- Josh Wink
Are You There (Ben Klock Remix)
The tracklist for Ben Klock's fabric 66 had trainspotters scrambling for Discogs when it dropped back in 2012. In a mix stacked with exclusives and rarities, Klock's rework of Josh Wink's "Are You There" stood out. Finally given an official release on Ovum Recordings in April, it was rinsed by techno's top tier. Deeper and more linear than the original, this was Ben Klock putting a modern stamp on a rave classic.
- Holly Herndon
Holly Herndon's music is conceptual, post-modern and rooted in academia. But as "Chorus" showed, it can be all those things and still be gorgeously immersive. A kaleidoscope of audio snippets culled from her "daily browsing experience," "Chorus" was by no means a cerebral comment on technology—it was glitchy, melodic and wonderfully disorienting. To better grasp the idea behind it, get a load of the mind-bending video.
Sunrise Market (Extended Version)
When "Sunrise Market" first appeared on Lnrdcroy's excellent cassette album Much Less Normal, the only thing wrong with it was its length—at less than three minutes, it was a teasing slice of gently euphoric house. Thanks therefore goes to new Vancouver label Pacific Rhythm, who gave an extended version of the tune a very welcome vinyl pressing.
- Sailor & I
Turn Around (Âme remix)
Life and Death
Life And Death's biggest hit of 2014 was worlds away from the stormy house of Tale Of Us or Mind Against, leaning instead on festival-sized hooks and synth pop vocals courtesy of Sailor & I. The original had its charms, but it was Âme's remix of "Turn Around" that truly stood out. A stripped-back bed of synths and hands-in-the-air pads allowed the oh-so-catchy vocal to roam free and imbed itself into the minds of clubbers the world over.
Even before we'd heard Hypnagogia it felt significant. This split 12-inch from Berlin's Leisure System brought together electronic auteurs from two generations. In one corner was Objekt, the young producer who'd been twisting the electro template into new and exciting forms; in the other was Gerald Donald, the most influential artist to ever work within the sound, and his collaborator To-Nhan Le Thi. You can see what we thought of Objekt's track below, but for Donald, "Delta Wave" had all the hallmarks—crystalline production, glassy FM synths, nervous energy—of his many masterpieces.
By this point Recondite, our number one live act of the year, knows a thing or two about making bangers. He also knows that you can't force it. "Caldera" is one of his most explosive tracks yet, but rather than just blowing things up, he gently teases them out. By the time the sonorous melody comes gliding in after four minutes of eyes-down building, it feels completely natural.
Parallaxis (Traumprinz's Over 2 The End Version)
As far as we can tell, this new age-inflected epic has absolutely nothing to do with the Efdemin track it's supposedly reworking, but we'd never complain about a new tune from one of the moment's most exciting and enigmatic producers.
Released in May, "Blaff" had summer anthem written all over it, and even if the days are growing dimmer where you are, it's as good as a sun lamp at fighting off winter blues. Try playing the lead cut on Henning Severud's masterful Running Back debut and not grinning. Between the groovy tempo, the balmy chords, the playful ping-ponging of the melody and the rolling builds, this track just exuded good feeling.
- Leon Vynehall
It's Just (House of Dupree)
"It's Just (House Of Dupree)" is one of those tracks that obviously knows how good it is. The ballroom intro, the feel-good bassline, the extended coda that eased in like a post-coital cigarette—it all seemed to be delivered with a knowing, self-satisfied smirk. And rightfully so. Infectiously bright, bubbly and slick, the centerpiece of Leon Vynehall's Music For The Uninvited was a groove you wish would never end.
Bad Kingdom (DJ Koze Remix
The original version of "Bad Kingdom" was the most epic moment on Moderat's 2013 album, II, and it quickly became a highlight of their live show, too. Then they handed it over to DJ Koze. In his hands, the track was stripped down and rebuilt as a warbling, teasing, end-of-night anthem that DJs—and crowds—couldn't resist.
Can't Do Without You
"There's one constant in the music business: a hit is a hit." That quote may come from a fictional TV gangster, but it's true. Some songs just have that certain something: you like it right away, and you're singing it to yourself for weeks on end. "Sun" was great, "Odessa" was seriously catchy, but "Can't Do Without You" is Caribou's hit. See? Just reading the name gets it stuck in your head.
"Dun/ Dun dun dun dun dun/ Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh/ duh-duh-duh-duh dun…" It's not poetry, exactly, but however you parse the propulsive hooks of Hinge Finger's latest club weapon, you can't deny the power of the message. Few tracks are as immediately recognizable from the moment they inch into the mix—and so effectively uniting as it tears out of the soundsystem.
"LEMONADE" was the crest of 2014's cute tidal wave, and its popularity is remarkable given how weird it is. A confusing rush of plunging basslines, popping bubbles and an addictive chorus, it sounded like it was built with rubber bands that can't quite hold it all together. That nutty, chaotic arrangement made "LEMONADE" a fascinating piece of music, whether you viewed it as a slice of deconstructed pop or simply a dance floor bomb.
- Marco Shuttle
Sing Like A Bird
Time To Express
"Sing Like A Bird" was the hit that began Marco Shuttle's biggest year yet. The Italian producer didn't do anything dramatically different to attract this attention, he simply reduced his formula down to its pure essence: subtle atmospherics and a hypnotic bassline that went on for eternity. This one had a cherry on top with its haunting vocal, which seemed to twist and turn in different ways each time you played it.
Take Time feat. Novelist
It seems like every year our ear is caught by one very particular sound. It was there in Objekt's "Cactus" in 2012, and last year we heard it on Joy Orbison's "BRTHDT - TIP!" It's the one that goes, ahem, "WOMP." That said, it was the chemistry between Mumdance and Novelist that made "Take Time" work so well. They performed the track live for RA Sessions in May, and even before the track was released it felt like grime's next wave had its anthem.
- Gesloten Cirkel
You could argue for the inclusion of practically any track on Submit X, but the title cut truly nailed the album's essence: electro drums slammed, ghoulish vocals and barely-there melodies distorted, and the gritty atmosphere seemed to leave everything covered in stains. Within about three and a half minutes, it's all over, but that's all the time you needed to get any dance floor completely on board with the abuse.
- Floating Points
"King Bromeliad" starts with a recording of, er, "King Bromeliad," captured at Plastic People during a Floating Points set. That probably made it this year's most meta tune—and the switch-up into the beefier studio version one minute in was inspired. What followed was sublime and spacious, and yet another sparkling addition to Sam Shepherd's flawless discography.
All The Things
You knew from about four seconds in, when the first chord change hit, that "All The Things" was the real deal. On the surface it was standard deep house: 4/4 beat, hi-hats, pianos, a diva sample. But under the hood something different was happening. Like much of Traumprinz's music, this track is sincere in a way that sets it apart from most club music. It almost feels too personal to play at a party, which is exactly why it was so good.
Let's be clear about this: the bassline on Objekt's "Ganzfeld" is the reason it was our favourite track of the year. It was the sort of simple, life-affirming riff that shoots goosebumps across your arms. It only hit every eight bars, so the sense of anticipation for its return was immense. It's the element that tipped the track over from "great" to "incredible." But as with most of TJ Hertz's music, the stuff going on in the background was arguably even more impressive. Hertz told us earlier this year that his tracks go through as many as 80 different versions before completion; listen to the first 30 seconds of "Ganzfeld"—the wonderful multi-tracked pads, the complex layers of synthesis—and you could tell he wasn't exaggerating.
"Ganzfeld" was the B-side on a spilt 12-inch with Dopplereffekt, and it was released in the same month that Richard D. James returned with his first new music as Aphex Twin in years. Hertz would probably cite both artists as key influences, but it was telling that "Ganzfeld" and Flatland, his debut album, which was released the following month, felt in no way overshadowed. 2014 was the year Hertz emerged as a major force in electronic music, and "Ganzfeld" was his crowning achievement.
This poll is decided by the votes of RA staff members and current contributors.
Label of the month: 1080p
Andrew Ryce speaks to Vancouver's Richard MacFarlane about running one of the most unpredictable—and exciting—new labels in electronic music.
In the next edition of RA and SONOS's film series, we hear how a city's music scene saved one of dance music's favourite DJs.
Machine Love: San Soda
After a few years spent mostly DJing, the Belgian producer recently got back into his studio swing. Jordan Rothlein paid him a visit in Berlin to see what's been cooking.
Top 10 January / February 2015 Festivals
RA picks ten of the best festivals kicking off 2015.
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RA Poll: Top 50 tracks of 2016
The 2016 polls come to a close with the RA staff's tracks of the year.
RA Poll: Top mixes, compilations and reissues of 2016
The RA staff pick their favourite mixes, compilations and reissues from this year.
RA Poll: Top 20 labels of 2016
The RA staff vote for their favourite labels of the year.
RA Poll: Top 20 albums of 2016
The RA staff pick the best full-lengths of the year.
RA Poll: Top 40 live acts of 2016
The RA readers pick their favourite live acts of 2016.
In the end it all comes down to great tracks. As an art form, electronic music lifted the track above the artist and the album as perhaps no other type of music ever has. Available to anyone and everyone (save the odd limited bit of vinyl), tracks make DJing the radically democratic art form that it is, and their constant, relentless influx keeps things interesting year after year, decade after decade. In 2014, as in every other year, tens of thousands of tracks poured onto the internet and into shops around the world. Here are 50 of our favourites.