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Will’s Underrated Dance/Electronic/Drone Records of 2012

By ; December 12, 2012 at 1:15 AM 

The way it usually works is we hit the reset button at the beginning of January and most of the under-the-radar releases in the year previous might as well not have existed. I wanted to put together a list of a few albums that didn’t make the site’s top 50 or Honorable Mentions list and maybe weren’t necessarily the talk of the town, but deserve a listen from anyone with a passing interest in techno, house, UK bass, weirdo hip-hop, ambient, and drone. I spent most of the year stepping from one alright techno and deep house LP to the next. I feel a little villainous in how little chance I gave some albums, deciding if it didn’t grab me on the first couple listens and if someone didn’t say “hey, no, you should really listen to this” then it wasn’t worth going any further with. Such is the dickish nature of music bloggers. Music is not a commodity, but there’s literally only so much time in a year. The albums below stuck with me, however, and they’re ones I think deserve remembering.


Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka

They!Live

[50 Weapons]

These guys turned enough heads with their cut, “Creeper,” to get signed to Modeselektor’s 50 Weapons imprint and They!Live follows suit in exploring the same hooky, gooey low-end, zero frills house music. Lot of moments of startling beauty here too.


Borealis

Voidness

[Origami Sound]

Canadian ambient techno guy, Jessie Somfay, returns three years after his last record, the excellent A Catch In The Voice, with a lengthy and gorgeous take on Burial-esque UK garage sounds infused with his own vision of unconscious, subaquatic ambient music. A million records have chased Untrue, but this one has much more of a purpose than simply recreating the same atmospheres and textures. Some incredible stuff on here.


Bvdub

All Is Forgiven

[n5MD]

I should probably pay more attention to Bvdub, this being his fourth record of 2012, but I’ve been in the habit of only checking out one of his a year, counting on him to keep putting out the same (good) straight-laced ambient techno-ish record over and over, but All Is Forgiven is a but of a departure, you might say. It’s probably a little bit hyperbolic to call this Clams Casino meets William Basinski, but that’s kinda what it sounds like at times. Cloud rap atmospherics (wha?) in a slowly disintegrating wall of ambiance. These three twenty-t0-thirty minute tracks pile on an ungodly amount of samples, creating beautiful skyscraper-sized compositions.


Dan HabarNam

From The Known

[Exit Records]

Romanian ambient/drum’n’bass producer, Dan HabarNam’s full-length solo debut on D-Bridge’s Exit Records. Dan HabarNam has been running with the Autonomic crew for a bit, but his debut marks him as somewhat of an outsider. From The Known has more in common with Vangelis synth wizardry and subaquatic funk than it does with the rest of the Exit Record signees, but the album contains some of the most engrossing and beautiful sounds I heard this year. It’s like a warm milky blanket.


Demdike Stare

Elemental

[Modern Love]

I’m mainly putting this one on here to remind people it came out. After Tryptych last year, it’s not hard to figure out why this didn’t earn as much attention, but it has its own sonic identity, delving more into industrial territories. And, really, no one can stir mood like Demdike Stare.


Greg Haines

Digressions

[Preservation]

Digressions is an album I’m going to be listening to well into 2013. It’s all ambient strings and piano pieces of such bombastic and prevalent beauty. A little more involved and ‘composed’ than something like Stars Of The Lid, but no less moving.


Phon.o

Black Boulder

[50 Weapons]

Another 50 Weapons release. This time from a German native reinventing himself with the sounds of house and UK garage with a touch of Berlin dub. This one has a lot of pop and club appeal, but it’s intricate and subtle enough to work well in the headphones.


Purl & Deflektion

Growing

[Dewtone]

This is one I hope I get around to reviewing in January. Such beautiful and listenable ambient techno. Kind of a mixture of Kranky-esque synth waves, Kompakt minimal techno, Boards of Canada melodies, and a bit of UK bass thrown in there for good measure. One of the best albums to fall asleep to (in a good way, obviously) I heard this year. The album sleeve is a perfect representation of the mood you’ll hear on Growing.


Raime

Quarter Turns Over a Living Line

[Blackest Ever Black]

Blackest Ever Black is right. This is some of the darkest most evil sounding stuff since, well, Demdike Stare’s 2010 album run probably. These guys build barbed industrial atmospheres with slowed BPMs and jagged synth, strings, and guitar textures. It has more in common with atmospheric doom metal than techno.


Silent Harbour

Silent Harbour

[Echocord]

Some fiercely atmospheric and abstract sub-aquatic computer dub from the man behind the ever reliable Comforce moniker. The rhythms on this one are especially delicious, never really rising above simple suggestion.


Silent Servant

Negative Fascination

[Hospital]

Silent Servant aka Jaun Mendez was a member of the now-defunct collective, Sandwell District, so if you’ve heard that name, you might know what you’re getting into here. Dark post-punk infused industrial techno, antique drums and all.


Supreme Cuts

Whispers In The Dark

[Dovecote]

One of 2012’s most secret successes. Supreme Cuts did a lot this year including a full free mixtape with rapper Haleek Maul. Whispers In The Dark is a heavily emotive take on ethereal beats and modern London sounds with huge melodies and beautiful point A-to-B-to-C song structures.


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