Albums of the Year 2010 - Techno/House/Dubstep/Minimal/UK Funky

on Monday, 27 December 2010
I like my house, it's simple but it's nice, I like House, it's probably the best thing there is on TV, with the exception of the first twenty or so episodes of Lost, but House music, well i've never been sure. All those half spoken samples, it never did anything for me. There was a time, many many years back when i hated "dance" music, and whereas it's impossible to define a sound as simply as dance, i basically mean club music, I hated it, my sister hated it, Mike Roberts hated it and quite possibly his brother John Roberts, which is strange because John Roberts, the artist is one of the ones that has helped me finally understand the genre, EL-P also who's beat heavy wereallgoingtoburninhellmixxx from earlier in the year helped me finally understand Dubstep, though still not Burial.

I'm not even going to try and put these in order or even explain how they sound, the soundclips should take care of that, but these are some of the most essential beats i've experienced this year. This encompasses Techno, Dubstep, Electronica, Beats and House...i think oh and something called UK Funky.

**for soundclips and generally best view, read direct from website rather than rss feed.

Various Artists - Soul Jazz Presents Riddim Box (Excursions in the UK Funky Underground) Buy
Soul Jazz, seems like a label to pay attention to, not only do the have the most awesome artwork but seem capable of putting together really quite incredible compilations, not content with already supplying us with the amazing Future Bass compilation featuring some of the most interesting Dubstep artist i've come across (Mala, Untold, Coki, Randomer) Here we're treated to 21 tracks from the UK Funky underground, a fine collection indeed.

Boomkat: Soul Jazz set their sights on the morphing parameters of UK Funky with a cherry-picked, 21-track double disc compilation. While they've touched on the topic with the Future Bass and Box Of Dub sets, this one is essentially a "Best Of" UKF, locking off stone cold heavyweights from Kode 9, Lil' Silva, Grievous Angel, Crazy Cousinz, DVA, Ill Blu, Roska, MJ Cole, and Altered Natives, among others. The style has emerged as a clearly defined sound in the East London underground over the last couple of years, tying up strands of Bashment House, Soca, Garage, Grime, and European party Techno into a colourful weave of rhythms and patterns sharing the 120-135bpm bracket. The relatively loose set of criteria for Funky tracks have set up the sound as a mongrel cousin to an oft-homogenised Dubstep scene, and provided new options for DJs and dancers tired of halfstep torpor and looking to up their groove quota. The instantly infectious arrangements of scene standards like Hardhouse Banton's 'Sirens' and the NB Funky's 'Riddim Box' (which supplied this comp with its title) laid the template for a sound constantly in flux between junglist propulsion and feminine pressure, which has since been exported to all corners of the floor with fusions like Kode 9's proggy 'Black Sun', the Tech-House ruffige of Radio Slave's 'Blaze 'N' Cook' remix and Roska or DVA's technoid tribalist riddims. This is probably one of the best places for Funky noobs to practice their dutty wine, and even for the "heads", there's some under-the-radar goodies you really ought to get familiar with. TIP!

Various Artists - Night Slugs Allstars Volume 1 (Night Slugs) Buy
This is non stop, absolutely essential, Lil Silva, Jam City and Girl Unit who's incredible "Wut" closes a killer set, one of my favourite tracks of the whole year.

Boomkat: In UK club music 2010 was the year of the Night Slugs. To celebrate this fact, they round up 13 prime cuts for their 1st CD release, including exclusives and VIP versions from their top boys and showcasing the most virile memes of Teched-out Funky, Jacked-up R&B and Electroid Bass music. On an upfront and exclusive tip, there's a ramped-up VIP mix of Mosca's awesome 'Square One', next to Jam City's all-new and stupidly effective 'Arpjam' plus the shocking force of an L-Vis 1990 & T. Williams hookup entitled 'Stand Up', all created especially for this comp. You may also notice a few newish names, introducing the likes of Ikonika's buddy Optimum on the fluttering, tranced-out Funky riffs of 'Broken Embrace' and the lazer-soul House of Montreal's Jacques Greene with '(Baby I Don't Know) What You Want'. Still fresh out the box, Girl Unit's outstanding 'Wut' anthem makes a bold appearance next to Kingdom's athletic Ballroom banger 'Bust Broke' and there's still no f**king with Lil Silva's 'Seasons', possibly the label's canniest A&R move. Factor in Bok Bok's remix of another megatonne bomb 'IRL', the sweetened synth licks of Velour's 'Booty Slammer' (now outed as the work of Hyetal and Julio Bashmore), and the warped electro-heat of Egyptrixx and Cubic Zirconia, and you know what the outcome is... ESSENTIAL.

Various Artists - Scientist Launches Dubstep into Outer Space! Buy
Even if your not interested in the remixes, the original tracks on disc one are a superb introduction to Dubstep. Another fantastic mix.

Boomkat: The long awaited and much debated Scientist mixes of exclusive dubstep material from the likes of Pinch, Kode 9, Mala and Shackleton finally lands for all Sound System crew. It's undoubtedly Tectonic's most ambitious project to date, some 12 months in the echo chamber spent duppying contemporary material until it heaves and breathes courtesy of masterful mixing board trickery. The man at the controls ranks among the finest Dub engineers ever to grace a desk, and although his prime period was nearly 30 years ago he's still got an innate sensitivity to the subtleties of fluctuating reverb/echo/delay combinations and the transient spaces they're capable of creating. With this in mind the original tracks are rendered as hallucinatory images of their former selves, spatial dimensions warped and surfaces refracted until they feel overgrown and listening to them is like peering into an alien forest, becoming both unpredictable and almost unstable. A project of this kind is pretty much unprecedented in Dubstep and deserves your attention forthwith.

Digital Mystikz - Urban Ethics (Digital Mystikz) Buy
Whereas the still excellent Return II Space from earlier this year was mainly Mala based material, here Coki takes control and all you have to do is wait a whole 57 seconds before you get what your waiting for, one of my favourite discoveries this year.

Boomkat: Coki's loooong-awaited counterweight to Mala's astral 'Return II Space' LP finally lands on super heavy 3LP gatefold vinyl!!! As the other half of Digital Mystikz, Coki can rightly claim status as one of the most influential figures in modern UK dance music, providing the necessary gutterisms to balance Mala's meditative, rooted ethos. It's probably fair to say that Coki's tracks have yielded a great influence on the dubstep scene with pivotal tracks like the proto-wobbler 'Spongebob', dreadnaught 'Tortured' and the crossover anthem 'Night', produced with Benga, tracks which created a fairly clear dichotomy within the style between wheeling, populist rave and "deep" heads-down steppers to anyone bothered enough to consider such things. He basically specialises in making the sort of marmite tracks which will send you nucking futty either way you look at it. 'Urban Ethics' is armed with seven cuts, three of which would fall squarely into the rave-wounding category. In the opening 'Shock It', the threatening darkcore killer 'Robotnik' and the self-explanatory 'Animal' you'll find what you were most likely looking for; fierce, rave-guaranteed burial tunes as potent as the the nastiest '94 Bizzy B tracks, but boiled down to a crack-like 2010 hit. The others, 'Old Hope', 'Intergalactic' and 'It' are all tidy digi-dub numbers, but lets face it, they're not gonna make you skank out like the rest, are they? Well recommended for all dubstep soundbwoys!

ASC - Nothing Is Certain Buy
Boomkat: After 10 years of impressive releases for Offshore, Good Looking and Covert Operations, ASC drops his new album on Instra:mental's excellent Nonplus Records. With 'Nothing Is Certain' he's created a defining moment for the Autonomic canon, focussed on glowing, far-eastern electro-referencing melodies and agile modern tech-step programming. 'Matter Of Time' sets his agenda with exceptional production values before swinging into the lush but fractured minimalism of 'Opus' and taking a moment for reflection on the beatless 'Conversations'. 'Microsia' and 'The Depths' are tricker half-timed beat experiments and there's even a stab at slow swung electro-house in 'Textura'. Back in 180bpm mode 'Losing You' and 'The Ubiquity Incident' shift back into steppers gear with impressively widescreen results. ASC is in sophisticated form and should be checked by any fans of DBridge, Instra:mental, Sabre etc. Recommended.

EL-P - Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 Buy
Despite an off putting first track or so this mix really picks up the pace quickly and peeks between tracks 7 &9 which are simply excellence after excellence, maybe topped only by the incredible closing track Eat my Garbage 2, 8 minutes plus of dubby drums and filthy synth stabs. A musical trip well worth investing your time in.
Boomkat: Continuing the tradition of 1998's 'Little Johnny From The Hospital' and the more recent 'Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx2', El-P serves 15 diverse instrumentals for Def Jux. He largely shuns samples for this LP, instead favouring a powerfully synth and drum driven excursion with fragments of electro wired with a heavy rock vibe.

Ernesto Ferreyra - El Paraiso De Las Tortugas Buy
Boomkat: Following a series of well received 12" singles, Cadenza present the debut LP from Ernesto Ferreyra. Having lived in places as diverse as Ibiza and Berlin, the influence of the house and techno scenes in these cities stretches across these tracks with reassuring subtlety. Delicate changes in melody and percussion snake around the kickdrums while a stream of warm pads flows over and under the mix to generate a powerful upbeat feeling throughout. A dubby low-end pulse drives the music with ease while the high end creates the sort of energy guaranteed to keep your feet moving all night. Even on the album's darker moments (on cuts like Back Pain) there is still a lightness of touch that keeps you engaged without neglecting the high levels of production on show. The album ends with a selection of powerful house cuts of the Panorama bar variety, completing one of the more interesting minimal records of the year. Mastered by Rashad at D&M in Berlin, 'El Paraiso De Las Tortugas ' is a guaranteed party starter, honed for maximum dancefloor effectiveness.

Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner Buy
Boomkat: The highly anticipated debut album from Gold Panda (discounting the Japan-only collection of singles!). Ever since his 'Miyamae' 12" dropped on Various Production's label last year, it was obvious Gold Panda was one to watch. Since then he's had a clutch of warmly received singles for Make Mine and Ghostly International besides a stream of remixes for everyone from Health to The Field, each painting a more detailed and involving portrait of a distinctly lovely artist with a penchant for sweetly exotic melodies and crafty electronic composition. His beautiful recent single 'You' aside, there are ten tracks of brand new material, ranging from the dusted sunrise techno figure of 'Vanilla Minus', through the trickling melodic cadence of 'Same Dream China', and the ecstatic throb of 'Snow & Taxis', maintaining a thread of tenderly blissed emotions which make 'Marriage' and the pastoral pulses of 'I'm With You But I'm Lonely' so unforgettably nice. fans of Lusine, The Field, CFCF, Four Tet or Caribou should book in some quality time with Gold Panda.

Teebs - Arduor (Brainfeeder) Buy
Boomkat: Teebs' debut drops sweet and heavy on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label, following the excellent Lorn album with a more lushed-out and hazy experience. As his recent single and A-side for All City's LA series proved, this man's got his own distinct style of MPC chops, generally less frantic than Flylo's and cleaner than Ras G's, defined by smooth, cushioned surfaces and the warm glow of his synthesizer textures. However he does share their attention span, giving eighteen finely sculpted vignettes from the most liminal, dreamy headspace, mostly hovering around the three minute mark. The previous single featured three of the album's best tracks, the sparkling centre-piece 'Arthur's Birds', the tingle and bump of 'Bern Rhythm', and the melancholy ''Why Like This?', but the goodness certainly doesn't stop there... 'While You Doooo' shakes out a sun-crisped Bossa Nova syncopation with shimmering harps and the sublime 'Wind Loop' could almost be a hazy adjunct to the Tri Angle sound of Balam Acab and co. His drowsy compressions on 'Felt Tip' provide one of the most blissed out and dreamy states, and the Carlos Niño comparisons come full circle in his gorgeous collab with Gaby Hernandez on 'Long Distance'. The combination of meditative calm and richness of the production elevate this album well above the crowd and mean it should make a lasting impression.

Harmonious Thelonious - Talking Buy
Noisy, tribal and at times reminding me of Vitalics ability to control his audience, brainwashing them with mind controlling beat after beat.

Boomkat: Harmonious Thelonious is an alter ego of the prolific Stefan Schwander aka Antonelli Electr, Rhythm Maker and Repeat Orchestra. Following two under-the-radar 12"s for Dreck and Diskant he's bloomed his Afro-infatuated Harmonious Thelonious project into a full blown album, brimming with dense and noisy electro textures and sumptuous rhythmic syncopation. It essentially imagines what Konono No.1 could sound like if they were a studio project from Düsseldorf, borrowing heavily from the lilting timbre of their likembe melodies and bolstering them with ruffly scrawled effects and augmented with a steadier, techno compatible propulsion. As the title infers 'Entranced' is an hypnotic display of slipping loops and bustling, frictional textures creating a undeniably kinetic charge akin to The Field jamming Kasai Allstars, while 'Tautological Speakers' bristles with distorted electronics and gorgeously glassy tones over shuffling machine beats from Jamal Moss's most battered Rolands. The four tracks from his Diskant 12" also make an appearance, including the awesome 'Primitive, Persuasive, Provocative Percussion' which almost sounds like Female going full tilt for a Congolese ceremonial ritual. Rugged, raw and heavy stuff, just how we like it.

Mount Kimbie - Crooks and Lovers Buy
Just lovely. James Blakes solo project was not the only thing worth talking about this year.

Boomkat: With two EPs and a handful of remixes, Mount Kimbie have opened a portal into the world of post-dubstep, electronic fusion soundscaping. 'Crooks & Lovers' is their much anticipated debut album, an assured statement comprised of crafty complexities and coherently juxtaposed angles making use of the freedom from any immediate dancefloor demands. With their releases landing on HotFlush and their inclusion in the catch-all net of dubstep, you'd be forgiven for thinking they're a purely dancefloor act but there's many more elements at play within Mount Kimbie that we've always felt would better lend them to the album format. The shards of acoustic guitars, crying-on-the-dancefloor vocals and jazz arrangements woven into their singles are given more time to develop here, from the vocal glossolalia of 'Adriatic', sounding like an XX experiment recorded on a 10th storey balcony, to the woozy underwater accordian and nautical atmospherics of 'Ode To Bear' or the Bohren And Der Club Of Gore-style dark jazz closer 'Between Time', indulging their esoteric inclinations with finesse. That's certainly not to say that they've forgetten the groove entirely. It's still a central feature of their sound, just largely slowed to a more sedate, hazy pace. The heavy compressed head-swing of 'Would Know' sounds like Actress stepping off with James Blake (who frequently works closely with the duo), and 'Blind Night Errand' programmes Bretschneider-esque digital minimalism spliced with an East London flex in line with Spatial productions. They're at their best when all the elements mesh together, with idiosyncratic chord arrangements, effervescent R'n'B vibes and clinical rhythm structures of 'Carbonated' or the morphing BC-to-Balearia of 'Field' and the twitchy soul of 'Mayor'. 'Crooks & Lovers' is a deeply enjoyable album with a broad appeal to lovers of pop savvy, technically aware and original electronic music. A Must.

Marcel Dettman - Dettman (OSTGUT Ton) Buy

Boomkat: Berlin's techno figurehead launches his highly anticipated debut album for Ostgut Ton. Ever since his deadly MDR001 release, Marcel Dettmann has become a name to keep a close eye on within techno/house circles and beyond. We remember hearing that early transmission during a deluge of classic dubstep tracks and tepid techno minimalism in 2006 and were simply astounded at how much his music stood out from the crowd. His sound concentrates the physicality and dark drive of Industrial/EBM techno or efficient Dubstep into sleek arrangements reminding of Rob Hood or the grey scapes and shapes of Sleeparchive, a typically dry and functional style that's cast a shadow of influence over large parts of the techno community. 'Dettmann' is his note from the edge of the current dancefloor, a dryly observed comment of drowning techno, strafing dub-tech and slowly oxidised atmospheric tones that's about as thrilling as an asphyxiwank in the darkrooms. His set unfurls at a well judged clip, from expansive beatless intro and the garage techno subduction of 'Argon' we're plunged into Vainio-esque bleepism on 'Screen' and steered through frozen jackers like 'Drawing', the Basic Channel-debted sub-throb of 'Reticle' and the folded flex of 'Irritant'. As the sweat begins to dry in the closing stages the relentlessly push of 'Silex' starts to smirk at your under-exercised cardiovascular system, while the sit-down and space-out moment of 'Home' signals that you should be heading off before 'Viscous' demands that you stick around for one more, kicking out salted bass vibes and monotone melodics to keep you pounding the same spot you've been on for the last 12 hours. If that sounds like your idea of fun, this is a must.

Honourable mentions to:

Four Tet - There Is Love in You Buy
Luke Abbott - Holkham Drones Buy
Shed - The Traveller Buy
Various Artists - Funf Buy
Various Artists - Soul Jazz presents Future Bass Buy

An amazing year, just too many great albums to mention.