Music | Bittles’ Magazine: The music column from the end of the world
Now that the year 2016 has come to an end it is the perfect time to sit back and reflect on what has been and gone. While it is hard to do this without lingering on the horrors which dominated the headlines, (Brexit, the rise of Trump, the passing of Prince, Bowie, Cohen, etc), it is important to remember that great things did happen over the last twelve months. By JOHN BITTLES
This week’s article highlights some of the songs which made 2016 such a great place to be. From shimmering ambiance, to driving techno, new music wise at least, it really wasn’t such a terrible year.
So, before nostalgia finds itself out of fashion we had better begin…
2 The Sky (Metatron’s What If Madness Is Our Only Relief Mix) by Traumprinz (Giegling).
In an extremely strong year for the German vinyl-only label Giegling, DJ Metatron aka Traumprinz’s 2 The Sky EP was a gloriously emotional journey into the very heart of the groove. Gorgeously melancholic, the record paired subdued beats and heart-wrenching electronics to wondrous effect. Star of the show though is the What If Madness Is Our Only Relief Mix which caused so many tears on dance floors in 2016 it should have come with a health warning for anyone feeling sad and alone. Also be sure to check out the more ambient What If There’s No End And No Beginning Mix which is equally divine.
Msnj by Denis Sulta (K7).
Taken from Jackmaster’s well-received entry into the DJ Kicks series, this new and exclusive track from fellow Glaswegian Denis Sulta is the type of song to make the heart swell. From the very first time I heard it on a packed dance floor I knew our love was meant to be. Numerous plays later and I feel just as strongly about the song’s wistful tones as I did then. With the gorgeous slo mo techno funk of It’s Only Real and a string of releases on the always excellent Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, Denis Sulta has long been on the cusp of greatness. Yet, the hushed keys, spine-tingling vocal samples and bittersweet air helped ensure that Msnj will, in years to come, have a whole religion dedicated to its romance infused beats.
Wonky Bassline Disco Banger by Red Rack’em (Bergerac).
After years of releasing quality underground bombs the artist best known as Red Rack’em gave us a real left of centre house cracker for 2016 in the form of Wonky Bassline Disco Banger. Furiously funky disco licks and a majestic ever-shifting groove combine splendidly to create a slice of dance floor magic that never fails to make me smile. Seriously, if you haven’t danced to this at least once over the last few months then you really should get out more.
Slowly by Dinky (Crosstown Rebels).
Lead single and highlight from the wonderful Valor album, Slowly took the foundations of classic acid house and injected it with a raw, emotional core. Featuring the Chilean artist’s own rich vocals over roving acid grooves and fitful blasts of bass, this is the type of song you could happily listen to for hours on repeat. As classy as cocktails in the Ritz, Slowly is capable of reminding middle-aged ravers everywhere why they fell in love with this house music malarkey all those years ago.
Years by Leafar Legov (Giegling).
One half of core Giegling duo Kettenkarussel, Leafar Legov has been at the centre of the German techno renaissance for years. Somehow though, the Talk EP was his first solo release (aside from an earlier 12-inch as Robert Oh). Warped techno, spectral ambiance and more combine on a record which commands your attention from the off. Pick of the bunch is the quiet contemplation of Years, where twisted synths merge with shuffling beats and lonesome melancholy on a song you can’t do justice with words. Breathtakingly beautiful, you owe it to yourself to track this down.
Qwazars by Mr. Fingers (Alleviated).
With nothing more than the odd remix here and there it took everyone by surprise when house legend Larry Heard re-emerged last year with the Outer Acid EP. Released on his own Alleviated Records imprint, this is timeless house music which sounds like it could have been made anytime from the late 80s to the present day. Any doubters wondering whether Mr. Fingers was still relevant in these hyper-real times found all uncertainty swept aside from the moment the swirling melodies and acid flourishes of stand out track Qwazars reached its stride. This is music made for dancing with your eyes closed!
Beautiphul by DJ Aakmael (Church White).
The title track of the deep house veteran’s debut EP for London label Church is a delicious blend of smooth house flavours. Reminiscent of vintage St. Germain, the record’s four tracks are pretty much guaranteed to get any house fan in the mood. The jazzy keys, and lazy beats of the strangely spelled Beautiphul are neither scared of emotion, nor of paying homage to the past. Recalling the glory days of Larry Heard, (see above) in its five minute running time the title track manages to illustrate everything that was great about dance music in 2016.
Hyperspace (Toulouse Low Trax Remix) by Zombie Zombie (Versatile).
Taken from the fabulous Slow Futur album, opening track Hyperspace was given a new lease of life in October via a trio of fabulous remixes by I:Cube, Gilb’r and Salon Des Amateurs resident Toulouse Low Trax. Slow, heady and gorgeously seedy, it is the latter which I found myself returning to time and time again. Like a slow dub skank, it’s all about the power of restraint, which is used superbly to create an aural masterpiece that takes great delight in fucking with your mind. It threatens, hisses and growls, but not once does it lose control. The result is one of the most thrilling pieces of music heard all year.
Key Jam A.C.I.D by Sharif Laffrey (Love On The Rocks).
Before I discovered this one-sided 12inch of proto-house goodness I had been blissfully unaware of the Berlin record label Love On The Rocks. But in the nine minute running time of this track a new love affair was born. Elements of Belgium new beat, Chicago house and Italo combine majestically on a tune which should henceforth be deemed the Viagra of dance! The Detroit native has been responsible for a small but perfectly formed body of music over the last few years (see the excellent Pony EP on the same label to hear exactly what I mean), but Key Jam A.C.I.D may just be his best yet. Seriously, if your body isn’t jackin‘ in strange and terrifying shapes when this is playing then you should probably ask yourself ‚Do I really deserve my limbs?‘.
Taubenblut by Dominik Eulberg (Traum Schallplatten).
German techno master Dominik Eulberg stormed back into our lives in November with the driving melodies and masterful thump of his new EP. Composed of three tracks named after minerals and stones, the record saw the producer return to his spiritual home Traum. Pick of a wonderful bunch was the soaring riffs and ecstatic outpourings of Taubenblut. Named after the sunrise ruby it is the perfect example of how emotion can be an important stimulus for any dance floor. Go buy!
Ten more songs so great I just had to include:
Bl・haven by Thomas Ragsdale (This Is It Forever).
Unhurried and unbelievably good, the melodic splendour of Mr. Ragsdale is one of the best reasons I can find for remaining alive.
Haight Street (Edward Remix) by Apollonia (Apollonia).
In a year were every great techno song seemed to be an Edward remix the deeply hypnotic funk of this one still stood out.
Nightmarket by Burial (Hyperdub).
The moment when the synths enter the fray halfway in is the sound of a lost and lonely John Carpenter crying into the night.
Mother & Child by Paul Woolford (Hotflush).
Cradling the listener like a gentle swoon, this took the emotional house template and created something exciting and new.
Frankie Sinatra by The Avalanches (Modular).
Crazy and deranged, I can find no logical reason why this song wasn’t huge.
Nefelibata (Salz Rebuild) by Mario Hammer & The Lonely Robot (Telrae).
Cologne’s Telrae imprint do it yet again with a dub techno masterclass which could make even your nan fall in love with bass.
Cham (Gilb’r & DJ Sotofett Version One) by Gilb’r (Versatile).
Light a fat one, lie back, and let this wonderful epic seep into your soul.
Current 82 (12 Mix) by DJ Sotofett (Keys Of Life).
Absolutely beautiful from beginning to end. In a fabulous year for Mr. Sotofett, this was the one which brought a sense of romantic longing to the floor.
Closer by Project Pablo (Sobo).
House music the way it should be. Dancing to this in 2016 was like being enveloped in a long, lingering hug.
The Frontier by Avalon Emerson (Whities).
Unbridled techno brilliance from one of the rising stars of the year.