LWE’s Top 25 Tracks of 2012 (21-25)

Even taken in the context of EDM’s surreal global takeover, 2012 was an unusual one for dance music. In some respects the prevailing sounds were often hyper-specific and often rooted in the past. The return of 90’s house tropes was noticeable across the board, often pulling liberally from MK’s vaunted blueprints or those of garage house more generally. Chicago house maintained its influence, as well, even to the point of international producers adopting personas based on the city’s citizens and housing projects. Techno finally dusted off the old trench coats while embracing more industrial textures and attitudes, in part the result of a surge of UK-based producers stepping away from bass music rhythms and into techno ones. In fact, this slipperiness of genre affected dance music much more broadly. House was free to borrow from any number of aesthetics all at once, which yielded some incredible, unexpected, and wholly memorable records. And of course, Ron Morelli and his growing cadre of techno punks unleashed a torrent of grungy dance music from dozens of different angles, encouraging the scene’s DIY fringes to step inside. These 25 tracks, as voted on by LWE’s editorial staff, hit upon many of these trends, but more importantly highlight the most impressive and creative moments in dance music this year.

25. Ike Release, “Phazzled”
[M>O>S Recordings] (buy)

To cut to the chase, “Phazzled”‘s dynamic sound design is breathtaking to behold. A handy companion to D’Marc Cantu’s “Set Free” (another late-catalog M>O>S classic), this is mesmerizing, faintly melodic analog house so immersive that it seems to conjure a livable atmosphere unto itself. The shuffling metallic effects that curtain the track figure into this, but surely it’s the liberal flanging that’s the key to the magic here, mounting the composition’s vintage Chicago trappings to a gyroscope so that those warm, woozy pads don’t hover as a melancholy haze but swoop over, under and around the fervent and decidedly more grounded beat. No drift into deep house reverie here; this is a ride. Vibrant, evocative, and just pure bliss, Ike Release has crafted the sort of track M>O>S boss Aroy Dee must hear in his dreams — and a stiff rejoinder to any who would equate retro with rote. (Chris Burkhalter)

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24. Olin, “Finally”
[Argot] (buy)

If you thought, “Who’s Olin?”, forgive yourself. Recruited earlier this year by LWE’s editor, Steve Mizek, via his label, Argot, Olin is much more so an unknown possibility than he is a rising star. If “Finally” is anything to judge by, however, the man born Jason Garden may have big things ahead of him. The track is like an expertly prepared bowl of pasta: made with the most simple and basic ingredients, yet shockingly good. Where a chef would use recently-picked tomatoes and fresh, hand-made pasta, the Chicago resident has employed an utterly single-minded bass line, and what may well be the year’s most catchy vocal arrangement. “Finally, finally,” it repeatedly intones, before delivering a much more emphatic, try-not-to-shout-along, “FINALLEEE!” at the end of each lengthy phrase. Its spooky synth licks and apple-crisp hi-hats urge the whole thing along, helping to make “Finally” one of the best slices of dance floor hedonism this year has seen, and a triumph of execution over concept. The only question is, what will Olin deliver in 2013? (Nick Connellan)

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23. 2562, “Nocturnal Drummers”
[When In Doubt] (buy)

Perhaps Pinch & Shackleton should have roped Dave Huismans into last year’s collaborative album on Honest Jon’s. “Nocturnal Drummers” could have been Pinch & Shackleton’s missing banger, but it’s even better as the capstone of 2562’s superb Air Jordan EP, in which the Dutch producer put his dubstep alias to work crafting tracks around field recordings from the Middle Eastern country. With minimal added flourishes, “Nocturnal Drummers” makes eight minutes seem to pass by in half that time. The action is centered around a loop — mostly made up of hand-drum patter with a modal wiggle of strings — which seems to contain the seeds of everything that will eventually weave through it. By the time a skipping bass-drum pattern arrives, you’re too engrossed in the layered polyrhythms that have caked onto that loop to feel that things have suddenly gone techno. Instead, the track dwells in a middle ground of its own devising: far from a mission of appropriation, Huismans treats these samples with sensitivity and nuance and ends up with something exponentially more powerful for its restraint. As often as the dialogue between noise and techno was brought up over the past year, “Nocturnal Drummers,” and by extension, all of Air Jordan, felt like an even more crucial, and masterfully handled exchange. (Brandon Bussolini)

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22. Omar-S and L’Renee, “S.E.X” (C.G.P (Conant Gardens Posse) Remix) [FXHE Records] (buy)

The relatively short career of the self-proclaimed “Grandson of Detroit Techno” has essentially been one of indefatigable artistic success. Fusing the nostalgia and wonder of that Detroit feeling with a seemingly innate grasp of the jacking Chicago spirit — rhythms that feel like they could bounce forever — the spectrum of emotion and attitude in his music is daunting. From “Day”‘s anthemic melancholy and the drawn-out, shattering sense of loss in “Just Ask the Lonely,” to the pupil-dilating cosmic funk of “Here’s Your Trance, Now Dance!” and “Strider’s World”‘s propulsive, desperate confusion, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Omar-S had completely mapped out the perimeter of his musical headspace. But the leading track on S.E.X — The Remixes sees some of the hallmarks of his production put into a surprising new focus, as a slick backing track for a live singer. Smith’s control of the groove is at its most slippery and organic, the bass line just a nudge, bumping and bubbling against the kicks, creating an eternally danceable tension between poised balance and stumble, while that characteristic snare slaps a liquid pulse into the rhythm. Just as importantly, L’Renee’s caramel vocals smoulder with a cool yet fervent sexuality that never jars or detracts from the instrumentation. It’s the singer’s supple delivery, combined with how mesmerizing it is woven into the beat that marks this track as being a milestone in the discography of one of Detroit’s most resplendent artists. (Gwyn Thomas de Chroustchoff)

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21. Blawan, “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage”
[Hinge Finger] (buy)

Short of Surgeon playing Whitehouse to an ambivalent Boiler Room audience, the resurgent UK techno scene didn’t get much grislier than Blawan’s “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage” in 2012. Introducing the newsprint-smeared, grimy His He She & She EP on Hinge Finger with captive subterranean screams is the first indication that Blawan’s take on techno will be as singular as the bare-knuckled UK garage of last year’s “Getting Me Down.” The syntactic tweak he splices into the titular Pras sample, turning a statement into a question, conjured end-times heaviness from the unsuspecting Fugees sample over a gravelly, pitted beat. It sounds oppressive on paper, but the track is anything but leaden. The hint of aestheticized abjection may call to mind to the Hieronymous Bosch visions of Ancient Methods or Regis’ single-minded beat downs, but there’s more than a little irresistible jacking between the cardboard thump of the bass drum, hi-hats that shape-shift into rattling chains, and an analog bass line that wobbles like hellish goo. (Brandon Bussolini)

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rubin  on December 17, 2012 at 12:20 PM

I was at boiler Room when Surgeon dropped Whitehouse and I can safely say that not a single person in that room was ‘ambivalent’ about it

yoyo  on December 17, 2012 at 4:15 PM

absolutely love Ike Release – phazzled and of course I’ve had the “why they hide their bodies in the garage” on my mind ever since the release.

littlewhiteearbuds  on December 17, 2012 at 10:34 PM

Just a note: we’ve edited the blurb for Olin’s “Finally” to reflect the fact that Steve Mizek didn’t “discover” Olin. Jason Garden had already released music for Wazi Wazi Music and Discovery Recordings.

Henderick AKA Thelonious Funk  on December 17, 2012 at 11:17 PM

I actually think the Innerspace Halflife track “Wind” was massive if you ask me…

Via hate  on January 2, 2013 at 12:33 PM

Did I just hear someone compare ‘Why the hid their bodies under my garage?’…… with Regis?


Olin, De Bus | Little White Earbuds  on July 29, 2013 at 12:33 PM

[…] particle] Last year, when his cut “Finally” appeared in our top tracks list, I asked, “What will Olin deliver in 2013?” Well, the man born Jason Garden certainly kept us […]

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