Ah, the yearly duty of looking back at the best reasons to have been alive last year is always a rare and thus even more joyous occasion for any paleontologist, historian or of course musicologist (-even Bartók, whose terrible modernity makes most classical music scientists shudder with disgust, hasn’t written anything new in a very long time-). And while dinosaurs remained extinct and history kept repeating itself, there has been quite some stimulating new music in 2013’s aether.
But what was 2013 anyway except some transient measuring device? Above all, I guess, it was a fast year, if not the fastest so far – and I really wonder how long we can continue to accelerate time until it has become unnecessary to get up in the morning because hey, it’s night again. (But that’s another story.) On a non-strictly-musical side, I think, it was coined by a rather appalling bipolarity: on the one hand I believe consciousness is really on the rise, which even in dnb could be witnessed as criticism (re-?)entered the game by at least addressing the problems we (and I mean the world) face: egoism, greed, exploitation, separateness, etc… Yet on the other hand the grip on the masses is stronger than ever, and even our former safe-haven of dnb is more and more becoming just another capitalist playground: set times of way under an hour depict the rising rule of quantity over quality (which accordingly can be witnessed in the sets themselves where flow and depth are being sacrificed on the altar of drops), let alone the ever growing mass of half-finished tunes released under the exclusive reign of money-grubbing labels. In short, when I’m stuck in an over-crowded club exposed to a shitty sound system with an overpriced and stale beer in my hand and the DJ forces me to endure the sixth double drop within two minutes and everybody is half my age and going bananas I wonder if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But I let myself go, and I’ve been spoiling enough Christmas dinners already with my apocalyptic notions, so no need to make this retrospective a look back in anger.
Musically I reckon we’re at the verge of something new. I honestly can’t recall a year with so much negativity and aggression in at least parts of the music, and although some of it may be done simply because it’s possible (the driving force behind most human undertakings I believe) and those evil mids have simply become widely available, it nevertheless reflects the general end time atmosphere that’s in the air. An end time atmosphere that –as I fear– has been felt with frightening regularity over the years, and will likely not resolve in any change of the system but merely in a shift of our approach towards it: Despite its intentions, when Deadlock –for me last year’s most promising step into a possible future of dnb– drops with the initially critical ‘Egoism’, what will prevent it from becoming a feast of selfishness instead of a sociopolitical rave-discourse? But I’m doing it again. I guess what I’m actually trying to get at is this: I know we all love music, and I’m sure that if we care we can prevent it from falling prey to the mainstreams’ greedy claws. Sure there’s bad out there, not just in music, and sometimes it’s even hard to see the few spots left untouched by this seemingly all-engulfing shadow. But what are the options? Where’s the master plan? And where does the hermit get his basses from? So let’s just continue to care or even care a bit more in the new year, and let’s try and remember how it was when we still had time for the things we love, and retake a bit of it. Then I’ve got no doubt on my mind 2014 will be the best year ever in the history of the whole multidimensional universe. Period.
Top Ten 2013:
Having fulfilled my inner urge for pessimism and pathos, we can finally move on to the Subsphere Best of 2013 selection. Though of an utterly random order, on top of the list there’s nevertheless the aforementioned Deadlock from Misanthrop’s Greed of Gain EP. There’s hardly any question as to its clarity, diversity and drive, and the bonus-message makes it a designated tune of the year. (An award we do not assign however.)
Misanthrop – Deadlock (Neosignal Recordings)
Where there’s Misanthrop there’s got to be Phace somewhere, and in this case the other German master is featured with his track Electronic Frontier from his Vitreous EP. Every time it was dropped I was involuntarily looking up, simply because it is so big.
Phace – Electronic Frontier (Neosignal Recordings)
Concluding the roundelay of Neosignal music there was Mefjus’ (who did some amazing things himself last year too) remix of Sequenz from their Raum & Zeit debut album, which truly is another sonic unbelievability from whatever angle you approach it.
Neosignal – Sequenz (Mefjus remix) (Division Recordings)
Though known throughout its whole production process through various cuts and NoisiLeaks and in its final stage even a bit too polished for my taste, Noisia’s collab with Evol Intent The Liquid still amounts to the very finest released in 2013. Truly makes one wonder when (and if) the dons will return to make the music we all actually want to hear from them…
Noisia & Evol Intent – The Liquid (Vision Recordings)
While not all of the variety of sounds displayed on his Gravitron EP was quite so compelling, Uproot with its thunderous bass, old schoolish breaks and pleasantly disturbing melody was probably Hybris’ best work so far.
Hybris – Uproot (Dispatch Recordings)
There’s no one exploring the depths quite like Xtrah: Smooth, even soft, yet with a massivety and drive to it that is utterly unparalleled. Apart from his Lost Time EP he released two singles last year, and it was in April that he delivered the masterful Shock Treatment. Words failed me when I tried to review it and words fail me now, so best hear for yourself!
Xtrah – Shock Treatment (SGN:Ltd)
Already awarded my designated newcomer of the year (alas, another award not really assigned), Double Helix has delivered nothing but forward thinking quality neurofunk up to now, and the massive Muffler sums up his résumé pretty well.
Double Helix – Muffler (Deep Field Audio)
The special award for bluntness goes to Fade and his springtime tune Guerilla Radio, a brute melange of unadulterated reese madness, pounding late 90ies drums and psychotic circus melodies. So even though the Ukranian sound smith would at times do well to spend another day fine-tuning his music, this über-massive track lives from literally being dirt becoming alive (as usual in the best possible sense).
Fade – Guerilla Radio (Grindhou5e Audio)
Venturing the world of sounds alone since 2013, Chris Octane has made some impressive contributions to dnb already with his musically wide and pleasantly borderless approach. Consciousness is another thing he seems to hold high, and if he continues to deliver tunes such as the fantastic Synthetics (from the initial single on his very own CoRe label) I don’t see any reason for 2014 not to become his year.
Chris Octane – Synthetics (Co Recordings)
We conclude the top ten with The Upbeats’ Beyond Reality from their Primitive Technique album, a super electrified transdimensional cutting edge piece of translucent ineffability (or so) as my adventurous self was forced to experience on various occasions.
The Upbeats – Beyond Reality (Vision Recordings)
Album of the Year 2013:
Coming to last year’s most outstanding album there can hardly be much debate, for no one has created something even remotely as beautiful, big, dramatic and transcending as German duo Rawtekk with their debut album Sprouted & Formed; and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it stand out next to Timeless, Inside the Machine or Psycho when history has rightfully drowned all that epigonic mainstream shite in those crimson sands of time.
Rawtekk – Sprouted & Formed (Med School Records)
Funky 2014 everyone!
And if you want to read next years’ best of too I recommend you subscribe to the utterly minimalistic and completely non-spamming Subsphere newsletter: http://bit.ly/SubsphereNewsletter
Want more arbitrary Best-of-lists? Check out the Subsphere Best of 2012!