One word, or rather frequency, dominated the dancefloor over the last 12 months: bass. From slamming analogue house to pirate radio-inspired, lowdown, cone-rattling sub-suspended beats, it's what bodies could feel as well as ears could hear that set the tone this year. Here are our favourite tunes from 2012, selected for their dancefloor detonation and fearless flavour...
01. Todd Terje 'Inspector Norse' (Smalltown Supersound/Feedelity)
Released at the very beginning of 2012 (or was it really slightly earlier?) this tune by Norwegian DJ/producer Todd well-and-truly crossed the genre divides, played by DJs across the spectrum this year. Everyone from Darius Syrossian to Erol Alkan, the Numbers crew to Eric Prydz rinsed it, and with good reason. This digital disco caper was the most impossibly infectious, uplifting confection imaginable, a bleeping, blipping groove sounding like some 8-bit pixellated dancer leaping across neon clouds. Peaking in an orgasmic crescendo, this is the track you always wished Röyksopp would make and is still detonating floors all over now ― and the brilliant video helped spread the word, too...
02. wAFF 'Jo Johnson (Hot Creations)
From Ibiza to Leeds and everywhere else, this house bomb slayed floors with its simple-but-deadly ingredients. From the tom-tom drums of the intro, to the insistent, relentless bassline, it proved an instantly recognisable party-starting powder-keg for the likes of Hot Creations head Jamie Jones, who was caning it for over a year before finally unleashing it on his label. When the percussive bustle really got going, it created a kinetic wave of grooving, only intensified by the diva vox that enters halfway through. Marking a different, more jacked up direction for Jones' label, it's ultimately a great club groove. Even staunch techno advocate Sven Väth wasn't immune to its sunny house charms.
03. Julio Bashmore' Au Seve' (Boardwalk)
The Bristolian bad bwoy continued his run of form with this bona fide banger. His discography may be sparse, but when Julio unleashes a newie, you can be sure it's gonna be large. So 'Au Seve' proved ― a percussive, funkin' shuffle of lowslung, bassy house, metallic analogue bubbles percolating the snare-strewn groove. It was tunes like this that brought the bass underground and house/techno purists closer together than ever. But more than that, 'Au Seve' was, and is, just a TUNE.
04. Dusky 'Flo Jam' (Dogmatik)
Rude, raw and the sound of now, Dusky's 'Flo Jam' summed up that chrome alloy of styles that 2012 was all about. With the wiggle and flavour of pirate radio, the vibe of garage, the techno edges of the bassline and crispness of beat, and the after-hours haze of stripped-down house, 'Flo Jam' neatly condensed the elements into an evergreen jam that anybody could get down to. It was all about the bass and those slivers of R&B vox, though. And what other tune can you say that both Pete Tong and Loefah are (still) playing? The latter's signed 'em up for the first release on his new label too...
05. Blawan 'Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage' (Hingefinger)Not just Blawan's biggest track to date but the moment the new UK techno sound truly crystallised. It had all the elements in place ― the intricate, mechanical, slamming drums, like being shunted through a ball bearing factory, dodging whirring blades at every turn; deeply sinister synth lines, and of course, perhaps what made it (kind of) crossover: that very disquieting vocal of the title, which turned out to be a pitch-shifted sample of a very famous rap tune. Its strange, fresh sound was like a blast of invigoratingly icy air, pointing to a new direction for underground dance.
06. Jessie Ware 'Running (Disclosure Mix)' (PMR)
The Disclosure brothers were literally everywhere in 2012, finding that sweet spot between dubstep, house, R&B and pop that's become so popular. But this 4/4 garage tune was their first (future) classic, brilliantly harnessing Ware's vocal and recontextualising it from its original downtempo setting into a skipping, bumping beauty that sounded like a Matt 'Jam' Lamont selection from a '97 mixtape transmitted to 2012 via 3-D printer ― the same, yet somehow altered. Heard on the right dancefloors, satisfaction was guaranteed.
07. Joy O 'Ellipsis' (Hingefinger)
You know that feeling of shivers down your spine? A pleasurable tingle of excitement and awe that seeps through your head and your neck when an amazing tune drops? Think that sensation's long gone? It hasn't for the heads who flocked to this latest bomb from Joy Orbison, a wholehearted embrace of techno after the legendary 'Swims' alongside Boddika. From the warmth of the intro's pads, the sample of drum & bass heroes Source Direct talking about their art (“We just used to, like...” the ellipsis of the title), to the acid storm and jacking groove, to that unexpected burst of grand piano, like light through the shutters. Enough to render you speechless...
08. Andres 'New 4 U' (La Vida)
In which Moodymann's protege and long-standing Detroit player in his own right stepped out from the shadows of his mentor and minted a modern classic. Built from similar components to Pepe Bradock's 'Deep Burnt', 'New 4 U' soared on a pacy discoid analog bassline, lush Rhodes keys, but most of all, those majestic sampled strings, suspended on air, and thick with emotion and nostalgia. Andres skill at weaving together samples and beats learnt from years making house and hip-hop culminated in his best moment yet. The ultimate end-of-night tune, it's sure to be remembered as one of this year's finest, if not the decade's.
09. Drums of Death 'Let No Shadow Fall Upon You' (Civil Music)
The fearsome Drums Of Death (aka the more innocuous-sounding Colin Bailey) returned with the monstrous 'Blue Waves EP' in 2012, making good on the dastardly promise of his ghoulish voodoo make-up. The high point was this neo rave mammoth, a flashback to hardcore's sweetest euphoria, with its chattering breakbeat, big pianos and delirious diva before it dropped into a rough 4/4 bass driven techno chimera devouring all in its path. A dancefloor event, pandemonium was witnessed wherever this incendiary was dropped.
10. Krystal Klear 'We're Wrong' (All City)
'We're Wrong' sums up the current interest in the vintage, garage-inspiring house of MK, Kerri Chandler et al, trouncing all opposition with butter-smooth boogiefied bass, chopped vocals, deft drum patterns and of course a solid serving of piano to make a bouncy party starter that might have been made in '92, were the production not so crisp and on the money. It raised Manchester-based Irishman Krystal Klear's profile no end in 2012.
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