precious Cloud [Latency]
We’ve been keeping an eye out for Even Tuell since hearing the superb B2
of his collaboration with Midnightopera on Workshop. The producer’s ear for subtle melancholy is unparalleled, typified on Precious Cloud
from this year’s Longing Way EP. It’s a deceptively simple affair where the melody twinkles with yearning, a muted bassline appearing halfway through to carry us off to the stars.
46. An-i – Kino-i (Mix) (Cititrax)
This is about the most destructive track we grew to love this year. A study in chaos dressed up as peak-time techno, Kino-i runs a corrosive acid line over a field of dense kicks, scrapes and bangs, all leading to what can only be described as a mindfuck of a breakdown: the track’s parts falling away, grinding to a halt, churning and whirring like the inner workings of some infernal machine, before the kick slams back into place and some semblance of order is restored (for now).
45. Austin Cesear – 1 Year [Proibito]
Cesear turned to woozy house with aplomb for his outing on Anthony Naples’ Proibito imprint, including this epic on the B-side, a hazily addictive cut drenched in nostalgia and warmth.
44. Marquis Hawkes – Can’t Find A Reason [Houndstooth]
We thought we knew what to expect from both Marquis Hawkes – lofi house on Dixon Avenue Basement Jams – and Houndstooth, who seem concerned with the darker fringes of the dancefloor. So what a surprise for Houndstooth to sign his latest, a flat-out banger where an RnB vocal is looped ad infinitum over a crunchy beat and classic bass stabs. The level of polish is unexpected, and it may all bring back bass music circa 2012, but there’s no debating how this one can tear a dancefloor apart.
43. Mike Dehnert – En Outre [Delsin]
This bouncy closer to Dehnert’s Lichtbedingt LP shows the German at his straightest and funnest, an elastic bassline reigning supreme with a gently swung rhythm and laser-gun synth fire. The only problem is the length. Extended mix, anyone?
42. Pender Street Steppers – Openin’ Up [People’s Potential Unlimited]
PPU has been upping their game year on year, but the signing of Mood Hut-affiliated Pender Street Steppers was inspired even by their standards – and also a perfect fit. Openin’ Up is a lazy Sunday jam, twisting the sounds of worn-out house and syrupy instrumental funk into a deliciously odd soup. We couldn’t get enough.
41. R-Zone – Down You Go [R-Zone]
Crème’s semi-anonymous R-Zone series continued to impress in 2014, and this nocturnal cut brought the drama. There’s a distinctly religious vibe to this one, the bell tolls and serene vocals contrasting with serrated drum patterns and corrosive static which become increasingly frenetic as the track goes on. Wicca rave.
40. Ondo Fudd – Harbour [Trilogy Tapes]
Call Super (aka JR Seaton) shot to techno stardom this year with a singular LP and a dangerous club-tooled 12” for Houndstooth, but we never forgot this EP from earlier in the year which showcased his playful side. Harbour is a blistering slice of electro, its scifi sinews flexing restlessly, with a healthy dose of muscle in that elastic bassline.
39. NGLY – Speechless Tape [LIES]
Newcomer NGLY knocks it out of the park on this threatening cut. The first thing you’ll hear is that menacing bassline, but the uneasy synth wash and disaffected vocal add to the B-movie horror vibe, while rattling percussion and punishing hi-hats make this one as danceable as it is moody.
38. DJ Metatron – Rave Child [Traumprinz]
Traumprinz takes to a new alias and a new style as DJ Metatron, producing 90s throwback with the emotions turned up to 11, but it’s the modern details that make this one: the intricate percussion never content to just loop, the subtle bass blips that lend substance to the drama of its vocal and melody.
37. Floorplan – Never Grow Old (Re-Plant) [M-Plant]
Robert Hood’s update to last year’s techno-gospel anthem Never Grow Old was one of the year’s most universally played and adored tunes, and with good reason. This new version strips the original of some of its warmth, with an urgent church organ taking centre stage, blurring the lines between religious and drug-induced frenzy, taking hold of you and not letting go.
36. Delroy Edwards – Always (Edit) [Gene’s Liquor]
Delroy breaks into filtered house with this rugged roller, a crushed synthline abruptly giving way to an unreservedly joyous piano line and an unexpectedly euphoric disco climax. Shame it’s over so soon.
35. Head High – Hex Factor [Power House]
Shed’s generous double-pack of techno weapons continued to show a producer at the pinnacle of his career, our favourite being this raw confection of breaks and kicks with its galactic synthwork playing like a dazed version of his anthemic Rave (Dirt Mix)
34. Terekke – Untitled A1 [LIES]
LIES’ most singular producer amazed us yet again with this slice of dubby house, letting a new brightness and energy into his sound as a longing vocal and shimmering synthwork brushed up against his signature percussive work.
33. Kangding Ray – Amber Decay [Raster-Norton]
This is techno at its blackest, a jackhammer kick and skittering percussion threatened by blasts of static noise. Yet there’s more there: the buried choir-like melody gives the track a hint of the profane, while those brighter synth blips deep in the mix shine out bravely, weakly against the darkness. The devil’s in the details.
32. Eduardo De La Calle – Somewhere In Your Arms [Cadenza]
The percussion on this one is effective but simple enough, but it’s in De La Calle’s melody that genius shines: the way those synths flutter and distend, gently, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by melancholic pads and elastic stretches reaching to the sky. It’s subtle, it’s quiet, but little evokes heartache and longing like Somewhere In Your Arms.
31. Shackleton – Freezing Opening Thawing [Woe To The Septic Heart]
Shackleton continued to follow no one’s lead but his own with Freezing Opening Thawing, his synthwork colourful and polished yet oddly physical, borrowing from African rhythms with a restless inventiveness that impresses more with every melodic shift the track undergoes.
30. Art Crime – Release [W.T. Records]
Art Crime’s excellent self-titled debut certainly had its eye on the past with its euphoric piano house style, but there was a liquid quality to the keys and an unusual sense of pace to the drum patterns that made this one stand out from the pack.
29. Fatima – Biggest Joke Of All [Eglo]
It’s hard to pick just one tune from Fatima’s gorgeous Yellow Memories LP, but this Floating Points production stood out because of its simplicity. A simple boom bap rhythm and a jazzy organ melody allows Fatima’s warm, nuanced voice to stay centre-stage, exactly where it deserves to be.
28. Millie & Andrea – Stay Ugly [Modern Love]
Andy Stott and Miles Whittaker reached new heights on their debut collaborative album Drop The Vowels, and Stay Ugly was our favourite cut. Everything here is broken, from the serrated beats to the uneven, glassy synthwork that, despite its brightness sounds worn, trampled and lost.
27. Minor Science – Hapless [Trilogy Tapes]
One of the year’s best mind-benders came courtesy of music journalist Angus Finlayson, whose Hapless offers a sluggish kick-clap combo held in the thrall of a rippling, unpredictable synthline which warps the fabric of the track. When the melody burst into brightness around the three-minute mark we were hooked. You’d have to brave to play this in the club, but for us it hits all the right buttons.
26. Anthony Naples – More Problem [Trilogy Tapes]
Naples’ 2014 was not as prolific as last year, but if he keeps getting better than you’ll hear no complaints from us. More Problem takes the piano house banger and flips it on its head, with technoid percussion and dubbed-out keys that are more eyes-down propulsion than hands-in-the-air euphoria.