Best music of 2010 part 2 / 10 best albums.
At times, some things just come together. Oneman first got noticed mixing old UK garage with the very best of modern dubstep; now more than any other DJ he collects all that's best of the various permutations of UK bass music and fuses them together with absolutely impeccable turntable, or more accurately Serato skills. While his compilation for the Rinse series doesn't quite capture the true essence of his show on the station, not that it ever could without the dulcet tones of Asbo being present, it's the best summation of all that was evolving in the scene this year.
9. VA - Fabriclive 50 - dBridge and Instra:mental present Autonomic
With drum and bass for the most part continuing its increasingly depressing journey up its own arse, the likes of even the formerly reliable Hospital Records releasing the most common denominator electro-influenced trash, Fabric handing over their landmark 50th "live" release to dBridge and Instra:mental's sparse yet often hauntingly evocative 170bpm Autonomic movement was as welcome as it was potentially a risk. Any doubts over whether or not it properly works either in a club setting or as a 70-minute mix without the influences it sits alongside on the Autonomic podcasts are dispelled almost as soon as the magisterial Seems Like by Riya begins floating from the speakers, and it only gets better from there on in.
8. DJ Nate - Da Trak Genious
In a year in which juke and footwork inspired and influenced UK bass music's biggest stars, Planet Mu went and collected together the tracks from some of the scene's stalwarts, putting out albums from Nate and DJ Roc as well as curating the Bangs and Works compilation. Juke/footwork is certainly an acquired taste: its repetitive nature, even by the standards of dance music, is always going to leave some cold, as will the often jarring or occasionally vulgar samples used. At its best it comes close to hypnotic and enveloping, something that this collection of Nate's productions achieves repeatedly.
7. Actress - Splazh
Pigeon-holing Actress, aka Darren Cunningham, is an almost impossible task. He's featured twice on the Autonomic comp listed above, yet techno more than anything is the bind for this entire album, alongside the sub-bass pushes which permeate many of the tracks. Also high on the list of the influences is late 70s disco and 80s funk, as featured previously on the 12"s released under the Thriller pseudonym. To quote from Todd L. Burn's Resident Advisor review, Splazh isn't so much post-dubstep as some have labelled it, it's more post-everything. In a field that is incredibly diverse, Actress is still out there all but on his own.
6. Clubroot - II
Comparing Clubroot with Burial is close to being considered de rigueur, so there's no reason to alter that here. The key difference is that where Burial came from garage with jungle influences, Clubroot first produced Ed Rush and Optical style drum and bass before falling in love with dubstep. What both share is their ability to capture emotions through little more than beats and short vocal samples: their music can be just as mournful and downbeat as it can cathartic. Dan Richmond's second album continues where his first left off, revealing something new on every successive listen.
5. Guido - Anidea
Dubstep as a movement may have come straight out of Croydon, yet there's also been a separate section running in Bristol, another musical city, for almost as long. Alongside Joker and Gemmy, those other adherents of the riff and melody heavy variant dubbed "purple", Guido has been the first to put an album's worth of material together, and it ranks up there with the very best of the year. Mad Sax alone is worthy of the plaudits the whole has received, a track so beautifully simple in execution yet so multiply layered as to continue surprising time and again, while Beautiful Complication featuring Aarya is the kind of song that with the right promotion could surely hit the charts. That seems to be the last thing on Guido's mind, to his credit and to the wider listening public's loss.
4. Digital Mystikz (Mala) - Return II Space
Few releases were as anticipated this year as this triple pack from the legendary Mala. If as Martin Clark thinks there isn't much mileage left in dark 140bpm halfstep beats, then there's also no one else really left making '06 style dubstep other than Mala, one of the very few people to have had such a major hand in the popularisation of the genre. Finally pressed to wax were the incredible Mountain Dread March and Eyez, the former of which just keeps building and building and building, while the latter's drop has to rank among the most teasing of any tune. In terms of pure scene impact, nothing else has even come close.
3. Ikonika - Contact, Love, Want, Have
Nominated for the Guardian's first album prize, Contact, Love Want, Have is by far the most cohesive ostensibly dubstep album of the year. In truth Ikonika no longer herself thinks that she's a part of the genre, and now is mainly playing at 130 rather than 140, yet her eye for melody is the same regardless of the tempo of the music. Her crushed, 8-bit inspired sound comes into its own throughout, especially on the wonderful Idiot, while the puzzlingly named Psoriasis is impossible not to love for its neon, rhythmic groove, before Look (Final Boss Stage) once again fuses the two key elements of her music together in inimitable fashion.
2. These New Puritans - Hidden
You'll have noticed this is the only even slightly "indie" release on this entire inane list. The key reasons for why is that the only even semi-decent indie rock now seems to be coming out of America, in the form of the National and No Age to name but two, and also because simply nothing else this year has sounded even slightly like Hidden. That's also doubtless its problem, as reviewers and those commenting have pointed out: you can admire it, but not necessarily love it and keep coming back to it. Even if you can't take the whole to your heart, We Want War and Attack Music are pure statements of intent, as thrilling, punishing and powerful as any music of the past decade.
1. Scuba - Triangulation
While Ikonika's album might work best as a whole, Paul Rose's Triangulation is the summation of 2010 in bass music terms. From the clicks and pops of the intro to Latch, the vocal samples spread throughout the stepping push of Three Sided Shape, the woodblock hits of Tracers to the breakdown of So You Think You're Special, nothing else has had the same clinical hit or the sheer ruthless production skills behind it. Whatever 2011 brings, Triangulation will be incredibly difficult to outdo.