|RA Poll: Top 50 tracks of 2011
The polls are closed and the votes are in: It's RA's top tracks of the past 12 months.
There's no hand-wringing to be done. Looking over our list for the top tracks of the past twelve months, 2011 was one of the best years in recent memory. Everyone seemed to be talking to one another. Techno benefitted from its dialogue with bass music and industrial. Bass music flirted with house, and house was only too happy to oblige. The ones seemingly not talking to anyone at all? Levon Vincent, Morphosis and Peverelist did just fine too, thanks. With so much music being produced, it was literally impossible not to find something to like. You just needed to know where to look. Here's what we found in 2011.
50. Moodymanc - Black Paint (Larry Heard's After Dark Mix) [Tsuba]
A house legend goes deep and emerges with one of his finest remixes.
49. Gesloten Cirkel - Yamagic [Moustache Techno]
If Moustache Techno weren't simply a sublabel of David Vunk's Moustache imprint, we'd spend hours trying to decipher the constituent parts of this wonderful new genre name. Hell, let's try anyway: Analogue fetishism directly descended from The Hague's Bunker crew. The type of driving techno that jacks enough to have you wondering whether it actually comes from Chicago instead. The melody that drops at the exact moment that you think you're going down the rabbit hole, never to return. And, um, everyone who makes it has facial hair. Yep. That's moustache techno.
48. Sneaker - You Think You Think [Uncanny Valley]
The first certifiable (and unlikely) anthem from Dresden's breakthrough label.
47. L.I.E.S. - Comeback Dust (Max D's Big Top Dustheads Mix) [Future Times]
"Cubist house" is what we called this deliciously confusing track from the DC imprint.
46. Maurice Donovan - Babeh [SSSSS]
The man formerly known as Ramadan cuts up a classic into something resembling house.
45. Legowelt - Sark Island Acid [L.I.E.S.]
When fledging New York imprint L.I.E.S. dropped, "Sark Island Acid," a Chicago-indebted deep house workout from Legowelt, more and more people began to take notice of the one-man operation. The track's acidic bassline, spacey melodies and frantic percussion were things listeners had come to love from the Dutch veteran, and this effort further solidified his reputation as one of the most consistent producers in the business.
44. Clockwork - It's You Again [Hot Creations]
Big basslines and druggy dialogue: The keys to Hot Creations' success in 2011. This was one of its finest examples.
43. Zomby - Natalia's Song [4AD]
Haunting vocals and bell synths paired to make one of the year's eeriest cuts.
42. Miguel Campbell - Something Special [Hot Creations]
The UK producer's strangely melancholic stormer was an ideal combination of introspect and functionality.
41. M83 - Midnight City [Mute]
There's nothing more dangerous than a saxophone solo, but Anthony Gonzalez pulled it off.
40. Morphosis - Too Far [Delsin]
The non-vinyl vocal highlight from the Lebanese producer's sterling full-length.
39. Cassius - The Sound Of Violence (Franco Cinelli Remix) [Cassius]
An Argentinean updates a classic, and ends up with 2011's perfect end-of-night Ibiza anthem.
38. SBTRKT - Ready Set Loop [Young Turks]
A dizzying, club-ready anthem from the UK producer's song-based LP.
37. WhoMadeWho - Every Minute Alone (Tale Of Us Remix) [Life and Death]
One of the many 2011 highlights from Italy's breakthrough house duo.
36. Tropic of Cancer - A Color [Blackest Ever Black]
It's hard to call Blackest Ever Black a techno label, seeing as how their short discography consists of post-punk, a Regis EP and whatever you want to call Raime. The context is the thing, though, and that's why "A Color" seems absolutely at home on this list. Hit the play button, and you'll hear the reassertion of the sometimes forgotten connections between Throbbing Gristle, Suicide, The Normal and early techno. You'll also hear a killer tune.
35. Floating Points - Myrtle Avenue [Eglo]
A quiet storm from one of the UK's most versatile new producers, lifted from the excellent Shadows EP.
34. Eats Everything - Entrance Song [Pets Recordings]
There were some interesting flourishes on this debut from Dan Pearce, but in truth this one was all about the bass.
33. Genius of Time - Houston We Have a Problem [Clone Royal Oak]
Should Swedish duo Genius Of Time's breakout hit be classed as an edit? How about an edit of an edit? Its title was a cheeky nod to its source material—Whitney Houston's "Million Dollar Bill"—which itself borrowed heartily from Loleatta Holloway's 1977-released "We're Getting Stronger." Semantics aside, the track achieved ubiquity during the summer months by highlighting the irresistible charms of the sample, fattening up the drums and stirring in a soaring synth line—all pretty simple on paper, but executing it this adroitly is by no means easy.
32. Dan Andrei - Trebuie Da, Prima Incercare [[a:rpia:r]]
Classy peak-era minimal house from Romania's [a:rpia:r] stable.
31. Storm Queen - It Goes On [Environ]
How to follow up a classic debut single? Make your next one just as good like Morgan Geist did here.
30. Tiger & Woods - Gin Nation [Running Back]
Gerd Janson's in-house edit duo withhold the pleasure for a tantalizing eight minutes.
29. Oliver $ - Doin' Ya Thang [Play It Down]
The year's most controversial song—and also one of its most ubiquitous.
28. Maceo Plex - Can't Leave You [Crosstown Rebels]
Maceo Plex's breathtaking 2011 started at the end of 2010 with "Vibe Your Love" and ended with him opening his own label, Ellum Audio, and dropping "Stay High Baby." In between those two hits, there were plenty more, but none bigger than "Can't Leave You." This track beats out the rest of Eric Estornel's work as Plex because of its deft mix of the familiar and unfamiliar. The nostalgic drum fill will bring a smile to any '80s baby, while the grinding and unexpected bass noise that emerges early on helpfully signals that this isn't going to be just another bootyshaker. (Although it did plenty of that too.) An anthem in a year full of them for Maceo Plex and Crosstown Rebels.
27. Danny Daze feat. Louisahhh - Your Everything [Hot Creations]
Muted trumpet + Art Department-esque vocals = One of the biggest hits of the year.
26. Mathew Jonson - Learning to Fly [Minus]
The Cobblestone Jazz member returns to the imprint responsible for one of his most beloved hits.
25. Kassem Mosse - Untitled A1 [Workshop]
"-ensuality....ensuality...ensualit—...ensualit...ensualit....." [KICK DRUM]
"ensualit...ensualit..ensualit...ensuality...ensualit...ensualit...ensualit" [SCARY STRINGS]
24. Osunlade - Envision (Ame Remix) [Innervisions]
Dark, soulful and organically produced, this was the summer's most theatrical hit.
23. Four Tet - Pyramid [Text]
Hearing a house track this cinematic makes you realize what a boon Four Tet's been to club music.
22. Peverelist - Dance Til the Police Come [Hessle Audio]
Jungle-inspired-swinging post-dubstep—or in other words, a Bristol-based genius at the top of his game.
21. Session Victim - Good Intentions [Retreat]
Session Victim are one of Berlin's best-kept secrets, but a track as lovable as "Good Intentions" is bound to challenge that. At first pass, this Rhodesy little number is all feel-good summer vibes, but listen closer and there's something strange under the surface. Maybe it's that ghostly voice drifting in, or the ever-so-slight tinge of sadness in those keys, but something about this record gives you goosebumps. On a breezy afternoon in the Welsh countryside last July, it even brought one DJ to tears.
It's not often we can say this in earnest about a techno track, but all nine minutes and twenty-five seconds of Objekt's "CLK Recovery" are thrilling. For starters, it takes three-and-half-minutes to drop—and even when it does you wish you could go back in time to experience its impact with virginal ears. This wasn't just about sheer weight, though. The Berlin-based producer's sound design and arrangement were also exemplary. It takes either self-confidence or indifference to fuck with established forms such as techno—whichever Objekt evinced here we could do with more of it.
A lot of 2011's big tracks inspired as much bickering as they did dancefloor mayhem, and Scuba's only single under his usual moniker was no different. Following in his new, looser, and housier direction, "Adrenalin" is eight minutes of rigid repetition, incessantly catchy basslines and a strobing vocal sample. But the song's lopsided progression is the important part, because three minutes in it melts away into one of the year's most decadent breakdowns, several minutes of building synth washes and whooshes that unashamedly ascend to the highest of the gurning trance heavens. The song's title might imply a certain energy, but we all know there's a different chemical driving this one.
Sleazy humor may be good for a one night stand, but if you're looking for longevity you're gonna need some principles. That's what Benoit & Sergio put forth on a track of the same name for DFA in the summer of this year. Taking the "Walk & Talk
" template into more song-based territory, they seemed to be talking directly to the "baby" who does "K all day" with this one. "I can't go back to that ball and chain," warbles Sergio, his voice never far from a narcoticized vocoder. Here, though, he doesn't descend into the gloom—he's picked up by a more purposeful groove and swirling angelic voices.
Pangaea's "Hex" was perfectly fine for the first 86 seconds. Pretty swell even. A bit of rhythmic trickery, a nice organic bed for it all to sit on. Then there was this: "Buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh kut buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh buh kut be booooooooooooy be boooooOOOOOOOoy." It was at that moment that "Hex" became one of the most exciting songs we'd heard all year. That Kevin McAuley had further tricks up his sleeve later on is icing on the cake of course, but it's also why we kept coming back to it throughout the year.
We're part of an age in which a producer can release two EPs in twelve months and be hailed among the year's standout acts. Although, when one of those EPs is as strong as Mosca's Done Me Wrong / Bax
we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves. The A-side—all in-built rewinds and "RIP Groove" samples—could quite easily have made this list were it released in isolation, but, ultimately, it was B-side, "Bax," that did the most widespread damage. "Speed garage" is the most concise description we can offer you. The UK producer didn't so much update the blueprint as remind everyone of its most exhilarating traits the first time around.
A new Burial track is always going to be a big deal, and the fanfare that "Street Halo" caused when it landed was almost hilarious in retrospect. The standalone EP didn't quite signal a massive change in direction—not that anyone's complaining—but its lead track shows Burial working in a 2011-compatible house mode (see also his "Versus"), turning his steely 2step stutter into limping, broken 4/4. Thick, obscured atmospherics? Check. Teary-eyed vocal? Check. Fake-out ending and lush synth codas? Sure, why not. "Street Halo" only offers superficial updates on the Burial sound, but hey, it's the Burial Sound
—it would have deserved to make this list even if it were just an Untrue
If Dan Snaith's Swim
album as Caribou last year was alluding to a preoccupation with the dance floor, his work this year as Daphni was shouting it from the rooftops. Snaith introduced the moniker via his podcast for us
back in February. Of the five included original productions, it didn't require a crystal ball to predict that "Ye Ye"—the first officially released Daphni production—was set to make an impact. Tracks of this magnitude are often devastatingly simple; "Ye Ye" was anything but. Tumbling Moog keys, slamming drums, insistent arpeggios, wafer-crisp hi-hats and, of course, that
vocal refrain all played integral parts in one of 2011's smartest bangers.
's hands, Virgo Four's anxious and brittle "It's a Crime" becomes a stormer of Herculean proportions, sacrificing some of the original's sociopolitical tension in favour of brute physical torque. Sure, it doesn't sound like much at first, but halfway through acid streaks crack through to the surface, and from then on it steamrolls on with absolutely zero pretense of subtlety. His remix strays from his usual politeness into no-holds-barred banger territory, as if he realized the kind of sacred cow material he was dealing with; he's given it a makeover almost equally as powerful as those original recordings, gritty enough to sound retro yet powerful enough not to sound dated one bit.
There was just something about those little pills for Green Velvet
. It was unreal, the thrills they yield until they killed a million brain cells. The same thing happened for Benoit & Sergio's baby with K—she does it all day, doesn't even wash her hair. These subjects, of course, are meant as jokes—not even sly references to the drugs that are rife in the scene. But while some of "Walk & Talk"'s success was in people taking it a little bit too seriously, its longevity was due to it simply being a wicked tune.
In normal-sized type, the cover to Noir & Haze's "Around" proudly proclaims "incl. Solomun
remixes." It probably should've been much bigger. The Hamburg producer created RA's top remix of the year by slowing the original down and jettisoning the clichéd washes of atmosphere. Haze once sounded urgent and a little scared, here he sounds collected and defiant. "What goes around will come around, and come back and getcha…" is now a playground taunt, not a hopeful outcome. In its original form, "Around" felt like it was trying just a bit too hard. Solomun's advice? "Hey maaaaaaan, just be yourself. It's gonna be alright."
Be honest: When you finally heard "Sicko Cell" in full, you were a little bit underwhelmed. (If you even bothered to track it down at all.) There's not much to say about the rhythm. There's hardly a drop. Even the melody—if you can call the atmospheres a full-fledged melody—don't inspire much poetry. There is a vocal, though. Perhaps you remember? It's the one about cocaine powder. The one that drove you mad in a club this year trying to figure out where it was from. The one that Loefah
and others couldn't stop playing. The one that landed this tune in our top 10 tracks of the year.
Levon Vincent doesn't slip in the door quietly. With "Man Or Mistress," he blew it all the way down with a rave-y tune that marked his return to the world of production. After a hugely successful 2009, Vincent toured the world and hunkered down in the lab. He emerged with tracks that sounded like no one but himself—a collection that showed the full-range of his abilities. "Man Or Mistress," however, was the pick of the bunch, both rude and classy, obviously anthemic and deeply strange. In other words, Levon being Levon.
From the onset, Martyn and Brainfeeder seemed like an unlikely pairing. On the left stood what was, essentially, a dubstep producer, while, on the other, a hip-hop label. So what happened when the two met? House. The Dutchman's increased movement towards the 4/4 rhythm was well and truly on display here, drawing upon rave stabs, swirling digital melodies and a strikingly simple vocal for what stands as one of the year's most memorable tracks. At less than five minutes in length, it's high impact peak-time house at its best.
Scuba was asked during his recent lecture at Red Bull Music Academy
about the increased trance influence in his work. His admission that he was into the stuff in the mid-'90s came as little surprise to anyone that heard "Loss" or "Adrenalin
" in 2011. "This was before trance became rubbish…that might be a controversial statement. [But] trance wasn't always rubbish." He goes on to say that he didn't hear trance in what he was doing with his own tunes, but that's what a hell of a lot of other people did. Thank goodness he was only listening to the good stuff, eh?
If you found yourself at Panorama Bar this year for any length of time, it's likely that you heard "Yours," one of the undisputed anthems of the famed Berlin club. With old school house permeating clubland, it's likely that you heard it in just about any other
club you stepped into as well. What's perhaps most stunning about "Yours," though, is its origin. This is one of a handful of tunes that the Berlin-based producer has put to her name thus far. With "Kill Me
" making last year's list
, it's becoming increasingly plausible that we may have one of those rare talents on our hands—someone that can DJ just as well as they make beats.
It seems as though Terje Olsen's return to original production couldn't have been better timed. In April, the Norwegian dropped his Ragysh
EP through Running Back after going five years without an original release. What ensued was genuine frenzy. Played by everyone from Sven Vath
, "Ragysh" was one of the most rinsed tracks of 2011. Whether it's the classic Terje synth line, extended breakdown or shifting tempo that had DJs hooked, one thing's certain—this is a genuine weapon.
Didn't expect to see these so close, did you? Few RA staffers did either. Everyone seemed to pick only one Todd Terje track off his Ragysh
EP. Invariably, however, they loved the damn thing, and that's why both chart so highly on our 2011 tracks poll. While "Ragysh
" takes much of its drama through a tempo change, "Snooze 4 Love" sees the Norwegian relying on nothing more than a heart-bursting-with-optimism melody, a sturdy beat and a clean bassline. He's one of the last men crafting great songs in a genre we once called nu disco, and both of these tunes immediately tell you why it's something worth still pursuing: The end of the night is always going to need a soundtrack.
If you're gonna sample lines like "People get up / Stomp your feet / Let's get down," you better make sure that the dance floor does as such. Bristol's Julio Bashmore pulled off one of 2011's cross-genre anthems by fusing his forte—a Dirtybird
-inspired elastic bassline—with a big old reversed synth line. That the post-break pay-off was actually pretty subtle only intensified the feeling. "House music's 25 to 30 years old, but you can still have people come along and sound like themselves within that genre," said Idle Hands
' Chris Farrell on Bashmore during our Real Scenes: Bristol
film, a consummate summary of "Battle for Middle You" and the artist at large.
"Here's Your Trance, Now Dance!!" had one of those lead lines that aspiring producers must dream of writing. Imagine gradually teasing this out of your synthesizer… then jumping triumphantly around the studio as the results leapt through the speakers. Omar-S' reaction? We reckon a casual shrug of the shoulders. The sleeve to this one-sided 12-inch even says "produced in 2009," meaning that he's been sitting on the track for a couple of years. This really should come as no surprise, though. From all out anthemic to low-down and dirty, Alex Omar Smith remains one of the most consistently brilliant producers in the game.
The whole story behind "Getting Me Down" is a bit corny really. I went out on New Years Eve—like everyone else does, and I did the whole thing, had a good time, left quite early and came back home and kind of just sat at my computer all night/morning. I had these disco loops I had been working on that I wasn't really doing much with, and I started messing around with the a cappella and then something just clicked. I did it in about four hours and kind of forgot about it.
This one dropped off the radar for me a little bit, because I actually thought it was one of the weirder things I had written. I never really grasped the catchy vocal properly until I put it into context. A few guys said, "Yeah, I really like that tune," but nothing more than anything else I sent before. The first person to get anything from me is usually Ben UFO. Ben gave it the first play on Rinse FM, and somebody then ripped it from the radio stream and uploaded it to YouTube—something that seems happen all the time now. That played an integral part of getting the tune in people's heads really.
I'd been playing the tune out a lot, and it had got an OK reaction. I mean, I had always thought of it as filler for a set anyway. But once the YouTube clip was up, a lot of people in clubs knew what it was, even though it was only three or so weeks after I had finished making it. It's really strange how things move so fast.
Published / Friday, 16 December 2011