We’ve harvested the finest from this year’s bumper crop of club tracks and blissed-out drifters. Twenty of the best, no filler.
We haven’t included tracks from any of the EPs or Albums that topped our other lists, so make sure to check out those too.
Click the track title to read our full review of the EP / Album.
- Shanti Celeste – Being
One of Bristol’s fastest-rising talents pulls out her best release to date for Max D’s white-hot Future Times label. Being is unabashedly elegant, from its crystalline keys to its skipping rhythm, but it’s the sacred menace of that organ motif and the coiled bassline bounce which make this one a winner.
- Fabio Monesi – Palladium
The latest addition to LIES’ Russian Torrent Versions stable was one of their best yet. Here Monesi provides a raw club killer with a sepia-tinted vocal clip seemingly plucked from another era. The contrast is strange but works superbly, hitting a peak when the bassline unfurls dangerously over the breakdown.
- Traumer – Classroom
Minimal is coming back, mark our words. But it’s coming back different. This new breed of minimal brings fresh influences into the equation, with Traumer’s Classroom choosing subtle polyrhythms and busy hand percussion over straight drum machines. This track’s success is some kind of alchemy, adorned only by mysterious flute samples and threatening, childlike chants in an unknown tongue.
- Four Legs – Aguirre
The unusual combination of leftfield house don Samo DJ and Scandinavian techno boss Skudge made for a terrific pairing on their EP as Four Legs for Trilogy Tapes. The taut Aguirre is the best of all, precise as a laser but full of bounce and energy, particularly when the Nintendo ghost house strings arrive.
- Will DiMaggio – Fusion (Broadcast Mix)
This psychedelic debut from newcomer DiMaggio on Future Times was an unexpected delight. The components are familiar – vocal loops and sleazy synth riffs, but the uneven construction and dubby effects keep the listener guessing. It’s funky and packed with groove, but liberated in a way that dance music so rarely is.
- Raw MT – Richard’s Revenge
Italian producer Raw MT has quietly been putting out some of the best 4/4 records of the last few years, and this year’s move to Lobster Theremin was no exception. The gritty title track was an obvious highlight, its drums pushed far into the red, liberally adorned with caustic splashes of acid and a grand, mournful synth sweep.
- 33.10.3402 – 13
Just when we had stopped paying attention to L.I.E.S.’ steady drip of lofi jams, they release the best flurry of records in years. This 13-minute tool is little more than a metallic drumtrack and an ambient wash, but it’s utterly bewitching and muscular enough to move even the most heavy-footed dancers.
- Art Crime – Dead Carnation
Russian wonderkid Art Crime came very correct on his new EP for Pinkman, combining menace and fragility as only he can on opener Dead Carnation. The tense bassline is relentless, but the ghostly piano keys and coiled synth motif make for the moodiest breed of club bomb.
- Tessela – With Patsy
The genius behind Hackney Parrot came up with his most reserved output yet on a pair of EPs for his own Poly Kicks label at the beginning of the year. By paring back he struck new ground, going hard on the tightly-wound polyrhythms of With Patsy. A few stark flourishes add to the tension, from the deoxygenated vocal loop to machine-gun claps and what can only be described as a trumpeting elephant.
- DJ Slyngshot – Ain’t Got No Time
One of the year’s best house cuts to date is made like hip hop. The samples are pure golden age, while the cut-and-paste aesthetic makes for a satisfyingly rough ride. The simple melody never changes but it doesn’t need to – it’s an art to find a perfect loop and just let it play.
- O’Flynn – Oberyn
The third release on the promising Blip Discs floored us with Oberyn, a perfectly-tuned percussive onslaught. The track manages to be at once fun and furious, proving that if you’ve got great drums, you don’t need anything else.
- Sleep D – Bush Snake
This throwback to pacey 90s techno boasts a relentless drumtrack crammed with detail, but it’s lent a mystical bent through serpentine synthwork. The thick strings daubed over the second half gesture to the stars while your feet make furious moves on the ‘floor.
- Tzusing – Face of Electric
The rising Chinese producer brought fresh life to L.I.E.S. with this brutal dancefloor weapon. The mood is techno but the barbed breakbeats tell a darker story, all capped off by a melody that sounds like a psychiatric ward screaming into a vocoder. Or a hive of mechanical bees.
- FIO – Harmony
When sweeping strings are done right in deep house tracks, there’s nothing better (just ask Andrés or Mr. Bradock). Australian house wizard Francis Inferno Orchestra came up with a take that can stand shoulder to shoulder with those greats, packing a brisk shuffle and the kind of crystal-clear chime that brings out all your feelings at once. This one technically came out at the very end of last year, but we just couldn’t skip it.
- Avalon Emerson – The Frontier
Whites started out with an impressively inclusive approach to techno and they’ve only got better with time. The Frontier sees Emerson stepping up a gear for a rough, mystical tribute to the Arizona desert, all tunnelling diesel rhythms and haunting melodies that drift up beyond the mesas.
- Nebraska – Look What You’ve Done To Me
Nebraska continues to be one of the best conjurers of soulful house jams, particularly with his latest 12″ on Mister Saturday Night. This downtempo trip starts full of feeling, from its reluctant claps to the throaty bassline, but then a set of synths descend over the arrangement like a funky seizure. After that, all bets are off.
- Traumprinz – 2 Bad (Metatron’s What If Madness Is Our Only Relief Mix)
Giegling’s resident maestro came back for a predictably brilliant EP, with the best cut playing two of his aliases against each other. Quite how Traumprinz manages to evoke so much raw feeling in his tracks without ever stepping over the line is a great mystery, but 2 Bad is only further proof of his talents. Its tight snap and slow, mournful synths are accompanied by an ambiguous vocal, and the ten minute runtime allows you to stretch out in its melancholy grandeur.
- Ross From Friends – Talk To Me You’ll Understand
One of our long-loved unreleased Youtube jams finally found a home on Lobster Theremin sub-label Distant Hawaii, and not a moment too soon. This one strikes an impossible balance, its tricky rhythm working for the feet while the jaded synths, aching vocal and searing prog guitar are for the heart alone.
- Tolouse Low Trax – Rushing Into Water
Our favourite rhythm of the year came from Salon Des Amateurs resident Detlef Weinrich, who nailed a humid tribal sound in this fresh EP. The downtempo drumtrack is rich in timbre, taking in metallic clanks, rubbery toms and skittering hand percussion. Weinrich dabs some quasi-mystical vocals over the top to send us into full-on trance.
1. Samo DJ & Tsuzing – Hollabackboi
Munich’s Public Possession crew are one of our favourites for leftfield house excursions, but they don’t release that many club bangers. Samo DJ and Tsuzing turned it out with typical humour on their latest effort, recreating the drums of Gwen Stefani’s pop pleasure alongside technicolour vintage synths. It’s under three minutes long, but nothing else this year has been half as much fun on the dancefloor.
2016 Halftime Roundups: