Trying to figure out what the labyrinthine UK dance scene was all about this year was like trying to figure out what the man with no face might have looked like. Basically, an interesting diversion, but a rather pointless one nonetheless. More so than ever dubstep sounded like a hyperactive mutant techno hybrid, the Autonomic team truly put the ghost into the drum and bass machine, and UK garage continued to seep from under it’s funeral pyre of broken Moet bottles and proceeded in taking it’s feminine revenge in the form of UK funky, which subsequently in 2009 developed into a darker beast seemingly no longer as keen to please as it once had been, while others chose to push the sound of 1998 into increasingly abstract territory and rewrote it’s clipped rhythms into hieroglyphics for the machines. Whatever any of it was, one thing is certain; 2009 will go down in history as a vintage year for British forms of club music.
2562 – Love In Outer Space – Close your eyes and stars will pulsate past you.
Amen-Ra – Mountain Top Guru – Intense wire spirituality that emanates from an ever reassembling Transformer temple shrouded in pixelated mists at the end of the world.
Blue Daisy – Space Ex – Kele Le Roc didn’t disappear into chart oblivion. Her particles were merely absorbed into the fabric of Space & Time.
Cooly G – Him Da Biz – Taut and wonderfully joyless, when she sighs and moans, her machines sigh and moan with her.
Darkstar – Aidy’s Girl is a Computer – For the greater good they let the wires crawl up inside their bodies and coil around their hearts.
Deadboy – You Cheated – Dancefloor despair and glitch tropicalia.
Dorian Concept – Trilingual Dance Sexperience – Hyper hydraulic muscle funk known to induce circuitry seizures in dance robots.
Dusk & Blackdown VS Grievous Angel – Margins Music: Redux – Possibly the most mesmerizing and beautifully intricate remix project these ears have ever come across. Serious. Plays like a psychogeographical tour of London’s pirate station haunted back alleys and provides a truly immersive experience.
Four Tet – Love Cry – The moment Kieran Hebden found the funk(y). An awe-inspiring collision of Kraut rhythmic tension and deep, digi diva stylings.
Joe Goddard – Apple Bobbing (Four Tet Remix) – Four Tet again, providing yet another reason to assume his upcoming record might be quite special. Here he dampens the originals bassline inclinations with a morning dew lightness of touch, the dreaminess of it all enhanced by the trippy sampling of r&b singer Cassie’s unspeakably beautiful, trapped in ice vocals.
Gold Panda – Mayuri – From a land where Xtal is a devotional possessed of profound powers.
Guido – Beautiful Complication – The mind boggles why Rihanna didn’t make the call. Future R&B that really deserves to be the future. Check his recent remix for Pinch if more proof is needed.
Ikonika – Smuck – Hardcore hyperactive Sega psychedelia with more than a hint of violence to it’s off kilter rhythms.
Ill Blu – Frontline (featuring Princess Nyah) – They call this UK Funky, so why does it make me feel so sad?
Instra:Mental – Watching You – The sound of Proteus’s wires becoming organic, his once malevolent metal heart softened and pumped with blood.
Joker – Purple City – Syrupy G-Funk oozing out of every one of grime’s orifices.
Kode9 – Black Sun – A dark hearted tribal workout, plastic tropic bongos replaced by woozy analogue melodies, the enveloping of Ayia Napa in noxious fumes. One of the more appropriate song titles of the year.
Meleka – Go (Crazy Cousinz Remix) – Crazy Cousinz bring the light riding up front in Helio’s chariot, Meleka tearstained, yet defiant in Selene’s, no one ever quite sure of who’s pursuing who.
Mount Kimbie – Maybes – If The xx had been chosen to soundtrack the lonely glowing ENCOM landscapes of Tron, and not those French cyborgs.
Rufige Cru – The Early Plates – Crying for a time when the future really sounded like the future, and not the beginning of the end.
Sines – Twitta Dat – ADD fueled fidget-funky, a skittish workout of atari sponsored percussion and toy laser beams.
Subeena – Boksd – Imagine a blissful existence trapped inside one of those techno rave videos from the 90s, full of floating polymorphous shapes, silver dolphins swimming through waves of NES sea, and violet mushroom clouds giving birth to blocks of rain.
Terror Danjah – Gremlinz – Robo-horror atmospherics, uber aggressive whiplash beats, and lionhearted basslines. Essential in every way.
These New Puritans – We Want War (SBTRKT Remix) – Sacrificial prog replete with Swizz Beatz fanfare, choral chants and Wiccan drums turned into a montrously big tech
-2-step killer that manages to retain all the original’s confusing menace.
Untold – Stop What You’re Doing (James Blake Remix) – Dub techno gone berserker. So intense it makes you want to bang your head into the nearest possible thing, over and over. Just as amazing was Untold’s “Anaconda”, a masterclass in digital hysteria.
V.A. – 5 Years of Hyperdub – Best compilation of the year. The. End.
Subeena’s music takes you back to that living room where androids chilled on barker loungers, a spliff in one hand, listening to Pink Floyd records, re-contextualizing the epic sounds they heard through the logic of their circuitry and reproducing them as beautiful blocks of cold, hard alien gabba. This amyll dreamhouse remix of Pepepe is alive with twinkling star atmospherics and field recordings of mechanical insect activity and is a fine example of the woman’s work, which along with “Boksd” (see above) provides just one more reason to pay attention in the future.
One label that stabbed their sword into the heart of mediocrity deeper than any other this year was Hyperdub, who consistently released some of the year’s most diverse, mind blowing music, much of it listed above. Cooly G, Ikonika, Joker, Zomby, and of course the Hyperdub ringleader Kode9, made up an all star team, but Darkstar and their post garage phantom pop are probably the members we’re most excited about as we enter into a new decade, which is why we’re more than a little happy the wire whisperers took the time out from communing with their computers to make XXJFG an exclusive mix, which expertly blends Timbaland exoskeleton rhythms, trippy echo-soul and micro bass beats to perfection. Merry Christmas.
1. Charles Dodge – ‘When I am With You’
2. Snap – ‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ (Mux Mool Edit)
3. Actress – ‘Purple Splash’
4. Jay Dilla – ‘Its Funk Kay…. Its OK’
5. Charles Dodge – ‘He Destroyed Her Image’
6. Theophilus London – ‘Cold Pillow’
7. Instra:Mental – ‘Watching You’
8. Unknown – ‘Unknown’
9. Zackey Force Funk – ‘Zackey’s Style’
10. Stardust – ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ (Mux Mool Edit)
11. <<<+>>> – ‘Know You’
12. Charles Dodge – ‘The Days Are Ahead’
13. Darkstar – ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’
14. Lee Fields and The Expressions – ‘My World Is Empty Without You’
15. Unknown – ‘Unknown’
Finally we couldn’t end the year without shedding some light on the shadowy figures who make up the LHF collective who quite frankly are going to slay things in 2010. Amen-Ra, Double Helix, Solar Man, No Fixed Abode, Octaviour, Escobar Seasons, and Low Density Matter are the names to burn into your brain right now, because what the men behind them are doing at the moment is pure rhythmic beauty. We still haven’t managed to get our heads around their 2-step mysticism, but in the trusted words of Blackdown who will be releasing an EP of LHF’s material on Keysound Recordings, the label he shares with Dusk…they’ve got this sound like Sun Ra’s hijacked Rinse FM and is using it to communicate with the heavens. Buried inside one corner of the LHF collective is a junglist fighting his way out: these guys have got drumz. Then there’s another part of them that is lost in LA, their wonky beats falling off of the grid. Other members of the collective remind me of Horsepower’s ability to transport you to lands far, far away: to Bollywood films or damp Brazilian riverbanks. The second installment of their Keepers of the Light mix is a well you will want to fall into again and again.