So why are dance producers so ashamed of their faces? The convention has been to focus on the music, to not treat producers as stars, etc etc, and that is fair enough. The end result, though, is that a group of people that are so very important to the club music project end up being pretty much anonymous. Unless a producer DJs or play live (and four out of our five picks do), only their friends would recognise them out in the clubs.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe the best kind of fame is when people know your name but don’t know your face. And if you’re a record nerd or a DJ (same thing?), know their names you must. Perhaps there are two kinds of clubbers: those who go for the party and those who go to annoy their mates by trainspotting the tracks, and if you’re the former – well, what are you doing reading this? This one is for the nerds. Go into the RA listings, find a club and go dancing. Let the rest of us obsess over the music like the freaks that we are. But actually, no, this is a false dichotomy: there’s a middle ground between scribbling down the names of tracks out in the clubs and busting out on the floor, and we hope that the music from our top five picks will make you do both.
But being a pop slut is a hard habit to break, even for nerds, and so while RA is big on kudos to all the producers who made 2006 such a great year for dance music, we're also big on fandom. An example: One RA staffer, who shall not be named, went up to a certain up-and-coming producer and blurted out ‘I’m your biggest fan’ recently, and from the shocked look on his face, it was obvious no one had ever said that to him before. We think that this embarrassing behaviour should be encouraged. Next time you see that bald little man standing on his own by the wall in a club, don’t just assume he’s too shy to talk to girls, he’s probably listening to his own track. And if you happen to recognize him, and like his productions, go up and gush.
Here's who RA went all weak-kneed over in 2006.
Three huge solo 12”s on Herzblut, countless singles with Marc Romboy, the “anonymous” Rekorder series, Bodzin vs. Huntemann remixes, singles as The Alchemist, Bodzin fingers all over Thomas Schumacher’s ‘Home’, Huntemann’s ‘Feiber’ and Romboy’s ‘Gemini’ – the Bremen super-producer has released a shitload of records this year. What’s more, he seems to have emerged out of nowhere with a fully-formed, instantly recognizable sound, a sound that has – not to put too fine a point on it – redefined electrohouse in 2006. Roman Flugel on Bodzin: “I play at least two or three of his records at the moment. He’s very genuine in the way he does the production. Very powerful. Somehow it’s both techno and it’s trance (but the better side of trance) at the same time. It’s not cheesy. I think he knows what he’s doing very well. He reaches the heart of the people on the dancefloor but at the same time he produces with a clear mind. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Listen: MySpace – Stephan Bodzin
Most of us wouldn't have known Martin Buttrich from Adam before this year – he used to produce for Timo Maas – but in 2006 he handed in two of the year’s biggest anthems: ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ and ‘Full Clip’. The former, produced with Loco Dice, was a utterly original melding of tribal beats and disco toms that’s one of the best things M_nus has ever released, while the latter was full-clip neo-Detroit that channeled the spirit of the city into ten minutes of rising groove. Buttrich also put out ‘Cloudy Bay’ on Poker Flat, a great remix of Ian O'Brien-Docker's 'Totally Alright' and three more big 12”s with Loco Dice (‘Harissa’, ‘Flight LB 7475’ and ‘Carthago’), each time twisting old dance tropes into new forms. The man to watch in 2007? Ali from Tiefschwarz on ‘Full Clip’: "The new hit of the end of the summer. It’s on Planet E and it’s fucking amazing. Actually it sounds like a Carl Craig record. It’s different to ‘Seeing Through Shadows’. It has a very housey touch with very strong keyboards and an amazing break where almost everything goes away – at the end you can’t even hear it properly. I mean he’s such a talent. This guy Martin Buttrich is a genius."
Listen: MySpace – Martin Buttrich
Pierce remixed Depeche Mode, Lawrence, The Knife, Donnacha Costello and Tiga this year, but perhaps it was his own productions which impressed most: the unforgettable ’25 Bitches’, ‘The Day After Yesterday’ (easily the best cut on ‘Spaceships and Pings’) and his ‘Enemy Love’ LP under his Louderbach alias, from which ‘Grace (Anxiety)’ found its way out into the clubs especially. Most of all, kudos to Pierce for bringing a bit of sleaze to the crisp and clean world of minimal techno: if a dancer is rubbing up against you at a minimal gig, chances are he/she is succumbing to Pierce’s sonic charms. Mo Glimmer on ‘The Day after Yesterday’: “I picked it up and I liked it. I like the slow groove of it for playing in a warmup, or for radio use or late night. A great sound. A bit more in the minimal thing but still with very adventurous production. It’s a different kind of groove but definitely a groove. I even see similarities with some minimal to the old disco style that we like: stripped down, a groove that goes on endlessly, just goes on and on. And a good bass.”
Listen: MySpace - Troy Pierce
On his own, the Canadian wonderboy put out just a single 12” (‘Automatic’) and a couple of remixes this year, but 2006 has been huge for him, Danuel Tate and Tyger Dhula as Cobblestone Jazz. The live techno improvisers have offered up two big 12”s this year (‘Dump Truck’ and ‘India In Me’) that were picked up by DJs across the board, while their latest ‘The Creator’ reaches back into the archives to pluck out some overlooked gems. “’India In Me’ was my record of the summer,” Nic Fancuilli told RA. “It's funk, it's electronic, it's jazz, everything DJs know and love. Mathew is a don. It doesn't matter who I play the record to, a house DJ or a deep house DJ, everyone is like, 'This is just amazing'. You can hear other people trying to emulate it but there's no formula to this. He's made a ten and half minute record that goes up, down, breaks and does everything."
Carl Craig is back on form in 2006. Not too many DJs can fill up a set with their own tracks and satisfy everyone in the room, but with a string of remixes under his belt this year, C2 has got the goods. His remix of Theo Parrish's 'Falling Up' warmed up just about every set at the beginning of the year, and he lived up to its promise, remixing Goldfrapp's 'Fly Me Away', X-Press 2's 'Kill 100', Rhythm & Sound's 'Poor People Must Work' as well as 'Relevee' - Has anyone even heard the originals? In 2006, Carl Craig managed to find the G-spot between big gorgeous strings and long modulated synth pulses, and the result was a round of applause from DJs of all stripes. Ewan Pearson on Relevee: "Carl Craig is currently in a run of form which matches anything he's done in is his career to date. The dramatic intro features the teasing sequences which made the original LP so captivating, except this being a 12" disco record, after a four minute wait the drums finally kick in and everyone goes beserk as we - finally - get the dancefloor pay-off that's always been implicit in the music but never actually present. I went to see Delia and Gavin play live a couple of months ago and as wonderful as it was you just knew that had a kick drum dropped at some point the whole place would have soiled themselves in ecstatic release. Quite a good thing one didn't then, I guess.”
Listen: MySpace - Carl Craig
Contributors: Jeremy Armitage, Peter Chambers, Richard Chinn, Paul Clement, Cameron Eeles, Tami Fenwick, Stéphane Girard, Chris Hobson, Ben Hogwood, Mohson Iqbal, Matt Langler, Alex Macpherson, Joshua Meggitt, Tal Messing, Dave Noonan, Barry O'Donoghue, Siana Petro, Dave Rinehart, Kiran Sande, Christopher Thomarios, Jacob Wright, Robbie Younan.
Who are your top five producers of 2006? Have your say in the RA forums.