The Dirty Dozen: the 12 best electro tracks of 2012
Seasons Greetings! The end of 2012 is fast approaching, and with the new releases for 2013 already appearing on the horizon, we thought that this would be a good moment to stop and take a glance back over Dirty Dancing's first year. We've brought you a lot of top tunes in that time and it's been a really enjoyable experience uncovering some new artists as well as bringing you material from established acts. Many thanks to all the labels and PRs for all their help while we got into our groove!
So here, in no particular order, are The Dirty Dozen: twelve stand-out tracks from the past 12 months as selected by that recognised expert - myself! Dirty Dancing aficionados will no doubt know many of them from past columns, but I've thrown in a few personal favourites as well just to add to the variety.
Let's hope 2013 brings us as much in the way of quality! Enjoy!
Squarepusher - Unreal Square (Warp)
Sounding like something a self-aware, caffeine-fuelled android might produce, 'Unreal Square' immediately stands out from the crowd. Taken from the album Ufabulum, it's a gradually accelerating journey into the binary mind of a computer sonic genius. Although fairly specialist (you won't find your local chart DJ playing Squarepusher anytime soon), for those considering a foray into the world of electronic weirdness, this is as good a place to start as any.
A. Skillz and Nick Thayer
– Foreigner: Cold as Ice Bootleg (Authority)
As big a fan as I was of the original, I couldn't help feeling that Foreigner's version of 'Cold as Ice' lacked a certain something. A. Skillz and Nick Thayer have filled in the gaps with this speaker-punishing version of the '70s classic, adding a gut-punching bass line, jacking up the tempo and layering on the synth and drum sequences. Often electro covers are just cheesy re-workings - this one shows how you do the job properly.
Sub Focus – Out The Blue (RAM Records)
Just when we thought that Nick Douwma was starting his quiet fade into obscurity, he made a rather spectacular return mid – 2012: rampaging back into the forefront of the UK drum and bass scene with 'Out The Blue'. Fans of Sub Focus’ previous offerings will not be disappointed as his signature sound and tempo are all too apparent, with Alice Gold’s sublime vocals adding a stand-out touch.
Rumors of a second album have been confirmed, with a scheduled release for early 2013, and this is the perfect appetizer.
– Down the Road (Onandon)
I heard 'Down the Road' months ago, and at once knew that it was something special. CSC are renowned for their skills as DJs, as much for their innovative sample choices as for their mixing and cutting technique. Expect all sorts from 'Down the Road', from country guitar samples, to staccato scratching, to drawling vocals reminiscent of the deep south. Absolute deck mastery and an essential EP to boot.
Star One feat. Sarah Lillie
- Respect (Carrot Records)
I said it before and I'll say it again: 'Respect' sounds incredibly similar to Gramaphonedzie, and if you are a fan of 'Why Don't You' then you'll almost definitely like Star One's similar offering. Silky smooth vocals and an array of live instruments (including sax and piano) temper a fast-paced drum rhythm, whilst a deep, background bass tone holds the whole thing together. 'Respect' became an essential addition to any discerning house party playlist during 2012.
- Sunburn (GECO-ROMAN)
Despite steadily rising in energy and tempo, Baio's 'Sunburn' still manages to maintain its ethereal qualities throughout. At once both dreamlike and bass filled, it's a mismatch of moods and sonic nuances that somehow works to create a progressively building vista of sound. More than once I have put 'Sunburn' on at around seven in the morning after a big night, as it is the perfect track to slowly come around to.
High Contrast feat. Selah Corbin - The Agony and the Ecstasy (Hospital Records)
I don't care if you've never heard of them; I don't care if you thought that the first album was rubbish. Go out and buy this album! I am technically cheating a little here as The Agony and The Ecstasy was released at the end of 2011, but this album has really been the sound of 2012 for me (And the single came out in February, Phil! - Ed.) High Contrast have kept many elements of their signature sound but enhanced it further with guest vocals, live instrumentals and absolute attention to detail. An almost flawless album and this is one of the many highlights!
- Intermission: A New Language / The Illectrik Hoax (Ninja Tune)
An interesting example of a rock/electronica crossover, 'The Illectric Hoax' is heavy on the guitar riffs and packs a decent punch of bass for good measure.
Interestingly dissimilar from the electronic wizardry of rest of DJ Food's album - The Search Engine, 'The Illectric Hoax' is announced via the 'New Language' intermission mid-way through the disc and sounds like the producer suddenly fancied a change and grabbed a handy guitar. Play inhumanly loud for best results!
Akira Keteshi Feat. Senadee -Silent Screams (Afterglo)
Those of you bored by the endless tide of mainstream (and now clichéd) dubstep that seems to be flooding into every corner of the dance industry would do well to check out Akira Keteshi's tortured take on the genre. Pulling apart the depressing 'wub wub wub' that everyone from Britney to Muse seem to be employing in one way or another, this is an ear-numbing thrill ride into what dubstep could and should be. Incorporating some fairly intense vocals with suitably distressed bass lines, 'Silent Screams' is no doubt my favorite track from an essential album. This is just a clip - even more reason why you should source the full thing!
Major Look feat. The Ragga Twins - Bass Generation (Universal)
Major Look has been present in so many remixes, re-workings and original productions this year that it was almost inevitable that they would find their way into my top 12. 'Bass Generation' pretty much delivers what it says on the tin: tonnes of bass carried before waves of gravelly synth with vocals from The Ragga Twins. A rhythmic, high energy dance floor anthem - we're all one in the bass generation! - with a great video as well!
- Gloomin (Cheap Thrills)
A melancholy start seeping slowly into violin instrumentals set the tone of 'Gloomin' and the element of darkness is present throughout. The rolling tides of bass which flood the latter part of the track do little to raise the mood, but serve to elevate an already interesting piece of electronica to a somewhat epic level. Without a doubt the best track from Pick Me Up, Sort Me Out, Calm Me Down (the rest of which is a good deal different), 'Gloomin' is a low down, dirty manic depressive - just how we like 'em!
Machines Don’t Care - Beat Dun Drop (Cheap Thrills)
'Beat Dun Drop' is on a high from the start. Fist pumping drum lines and euphoric bass synth compliment female vocals and nurture a party starting sense of optimism. Stick this on when you're feeling a little low, it's raining outside (when they said it would snow!) and the temperature is approaching an autumn day in the Arctic. Plenty of pick-me-up and more from Machines Don't Care. And no, I'm going to say that 'dun' is not actually a word.
Hopefully, if you agreed with my selection you have some ideas for the Christmas list, or maybe you've decided to forgo presents this year and treat yourself to some goodies instead! Either way, it was fun to reflect on the year past and re-visit a few favourites.
What were your favourite tunes of 2012? Drop me a line on my Twitter page @TDFDirtyDancing. See you next time!