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Hyperspecific Midterm Mix: Dance 12"s Of The Year So Far
Rory Gibb , July 26th, 2012 07:17

Following on from our albums and reissues list, Rory Gibb offers a reductive and subjective list and mix of 25 of the best dance tracks of the year so far

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Since the middle of the year seems to offer an ideal taking stock opportunity, this edition of Hyperspecific is a round-up of some of the best dance tracks of the year so far. So below is a list of 25, all rounded off with a mix where you can listen to all of them.

Rather than being taken as comprehensive and objective, it's best to point out that this is more a subjective and reductive guide through the kind of material I've been covering in the column this year. That's the main reason why there's nothing in the way of dubstep or grime here - much as there have been some great releases from the likes of DEEP MEDi and Butterz - and why there's a proportionally higher content of four-to-the-floor house/techno material (though that's also due to an increasing number of UK producers producing fairly straightforward house and techno).

It's also intended more as a list of club-friendly music rather than some of the more esoteric material I cover in the column, though PAN (which has been on great form this year) gets a look in, in the form of Heatsick, and Roly Porter's crushing remix of Emptyset worms its nasty way in too (blame the Skrillex reference in the review).

Finally, in the interests of freeing up space, I've left out music from most of the full-lengths that appeared in our mid-term album list - hence a lack of Actress, Jam City, Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, Donato Dozzy & Neel, Traxman, Laurel Halo, Shackleton, Forward Strategy Group, Burial, Ital et cetera. A cheeky entry from Kassem Mosse & Mix Mup's MM/KM opens the mix, though, as it's your correspondent's favourite track of 2012 so far.

You can find all the editions of this year's column here, and if you'd like to skip back six months and take a listen to Hyperspecific's tracks of 2011 mix, you can do so here.

2562 - 'Jerash Hekwerken'
(Taken from Air Jordan, When In Doubt)

Already one of the most adventurous producers currently inhabiting the realms orbiting techno and house, Dave Huismans' Air Jordan stepped into more theme-driven material, with a 12" based around a series of field recordings he took during a trip to Jordan in 2010. At the time I described it as containing "a rather marvelous four tracks that cloak his usual broken house rhythms in an extra thick layer of sand and dust. 'Desert Lament' and 'Jerash Hekwerken' form the EP's more club-oriented backbone, but they're padded and stripped of most of their clarity by a hubbub of city dwellers, milling around between the beats. Even their drum hits feel softened and glassy-eyed, as if bamboozled by the sudden onset of heatstroke."

Joey Anderson - '3200 BC House Dancer'
(Until My Heart Stops)

In an interview with the Quietus earlier this year Levon Vincent waxed lyrical about the music of fellow New Yorker Joey Anderson, whom he described as having a certain "mysticism" peculiar to house music from the city. Anderson's finest track so far, '3200 BC House Dancer' packs an immediate punch but gradually reveals its full depth as it rolls onward, when "a fiendishly catchy three note bassline and chattery woodblocks lead into threadbare melodies so lovely and feather-light it's a wonder they aren't scattered to the wind."

Andres - 'New For U'
(La Vida)

Gorgeous, elegiac and driving dance music, from a 12" that's only continued to reveal further intricacies since its release. On the surface of things all three tracks on the New For U 12" seem rather low-key and downtempo; play them on a dancefloor and their underlying motion becomes compulsive.

Bass Clef - 'Hackney - Chicago - Jupiter'
(Taken from Reeling Skullways, Punch Drunk)

Hackney's resident analogue journeyman Ralph Cumbers set out his manifesto for new LP Reeling Skullways with this track's title - tripping outward from the basements and warehouses of his home locale, he makes a swift stop at the birthplace of house music for a few tabs of acid, before blasting off into deep space, drum machine tucked under one arm.

DJ Sprinkles & Mark Fell - 'The Complete Spiral'
(Taken from the Complete Spiral EP, Comatonse)

Mark Fell of snd is having an interesting and prolific year, and to be honest it's difficult to single out any one aspect as worthy of attention over any other (you can read more on the breadth of his activities here). His Sensate Focus project, for example, has gathered together a series of remarkable takes on club music whose slickly polished surfaces belie the unusual and ever-evolving morphologies of the rhythms that underpin them. But it was his collaborative EP with DJ Sprinkles, aka theorist/producer/writer Terre Thaemlitz, that really scattered his crystalline chord constructions to the whims of the dancefloor. Paired with a classically Sprinkles-ish chugging beat, its twelve-minute title track was an exquisite, strung-out and quietly melancholy trip to the disco.

Dream Continuum - 'Set It'
(Taken from the Reworkz EP, Planet Mu)

This transatlantic alliance of Om Unit and Machinedrum highlighted the rhythmic and methodological similarities between jungle and footwork on their Reworkz EP. Its highlight was 'Set It', based around the immediately recognisable chants of Conquering Lion's 1993 classic 'Dub Plate Special (Ruff Cut)'. At the time I said "clinically crisp drum machine hits coil around dissected whorls of Amen break like DNA strands, all orbiting a three note motif straight out of the hardcore textbook. Pitched-up voices familiar from rave and jungle are chucked into the footwork washing machine and ricocheted through the mix: two minutes in, the easy toasting of a ragga MC suddenly skids to a timelocked halt, sending the track's loping momentum into temporal disarray. Fifty seconds later it just as abruptly breaks free of its body bind and explodes outward at full force."

Elgato - 'Luv Zombie'
(Hessle Audio)
West Norwood Cassette Library - 'Coming On Strong (Pangaea Remix)'
(WNCL)

Another year, another list offering the opportunity to wax lyrical about Hessle Audio. The label continued to blaze a DJ trail for all to follow in the first half of 2012, with their semi-regular nights at Fabric kicking seven shades out of competitors, and many fellow DJs' sets and radio shows nicking inspiration (and tunes) from Ben UFO and Pearson Sound's endless crate digging for their Rinse FM show (something this writer is certainly guilty of). More interesting was the development of their own productions. Pearson Sound's 'Untitled' felt connected to some of his older productions but it's a marvelous creature regardless (and his newer material promises exciting things to come). Pangaea, too, continued to delight and confound: his rolling remix of West Norwood Casette Library's 'Coming On Strong', a sweet and sad creature that summons up the ghosts of old skool rave to soundtrack a footwork party, is so angular it's hard to figure out quite how you're supposed to dance to it.

Having reached a peak of popularity without having compromised their commitment to thoughtful and challenging music, it's been equally heartening to witness their support of up-and-coming producers. Both Objekt and Bandshell made twisting, uncompromising label debuts, but it was Elgato's 'Zone' and 'Luv Zombie' that topped Hessle Audio's 2012 catalogue so far. Both cut great yawning voids into the skeleton of El-B's dark garage, threatening to vacuum the other tracks around them into a swift, high-pressure oblivion. The label continue to suggest bold and smart routes to navigate through the cluttered surrounds of UK post-dubstep music; we can but hope that others follow their lead.

Emptyset - Function (Roly Porter's 'A Vulgar Display Of Power' Remix)
(Subtext)

An incendiary bomb of a track from the ex-Vex'd man, who returns to the shredding firestorms he summoned for that early dubstep project. "Somewhere, right now," I said in a review, "Skrillex is glumly praying that one day he manages to be this crushingly, symphonically heavy."

Head High - 'Rave (Dirt Mix)'
(Power House)

To quote Hard Wax, the original pressing of this "obscure techno bomb" detonated with enough force to send buyers (and Discogs) into a temporary frenzy, until the man behind it - Rene Pawlowitz, aka Shed - issued it properly on his Power House label. All three releases on Power House have been great so far, and it would have been as easy to pick WK7's 'Do It Yourself', which appears on the flipside here. But 'Rave' shows off with flair all the iconic elements of Pawlowitz's warehouse tracks: kickdrums that hit with the dull thwack of an underwater mine going off; a teasingly long intro that drags out to the point of near-monotony; and a final pay-off, in this case a deliciously simple melody that drizzles through the track like syrup. On his 2008 debut album Shedding The Past, Pawlowitz talked of capturing "the intensity and purity of club and rave in the early days". With each successive 12" he's adding to an oeuvre that tackles that lofty premise from a variety of angles.

Heatsick - 'The Stars Down To Earth / No Fixed Address'
(Taken from the Deviation EP, PAN)

"It might be a summer night in Heatsick's world," I said around the time Berlin-based Steven Warwick's Deviation EP was released, "but the humidity and pollution is still thick enough to press in upon the senses." The EP's sixteen minute B-side's syncopated percussion draws from urban beats from across the globe, rushing at the ear like sonic shrapnel blasted from the stereo of a passing taxi. The whole thing is as surreal and intoxicating an experience as a night on the tiles in a tropical city.

Helix - 'Stacks Riddim'
(All Caps)

All hail the DJ tool! When a track's been around for a while - especially one as straightforward as 'Stacks Riddim' - it can feel a bit of anticlimax when it actually gets released. (Call it the 'Swims' Effect, after the ever-delayed Joy Orbison & Boddika track that finally saw release through Swamp81 earlier this year). Helix's track managed to avoid that pitfall, thanks largely to its simplicity: as its name suggests, it's essentially just a series of drums, brief chord swoops and vinyl scratches, all assembled into a constantly reshuffling, itchy groove. It doesn't really do anything per se, but it's a great deal of fun to mix, and can shift the mood of a dancefloor in a matter of milliseconds.

Kowton - 'Dub Bisous'
(Pale Fire)
Peverelist - 'Salt Water'
(Livity Sound)

The Livity Sound trio of Kowton, Peverelist and Asusu are marked out as distinctive, even among their peers that also emerged from the dubstep scene, by their continued close relationship with dub. Where many have headed for fairly straight-up deep house and techno, the Livity trio knead influences from those genres into gooey low end, all the while drenching tracks in reverb and delay to evoke vast, as-yet-unexplored spaces. Kowton's 'Dub Bisous' is the most direct expression of that relationship with the echo chamber, splaying the original's grimey fusion of Loefah and Levon Vincent outward into a thundery and volatile brew.

Peverelist, meanwhile, continues to be a unique prospect. His newest tracks make the latent connections with techno audible in his earlier work yet more explicit, though it's closer to a vision of the genre disassembled right down to the nuts and bolts, before being rebuilt in a slightly misshapen form. At the time I said: "'Salt Water's rhythms are organic in the extreme, and combined with the sustained synth that sweeps giddily through the track at around the halfway mark, the result is a veritable symphony of granular emotion."

Logos - 'Atlanta 96'
(From the Kowloon EP, Keysound)

A modern devotee of the angular urban environments mapped by Wiley's early eskibeat instrumentals, Logos' view of grime blots the genre's crisp synth stabs until they become indistinct clouds of silvery fog. At the time I said: "'Atlantis 96's stacked layers stitch together a frosty and freakily fragile patchwork quilt of synth texture. Between these defined melodies, chimes and percussive boinks are ghost presences, confined forever to the edges of perception. They leave a sad and metallic taste in the mouth, in the best possible way."

Lucy - 'Milgram Experiment'
(Taken from The Banality Of Evil, Stroboscopic Artefacts)

Stroboscopic Artefacts is turning into an increasingly singular proposition, a label whose releases are as thoughtful, carefully aesthetically planned and concept driven as their fellow Berliners Raster Noton (with whom they share acts). Taking its title from the famous psychological test run by Stanley Milgram - which examined obedience to authority by asking participants to administer electric shocks of increasing voltage to a test subject - label head Lucy's 'Milgram Experiment' sounds just as rattled as those reported to have taken part. In fact, that's probably the voice of a participant tossed around in the fray: "I began to feel like I was losing my identity..."

Magic Mountain High - 'Track 03'
(Taken from The Schnitzel Box Vol. 1, Workshop)

A brilliant, and on the surface of things rather unlikely, collaboration between Move D and Dutch resident psychedelic house duo JuJu & Jordash, Magic Mountain High have made waves this year with a series of reportedly stunning, all analogue improvised performances (recordings of many of which you can listen to here). Their debut 12" came out through Leipzig's Workshop label, and featured three variations on a theme - great rubbery wallops of bass, jacking drum machine percussion and a generally, ahem, mood-altered 4am sensibility.

Mix Mup & Kassem Mosse - 'MM/KM End To Funk'
(Taken from MM/KM, Trilogy Tapes)

These two Leipzig residents' collaborative mini-album for Trilogy Tapes was remarkable, at once playful and oppressive. At the time I said of EP highlight 'MM/KM End To Funk', "across its eight minutes two separate strands of percussion flirt with one another, shifting in and out of phase, as if Wendel and Mix Mup were each wielding their own drum machine against one another in some archaic battle to the death. Out of the melee slowly unfurl long rips of hot, pitchshifted synth, their ear-shredding harmonies repeatedly lurching ever-higher into the red, producing unexpectedly beautiful, very brief moments high above the turbulence beneath."

October & Borai - 'Palmarosa'
(Apple Pips)

I've spent many column inches rambling about Bristolian house music over Hyperspecific's tenure thus far; 'Palmarosa' is one of the best the city's churned out thus far, a deep and trippy track that reaches out towards the magickal NY house of DJ Qu, Levon Vincent and DJ Jus-Ed. At the time of its release I said: "Halfway through it draws backward and wraps in upon itself, the prelude to the inevitable rush outward, which grips somewhere near the small of the back before violently dragging you forward into the swirling heart of the maelstrom."

Spam Chop - 'Frames'
(Taken from the Cuckup EP, Mimm)

Considering how long Spam Chop's been beavering away in the background of the Nottingham scene, running the Wigflex label and putting out local tracks from the likes of Geiom and rude-as-fuck techno beast Hizatron, it was a slight surprise to note that this year's Cuckup EP was his solo debut. Perhaps just as surprising was how accomplished it was. Taking a typically UK-ish 'it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing' approach, the devil's in the details here. The rumbling brain-massage of 'Frames' rattles through more ideas in the course of its five minutes than most producers manage in the first five years of their career, and so seamlessly that it's gone almost before you've registered the pressure.

Strategy - 'Bolly Valve 2000'
(Taken from the Boxy Music EP, 100% Silk)

It's as hard to keep a handle on 100% Silk as it always was on its parent label Not Not Fun; the only reasonable method I've found for navigating its prolific output is to latch onto a handful of records at a time and really explore their subtleties. The best Silk records reward the close attention - for example the Boxy Music EP, one of the best the label's put out to date, from relative veteran of droney electronics and roughed-up dance tracks Paul Dickow. Its highlight is the woozy 'Bolly Valve 2000', a lush and skin-tickling house dancer that can't quite keep its wandering hands away from dub, Italo disco and techno.

The Sun God - 'Molokan (Rhythm Edit)'
(Taken from Being Hieroglyphic, Bio Rhythm)

Jamal 'Hieroglyphic Being' Moss under cover of another pseudonym here, in a year when attention turned fully onto the actions of both himself and his label Mathematics. He's a one-off as musicians go, with an immediately distinctive grit and texture to his tracks (reportedly due to running them through layers of tape and VHS before the final mixdown), but on The Sun God's Being Hieroglyphic EP that was put to the service of some unusually club-ready, glimmering techno soul. Also worthy of a listen is his fantastic remix of Madteo & Sensational's 'Freak Inspector', released through Morphine.

Svengalisghost - 'Mars Out Of Range'
(Taken from the Mind Control 12", L.I.E.S)

There's enough gritty analogue house being released on wax at the moment to make even the most tireless listener/purchaser feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of it all. At the top of the pile, though, has been Ron Morelli's label Long Island Electrical Systems, whose name - conjuring, as it does, images of sparks whirling around battered old overhead cables - neatly matches its prolific musical output. The best was Svengalisghost's debut, and especially 'Mars Out Of Range', a chugging, sci-fi soundtrack-referencing jack track, all bodyblow percussion and vapour trail melodies. (Honourable mentions in the same category go to King Britt's Fhloston Paradigm EP on Hyperdub, and Legowelt's North Sea Spectrums 12", one of the best things Danny Wolfers has released for a while).

Szare - 'Red Desert'
(Taken from Rochdale Principle, Krill Music)

As I examined in depth earlier this year, Szare's music blurs into similarly broken, dub-informed rhythmic space as Livity Sound and recent releases from Hessle Audio, opening up an axis of communication between Manchester, Bristol and London. "On the surface of things, the music on Rochdale Principle hasn't changed a great deal since Szare's earlier anonymous techno 12"s on the Horizontal Ground label: techno still beats at its heart, and its sound palette is still one of grinding gears and soot-caked machinery. But it's become impressively intuitive, fluid and searching in tone, lending a tangible warmth and humanity to textures that could otherwise be rather alienating."

Vatican Shadow - 'One Day He Heard The Call'
(Taken from September Cell, Bed Of Nails)

"The fibrous minor key chords and military radio techno of the September Cell EP are a tad reminiscent of [Dominick Fernow's other project] Prurient's Bermuda Drain, but with Fernow's fury carefully harnessed, focused, and sprawled outward into bleak postwar wasteland. It's all the more effective for the restraint." Read the review here.

Hyperspecific Midterm Mix Tracklist:

Mix Mup & Kassem Mosse - 'MM KM End To Funk'
Emptyset - 'Function (Roly Porter Remix)'
Lucy - 'Milgram Experiment'
Vatican Shadow - 'One Day He Heard The Call'
Bass Clef - 'Hackney-Chicago-Jupiter'
Svengalisghost - 'Mars Out Of Range'
DJ Sprinkles & Mark Fell - 'Complete Spiral'
The Sun God - 'Molokan (Rhythm Edit)'
Magic Mountain High - 'Track 03'
October & Borai - 'Palmarosa'
Strategy - 'Bolly Valve 2000'
Joey Anderson - '3200 BC House Dancer'
Head High - 'Rave (Dirt Mix)'
Spam Chop - 'Frames'
Peverelist - 'Salt Water'
West Norwood Cassette Library - 'Coming On Strong (Pangaea Remix)'
Helix - 'Stacks Riddim'
Logos - 'Atlanta 96'
Kowton - 'Dub Bisous'
Elgato - 'Luv Zombie'
2562 - 'Jerash Hekwerken'
Szare - 'Red Desert'
Andres - 'New For U'
Heatsick - 'Stars Down To Earth'
Dream Continuum - 'Set It'

aaron.
Jul 27, 2012 3:39am

Great list here Rory, totally agree on the Mosse/MixMup collab too. As good a top track of 2012 as any.

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Andy
Oct 8, 2012 1:44am

Great selection (may just think this because it confirms similarities of taste). Another reason to keep up with Quietus.

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Oct 8, 2012 1:46am

In reply to Andy:

MM/KM also knocked me out on first hearing.

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Jul 2, 2013 1:14pm

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Reply to this Admin