Late in the year we introduced RAMjams, our weekly compilation of underground, overlooked and otherwise strange and interesting electronic music you could have missed. There was so much great stuff this year that we're rounding up our favourites from the whole of 2013, focusing on the stuff likely to miss out on all the year-end listing.
Torn Hawk, “'96 Galant”
Luke Wyatt steers “'96 Galant” like one of his fantastic videos, splicing two propulsive and very different sections of VHS-tinted techno into one bootlegged gem.
Sage The Gemini feat. IAMSU, “Gas Pedal” (YAYAYI remix)
“Gas Pedal” was a smash, and perfect. So Tokyo bizarro YAYAYI poured radioactive goo over it and Frankenstein'd it with Sean Kingston's “Beat It.” Yes, it is possible to vibe to Chris Brown in 2013.
Visionist & Fatima Al Qadiri, “The Call”
Both artists brought grime to wild and weird new heights in 2013, and “The Call” was dark and lovely convergence of their sounds (and even a few patches, by the sounds of it) into a black marble shrine to their beloved sub-genre.
The Field, “Cupid's Head”
The first single from Axel Willner's incredible new album unleashes a rapturous flood from the jump, smirking at the artist's reputation for protracted songs by plunging into the emotional depths of a few sliced vocal samples with the help of his singular electronic hypnosis.
It wasn't easy choosing between “Curtains” and “Bring,” two A-sides from one dynamite single courtesy of Randomer. But the desperate, blurred morse codes tapped out for the duration helped push it ahead. Can't wait to see what the London producer has planned for next year, but it'll almost definitely trick us into thinking we can handle all-nighters.
The sounds of pirate radio came back in a big way this year, and Tessela's “Horizon” managed to combine a large swathe of them into a single bruising track.
Petra Glynt, “War Cry”
Of This Land rose like a proud and tall tree amongst the smoggy Toronto music scene. It seeks the parallels between the hypnotic rhythms in techno and shamanism, and channels them to provoke a political and ferocious stomp. “War Cry” is perhaps the most urgent track, and certainly a stand out.
Huerco S., “Prinzif”
Did Huerco S. diss Chart Attack on Twitter after we emailed him asking for an interview? The debate rages. But one thing that's clear is that arrogant shitstack or not, Brian Leeds' archived technobabble sound is as massive as it is imitable.
Doldrums feat. Guy Dallas, “She Is The Wave”
Airick Woodhead had a prolific year even outside of his album Lesser Evil, which did not disappoint in the slightest. With Guy Dallas (of solo work and Cellphone) in tow, “She Is The Wave” delivered all the techno-capital “M” Mania we were hoping for, plus stuff we couldn't have ever predicted.
Blondes were one of many acclaimed acts dropping albums with little or no notice this year, and if we're honest, we're blasting Swisher a lot louder and more frequently than The Next Day. “Elise” may be a bit too kind-hearted to ever kill any dance floor, but these days it's rare to hear house that doesn't confuse smarm for sweetness.
Darkstar, “A Day's Pay For A Day's Work” (Motor City Drum Ensemble remix)
The rollout of Darkstar's remix EP HD 7 was an unbroken string of successes. A great video, a flooring mix for The Fader, and remixes from Zomby's Cult Music and Motor City Drum Ensemble. Danilo Plessow gets the nod, though, thanks to his bold and unsettling four-on-the-floor we're only just starting to shake.
DJ Koze feat. Caribou, “Track ID Anyone?”
You're not supposed to articulate every idea you have, right? What's best about “Track ID Anyone” is that it brings a new perspective on the word “editing.” A voice flatly stating “We need to eat and we need to sleep and we need music” opens the track, and it proceeds to heap two skulls worth of brain vomit onto itself. All the restraint of demo no one was meant to hear, polished and structured by passion.
Daniel Avery, “Knowing We'll Be Here”
For those still hungering for another dose of Immunity-styled sad sack dance music, Daniel Avery offered an ample dose on Drone Theory's closing track.
Mssingno is one of the few who got R. Kelly homage right this year in the sampling of “I'm a Flirt.” He didn't wink at the listener, just offered a new spin, but twirled that shit till it was tumbling drunkenly around the club.
Imre Kiss, “Caeland”
Midnight Wave is one of our favourite Bandcamp discoveries of the year. The kind of shit you're actually glad you went on the internet for. “Caeland” is an ambient track emerging from a bomb shelter to a landscape decimated by acid, techno and hardcore. And it just drifts along, making itself indistinguishable from the smoke.
Slava, “Girl Like Me”
With DJ Rashad taking footwork around the world and to the top of year-end lists, it's no surprise that the music's scuffing up other sounds. “Girl Like Me” cribs the stuttering rim clicks and unquantized claps and sees what happens when they drive pleading house music. The results are pretty compelling.
Pete Swanson, “Grounds For Arrest”
With the unremitting disconcertion of noise and techno's thump, the former Yellow Swan sent us into a trance with this one. Or was it a seizure?
Special Request, “Soundboy Killer”
Soul Music is an exhausting listen, but entirely worth it, like running three miles for that distinct high. But you won't find a more rigorous attempt of bringing the sound and vibe of pirate radio into 2013. For an example of both these points, here's the pneumatic drill power of “Soundboy Killer.”
James Ferraro, “City Smells”
NYC HELL 3:00 AM is a beautiful monument to the digital life that soothes, but never cures, the alienation of living in a big city. With an exhausted voice like he's just hacked a pound of New York smog from his lungs, Ferraro creates a loping orchestra of disembowelled hip-hop.
Glimpse, “L Plates”
Perhaps the closest a techno track has ever come to reproducing the wails of fairly zen dinosaurs during earthquake tremors.
Dean Blunt, “Road 2 Redemption”
This year saw two excellent solo albums from Dean Blunt as well as the dissolution of his much-beloved project Hype Williams. He pretty much captures the rapture and sorrow he covered over the past 12 months on “Road 2 Redemption,” with its long and liturgical chords bouncing around whatever sacred place he’s set up for himself within the Internet.
DM Stith, “Braid of Voices” (Clark remix)
Feast/Beast is the first remix album I've listened all the way through twice, something I haven't done since that Linkin Park one. And I'm almost certain I'll like this one for longer. Clark's work on “Braid of Voices” saw the sun break luminously over a year where the dark and the disturbed flourished.
Paranoid, funky, and propulsive, like the Soul Train dancefloor just got all Telltale Heart.
PVT, “Vertigo” (Hype Williams remix)
Hype Williams gave the infuriating epidemic of jungle fever the side eye it deserves, with a surprisingly funky beat underneath samples of white women gushing over black men, pitched and garbled to accentuate the ludicrous levels of self-obliviousness.
The Haxan Cloak, “The Mirror Reflecting Part 2”
Enjoy this doom-goth drone while you can, because eventually a cheap facsimile of this will be soundtracking every big budget flick with the promise of violence.
Laurel Halo, “Ainnome”
Her turn for the dancier was not, thankfully, motivated by current electronic music trends, and Halo managed to bring the cerebral and personal turn of Quarantine into bashing techno beats.
Kingdom feat. Kelela, “Bank Head”
It was Fade To Mind's year thanks to a run of fantastic releases capped with Kelela's acclaimed Cut 4 Me. While they take off, take some time to revisit the label head's Vertical XL, notable for giving us our first whiff of Kelela's dreamy stream-of-consciousness pop vocals, as well as its chirpy and soulful hyper-positivity.
Jessy Lanza, “Fuck Diamond”
Hamilton's new ambassador for electronic music shone with Pull My Hair Back. “Fuck Diamond” commands us to its side like its butlers, and its sheer glittering charisma made it hard to resist. Lovely how something so blithe about wealth can still sound so rich.
Prince Nifty, “Naab (edit)”
Untold, “Sing A Love Song”
You have to wonder what dub music did to Untold, that he'd want to attack it so unrelentingly and with such vigour. But a good sledgehammering with a distorted campfire beat never hurt anyone.
Mind Dynamics, “Ecologo”
Soundcloud tags include “Dismantled Techno,” “Crumbling Rythms” and “Whatever1.” Maybe add “Hell Infomercial Soundtrack” and you've got it.