Like most of the UIC Radio DJs and music lovers in general, I’ve been compiling my end of year lists. Because my interest is mainly in electronic and dance music, I’ve decided to focus my list on the best tracks of 2017. The past year has been huge for electronic music. Techno continued it’s current wave of popularity, with new voices both refining and warping the genre into new directions. Lo-Fi house died and then came back, club music got deconstructed and rebuilt into a noisy mess, and push for more representation from female, queer, and POC DJ’s helped bring new voices to the table. Here’s what I took away as the best of the year:
10. DJ Boring-Goodbye Michael
This little wonder of a remix is only number 10 because it’s technically a release from the the late hours of 2016. Created in the wake of George Michael’s passing last December, DJ Boring takes the late singer-songwriter’s 2003 track “Amazing” and downgrades it for the lo-fi house generation. The result is a remix that improves upon its source materiel by letting Michael’s melodic genius shine through the distorted bass and tape hiss.
9. Zenker Brothers-Monoptahras
Munich-based label Illian Tape specializes is a particular kind of techno. The kind that focuses more on broken beats and shuffling breaks than the industrial aesthetic normal associated with German techno. Label bosses Dario and Marcus consistently drop excellent tracks both solo and as a duo. This one is somewhat Burial esque but once the breaks get started it takes on an ethereal/trancey vibe that’s undeniably fun.
8. Ninos Du Brasil-Animals Soar O Alarme
Ninos Du Brazil, a techno/tribal band from the Italy (not sure if I should call this cultural appropriation) delivered one of my favorite albums of the year with Vida Eterna. However there standout track to me is this recent release on The Bunker New York. Imagine Olodum percussion playing inside of the main floor of Berghain.
NON-Collective member Nkisi may be themost traditional of the groups roster. But she adds a unique and aggressive flair that most techno producers wouldn’t imagine ever attempting. Hard hitting percussion and deconstructed club sound effects are here but without ever losing the rhythm like most tracks in said genre will do. This is exciting techno.
6. Ricardo Villalobos-Widodo
The master of minimal (and my personal techno man crush) dropped his first full LP in 5 years on romanian label a:rapi:a back in May. What we got were 4 long and winding tracks that saw him coming closer to the Romanian sound than ever. Opening track Widodo could almost be classified as a remix or an edit as the track seems to be built entirely around a long jazz sample. Everything you’d expect from Ricky V is here but under the typical Villalobos percussion and high end noises lays a intricate rapid-fire bass line that becomes as dizzying as it exciting.
5. Skeemask-Palo Alto
Illian Tape superstar Skeemask dropped 2 grade A EP’s this year. Most Illian Tape artists do broken beat techno, but few are as consistently great as Skeemask. Palo Alto, the second track on the 2012 EP, best exemplifies what’s so great about his work. This track doesn’t groove, it churns. It sounds like being steamrolled by a wall of percussion but it still manages to make you move.
4. Varg-Red Line II (127 Sätra C) with Yung Lean
I highly doubt you’ll ever here this one on the dance floor, but Red Line II is one of the most memorable collaborations of the year. Techno/Ambient producer Varg teams up with OG Sadboy Yung Lean for a track that manages to tie together auto-tuned rapping with ethereal techno beats, and the result is sadboys gone raving.
3. Or:La-Kyoto Dance
I have no clue why UK Techno producer Or:la choose to title this track “Kyoto Dance” when nothing about this is particularly Japanese sounding. None of this matters though, cause the steel percussion solo that runs throughout the track is endearing and fun as hell.
2. Tzu-Sing-日出東方 唯我不敗
One of the great thing about the current wave of techno is the crop of new producers who are expanding the notion of what techno is supposed to sound like. Tzu-Sing, the Chinese/Malaysian producer mixes heavy EBM with eastern instrumentation in their track. It’s hard and aggressive like you expect from good techno, but nothing’s sounded quiet like before.
1. Floorplan-Made Up In My Mind
Back in spring Father-Daughter duo (Robert and Lyric Hood) Floorplan dropped what is hands down the most ecstatic track to hit dance floors this year. This is a gpospel techno banger for the ages. The kind of track that never fails to make people lose their minds. I’ve heard it dropped at SmartBarby the likes of Derrick Carter and Robert Hood himself. Whether or not you can relate to the tracks message of Christian salvation, by the time the organ stabs come in you’ll be feeling the spirit.