From Warehouse To Web: Electronic/Dance Tracks Of 2012 & Mix

Rory Gibb takes you on a detailed trip through some of the year's defining tracks in electronic and dance music - from reductionist garage and construction-site ambient to junglist collage and quicklime grime - plus listen to a mix containing all 25 tracks

"This is a glorious muddle," said tQ’s Luke Turner in his introduction to the Quietus’ albums of 2012 list, referring to the current scattered state of popular music. Indeed it is, to the point that tracking any overarching narratives or strong trajectories in dance and electronic music this year felt exhausting and ultimately fruitless, and the explosion of EDM in the States seemed to signpost little but hedonism, arrogance, lazy performances and some truly sub-par music. (For an excellent round-up of developments in the EDM mainstream I’d direct you towards Philip Sherburne’s Control Voltage 2012 digest in Spin.)

However, at least where the underground’s been concerned it’s felt like one of the better years for the stuff I can remember, with more money pouring from my bank account than ever before on both albums and an endless stream of 12"s, and all manner of strange forms from around dance music’s fringes attracting attention far beyond what their makers are used to. While there have been few concrete trends, 2012 has instead been notable for a hugely varied diaspora of great quality music unhindered by genre or geography, leading my monthly Hyperspecific columns to cherry pick from an ever-increasing pool of worthy inclusions.

This end of year list and mix is designed to reflect that. Where the midterm list and mix (which you can still read about and listen to here) focused largely around house and techno-leaning material, this end of 2012 list picks 25 tracks from across the breadth of electronic and dance music – from screamingly abrasive electronic noise to aquatic techno, via reductionist UK garage and hauntological sample collage.

There’s plenty more of equal quality I’ve left out – this is intended to be representative rather than comprehensive, and I’ve deliberately omitted most of the tracks that were included in my midterm mix. Consider it as one of many routes around electronic music from 2012 and, perhaps, a signpost to guide you in new directions. 2013 awaits, and there’s vinyl to be bought and dancefloors to bother. Listen below, enjoy the year’s final weeks, and see you in January.

Hyperspecific’s Electronic Tracks Of 2012 by The Quietus on Mixcloud

Elgato – ‘Zone’

(Hessle Audio)

Elgato’s ‘Zone’ is perhaps the best representation of that attitude. The most shockingly minimalist thing they’ve released to date – there’s so little to it that it’s surprising it even holds itself together – its clever use of El-B alike slurred snares nonetheless lends it an itchy and restless funk. When I interviewed William Bennett (of Cut Hands and Whitehouse) last year he spoke of wishing to refine his methodology in the manner of a Japanese watercolour painter, where a master artist could convey all the emotion they wished to in three strokes of a brush. It’s hard not to draw for the same analogy here: ‘Zone’ captures all of UK garage’s sultry fluidity and techno’s momentum using nothing but a scattering of percussive elements, a single androgynous sigh and sub-bass so low it’s practically inaudible on small speakers.

Kassem Mosse – ‘Staat Aus Glas’

(Sounds of the Universe)

DJ Qu – ‘Out’

(Strength Music)

Kowton – ‘Des Bisous’

(Pale Fire)

Kahn & Neek – ‘Backchat’


Champion – ‘Speed’


Balistiq Beats feat. Jamakabi – ‘Concrete Jungle (Beneath Remix)’


Stripped of jungle’s higher tempo and mid-bar steppers’ kink, though, they’re used to induce prolonged sensations of stasis: these percussive patterns are like Moebius strips or Escher staircases, doubling back upon themselves and coiling around the beat, moving at high speed but always ending up back in the same place again. The overall effect is tantric, pulling away from the temptation of the drop in order to ratchet up tension to near-exhausting extents. (It was somewhat ironic that Pangaea’s double EP this year was titled Release, given that its roiling, serpentine beats rarely did so.)

Morphosis – ‘Exposure’


Vessel – ‘Lache’

(Tri Angle)

"Its defining sonic characteristics and DIY spirit have been expressed repeatedly throughout Bristol’s post-70s musical history," I said when it was released, "drawing Order Of Noise into a lineage that runs from The Pop Group’s Y through Portishead, the rolling drum & bass of Krust & Die and, more recently, exploratory dubstep LPs by Pinch and Peverelist. So dub and sound system methods lie at its heart – bass gloops and puddles like crude oil, raw samples are processed to the point that they become smudged and indistinct – but they’re utilised in a raw and punkish manner, as weapons with which to aggressively hack apart the genres Gainsborough uses as base material." See also: the music being made by Vessel’s fellow members of the Young Echo collective, with exciting things to come in 2013.

Madteo – ‘Bugged in Gaza’


Heatsick – ‘C’etait Un Rendez-Vous’


Violetshaped – ‘The Lord Won’t Forget (Roly Porter Remix)’

(Violet Poison)

Emptyset – ‘Collapse’


Powell – ‘Search’


"Powell’s materials are fleshy," I said at the time, "corroded copper, rotting wood and hunks of human body. They’re bolted together into ramshackle, Frankenstein’s monster post-punk tracks – the caustically funky bass guitar of the title track sounds as though it was picked up by a mic accidentally left running in the corridor outside a practice session, and the tapes lobbed into a filing cabinet and untouched for the following 30 years or so. These mummified recordings have the dust blown out of their bones by punishing sub-bass muck that could have been dredged straight from the nearest canal, studded with shopping trolleys, body-part-containing bin bags and all manner of seedy detritus.

Skudge – ‘Vessel’

(Skudge / Nonplus)

Blawan – ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’

(Hinge Finger)

There have been plenty more notable developments in UK techno this year that delivered it back into industrial claws – new material from Regis and his rebooted British Murder Boys (as BMB) with Surgeon; the Perc Trax, Horizontal Ground and Frozen Border labels; Blawan and Pariah’s even grubbier Karenn project; a ferocious Boiler Room session that gave Karenn, Surgeon and Regis free reign to wreck a club space only minutes down the same street from Throbbing Gristle’s 70s studio The Death Factory – but nothing else quite this savagely addictive. Join in the chant.

Diamond Version – ‘Forever New Frontiers’


Lee Gamble – Diversions 1994-1996 (excerpt)


"[It] deals with British rave history in a manner similar, both in method and concept, to V/Vm’s gargantuan The Death Of Rave or Mark Leckey’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore," I said, "by using old dance records to construct a hazy stew of half-obscured samples through which recognisable motifs occasionally leer into earshot. Gamble built each of its two side-long tracks entirely out of samples from jungle cassette mixes, making Diversions a sort of mixtape of a mixtape, as well as an oblique love letter to pirate radio. Although largely beatless, the resulting music burbles and splashes, stained various colours by E’d up whoops and dessicated hardcore riffs."

Kahn – ‘Dread’

(Deep Medi)

‘Dread’ however, hinged around a grumpy and aggressively chopped snippet from a reggae tune, is like jumping into a time machine, setting the clock back 7-odd years and landing slap bang in the middle of DMZ while Loefah and Mala are DJing back-to-back. It could perhaps be viewed as more a living fossil than a document of anything current, but it’s mining a rich enough seam that it never feels anything less than vital (see also: one of Mala’s career-best tracks, ‘Stand Against War’, finally getting a vinyl release last month, and ever-excellent material from Deep Medi signing VIVEK).

Bee Mask – ‘Pink Drinq’

(Spectrum Spools)

Fatima Al Qadiri – ‘Oil Well’

(Fade To Mind)

King Felix – ‘Armstrong Limit’


Jam City – ‘How We Relate To The Body (12" Mix)’

(Night Slugs)

‘Sensate Focus 2.5 X’

(Sensate Focus)

Young Smoke – ‘Space Zone’

(Planet Mu)

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