LWE’s Top 5 EPs of 2011

The problem that list enthusiasts face each year is the fluidity of the categories. An “album” can take many physical forms and be almost any length the format allows. The “single” is equally problematic in its definition, as a vinyl single is usually two tracks at least. But when you’re pulling together tracks and albums lists, you’re ignoring a vast seam of records that falls in-between even those nebulous categories. This list sets out to highlight five such records (not double-packs) which are the work of a single artist and contain three or more tracks. They must also be released on vinyl and avoid containing remixes. The 12″ as a statement, then: an artist executing his or her vision over two sides of vinyl and embracing the record as a format. While dance music generally lends itself to longer compositions than other genres, full lengths can sometimes feel overly long-winded (a problem that is in no way specific to dance music). Records from Laurel Halo, Vakula, Dreesvn and Move D all made whittling the list down to five very difficult. But the following records provide some of the best 15-to-30 minutes of music released in the past 12 months, and are equally enjoyable in the living room or club.

05. Kassem Mosse, Workshop 12
[Workshop] (buy)

When Workshop 12 appeared at Hard Wax earlier this year I was beyond excited: the first two Workshops adorned with bearded stamps are surely two of the finest techno releases of the past 10 years, and I was eager to hear the ways in which the third would blow me away. I gave it a strong review, but felt it was perhaps a bit Kassem-Mosse-by-the-numbers. At the present time, however, Mosse-by-the-numbers beats out many producers’ most inspired turns. In fact it’s proven to include some of Gunnar Wendel’s strongest club tracks (one of my clubbing highlights of the year was surely Fred P dropping the magical, twisted A-side). While the record absolutely refused to leave my bag I realized that there’s something admirable about a producer completely owning his sound and not feeling terribly pressured to move on. Three for three, then.

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04. Ital, Ital’s Theme
[100% Silk] (buy)

Drowning in 100% Silk is not something you expect to say about a year, but 2011 has been a great year to do just that. While most of them have been impressive, none were able to live up to Ital’s masterful artist-and-label-debut. “Queens” bides its time in a humid, tribal funk, while “One Hit” is an extended, melodic jam. And then there’s “Ital’s Theme,” whose simple acidic melody and bombastic percussion, coupled with subtle flourishes from Daniel Martin-McCormick’s noise background, make for one of 2011’s most jacking, addictive tracks. There was a glut of retro house this year, but “Ital’s Theme” felt retro without really referencing any specific scene or time, feeling like a hazy, hedonistic trip through 30 years of New York dance culture. Its release was a blink-and-you-miss it affair, so while it’s admittedly a bit difficult to track down a copy, this is one you don’t want to miss.

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03. Conforce, Dystopian Elements
[Delsin] (buy)

I didn’t do one of these lists last year, but if I had, Conforce’s Grace EP on Delsin would have certainly been number one. The man like Boris Bunnik has released loads of strong music in the past year (including some serious contenders for this list), and his very best work arrived on his follow up EP for Delsin: Dystopian Elements. Patient, Detroit-esque techno with electro flourishes is one way to describe the record, but there’s much more to it. Incredibly spacious and grounded firmly in the lowest end of the audible spectrum, it’s a singular journey that builds in both tempo and energy throughout its runtime. While it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, it does ask DJs and producers to be a little more adventurous with their tempos and to allow for a little more restraint. A crucial release from one of techno’s most vital young voices.

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02. Levon Vincent, Impression of a Rainstorm
[Novel Sound] (buy)

Dance music may be particularly areligious, but if it weren’t, I think we would be thanking our Drexcyen overlords rather loudly for Levon Vincent’s 2011 output. Finding a middle ground between 2009’s barrage of Novel Sounds and his silent 2010, Vincent’s return with Novel Sound 05 this summer felt like a triumphant comeback for someone who really didn’t need one. But whereas “Man or Mistress” barged in with thousands of ravers in tow, it’s Novel Sound’s more reserved sixth transmission that was perhaps the more impressive one. The title track is a flurry of percussion and unintelligible vocoded voices topped off with soaring melodies, while the flipside’s gritty stomp (“Revs/Cost”) and the surprising bass line climax of “Pivotal Moments In Life” represent some of Vincent’s finest work to date. One of the true dance music auteurs of recent years, Levon has been loath to repeat himself, pushing further out into a sound that’s truly his own. What 2012 will bring is anyone’s guess.

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01. Sepalcure, Fleur
[Hotflush Recordings] (buy)

It came out at the very beginning of the year, yet no EP in 2011 was able to top it: Sepalcure’s Fleur saw the duo of Travis Stewart and Praveen Sharma take the promise of their very fine Love Pressure debut and refine their sound by leaps and bounds. The elements: woozy, sun-drenched melodies, bass rubs that gently embrace rather than rattle, and re-contextualized unmistakable house vocals. What makes Fleur my record of the year, however, is just how incredibly varied it is over its four tracks. From the title cut’s plucked throb through the ecstatic climax of “Your Love,” and from the heads-down building of the Inner-City-sampling “No Think” to the warm, billowing sounds of closer “Inside,” Fleur is at home in four completely different settings that are strikingly cohesive. Sepalcure’s recent LP may have gotten all of the hype, but Fleur is a document of two artists at the height of their powers: an immaculate, beautiful love letter to dance music’s diverse history.

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pipecock  on December 6, 2011 at 9:16 AM

Levon, Kassem, and Ital EPs are all dope. Conforce and Sepalcure amongst the most overrated artists of the year. 3/5 ain’t bad, but there were many more contenders this year far more interesting IMO, this could have easily been a list 10 strong. Specifically thinking Big Strick on Detroit Heat, Marcos Cabral on LIES, Black Jazz Consortium on Soul People, etc.

Richard Stokes  on December 6, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Really do not get the hype over that Conforce EP? The Grace EP from last year was FAR better

littlewhiteearbuds  on December 6, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Please do not confuse praise with “hype.”

Henderick AKA Thelonious Funk  on December 6, 2011 at 5:06 PM

To be fair I was not feeling the Conforce EP at first but it has grown on me. However I must say his Escapism LP is simply SUPERB (yes it is in caps for good reason).

Henderick AKA Thelonious Funk  on December 6, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Also I do not have many people talking about the Severance EP from Najem Sworb on Metis Recordings. That is an impressive EP.

Steve  on December 7, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Quite a few conditions for what qualifies as an EP. Anyway, good list except for the highly overrated and pretty shit in general Sepalcure.

Intercourse  on December 9, 2011 at 3:58 AM

How is Sepalcure “overrated” but Ital isn’t? Sepalcure are masters of their craft and Ital is just some trend hopping ninny who makes boring, regurgitated sounds for art school kids who just discovered house music this year. Real recognize real.

Densmore  on December 9, 2011 at 4:48 PM

I 100% agree with pipecock about Marcos Cabral on LIES!

Tom  on December 10, 2011 at 1:57 PM

Only two tracks on it, Mike Huckaby’s 10″ on Sushitech stands above most of the new gear I bought this year.

ballyhoo  on December 11, 2011 at 2:02 PM

the guys from sepulcure are prolific, so indeed there are bound to be misses. the album is one of them. but there are so many high points. fleur is one, as is the machinedrum album.

same with ital. floridian void from the new album is great. he takes risks that few dance artists do.

“real recognize real” – how lame. yay for authenticity!

D.  on December 18, 2011 at 12:22 PM

“Impressions of a rainstorm” goes far beyond any charts.
Otherwise, good selection, everything is there more or less 😉


2011 Year-End Online Music Lists Update – December 6th | Music Blog List  on December 9, 2011 at 7:27 PM

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