Low End Lowlife: 12 x 12s of 2012

Our resident Low Life chooses his favourite bass-based tracks of 2012

Posted on Jan 9th, 2013 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Low End Lowlife: 12 x 12s of 2012 Much changed in the world in the past 12 months, and more or less all of it for the worse: We lost a second third of the Bee Gees (stay strong brother Barry). We lost a great man and truly original (if not technically brilliant) emcee in MCA (one third of the Beastie Boys). We found out a popular DJ, also deceased, was apparently rather fond of beasting boys. Dubstep or EDM or EDL or something or other stormed the mainstream charts (we're still waiting to hear back from NASA on how many "dubstep" remixes were commissioned last year) and good ole' Tulisa of N Dubz fame released her debut album The Female Boss which managed to pull off the unbelievable one two combo of simultaneously scoring her a chart number 1 with 'Young' and proving that there is something she is worse at than fellatio. No disrespect intended love but on "boss" terms you'll never be half the man Bruce Springsteen is.... Now I was never down with all this Mayan calendar bullshit but it's a fair cop to say if the world had suddenly ended it might not have been such a shame.

But let's leave all the negativity and celebrate some positive: because whilst Tulisa's standing with the nation (inexplicably) rose faster than the allegations being thrown at Jimmy there were mountains of marvellous music to be found, a lot of which may have been forgotten in all the hype. So in the spirit of apocalypse and some other tenuous 2012 links here's twelve 12's (singles & EP's only) from 2012 you should definitely have checked out:

1. Beneath - Illusions EP (Keysound Recordings)

And yes with the opening record I spoil my tenuous system, because this EP is technically two 12's (not Technics) and almost an LP in length, however it's that good I don't care. Keysound had a wonderful year all round; from the mind boggling expanses of LHF's 'Keeper's Of The Light' through the enticingly unclassifiable "wot u call it" of the Logos EP to Dusk & Blackdown's own 'Dasaflex', which more or less decanted the spirit of every music from the margins. This list could quite easily be about 50% Keysound, but if I'm only drawing for one release per label 'Illusions' is the horse I'm backing. Taking a template of swung, funky calibrated drum patterns, Beneath, a man who has been very low key since he first appeared on his own label a while back, dragged them through the murk and sub frequencies more commonly associated with the darker styles to create a batch of dense, paranoid rollers that didn't really sound like anything else. If Scratcha's 'Pretty Ugly', a wonderfully multi coloured, eccentric take on funky for Hyperdub was the Dr Jekyll leftfield release of the year then Beneath's brooding style played the perfect Mr Hyde.

2. Bruh Jackman / Juno Sutton & MTD / Jabru - 'Of The Sun / Syzygy / Induction' (Paradise Club Recordings)

A lovely little label that first started making noise in late summer this year, PCR opened not with a bang in the face so much as a soft velvet bag pulled slowly over the eyes. On the A-side Bruh Jackman (aka Jabru & Hackman) brought 'Of The Sun'; a beautifully warm piece that throbbed on smokey vocal samples and the most infectious of gentle house grooves and literally hasn't left my head since. On the flip came Juno Sutton & MTD's 'Syzygy', a slightly headier groove of a piece that took the "church of house music" theory a step further by bringing in a gospel choir. There was also the vinyl only 'Induction', a little meditation on sound courtesy of Jabru. Put all of this on hand-stamped, white vinyl and put it in an excellently designed outer sleeve and you've got a little label well worth keeping an ear (and eye) on in 2013.

3. Mia Dora - Romanticise EP (High Sheen)

A label out of Glasgow that dropped a few gems this year (including a ridiculously fun Dam Mantle edit) High Sheen certainly stuck to their namesake on Mia Dora's (pictured) Romanticise EP. Certainly one of the best pieces of artwork of the year (check it here) but it would all have been irrelevant if the tunes inside weren't as interesting. Luckily they were. Opener 'Hypnotise' was rather well suited to its title, as it submerged you with thick bass over 8 minutes of swelling techno / housey whatever, 'Freckles' was an off kilter gem of percussive marvel, all hand claps and chimes, whilst 'Invisible Man' came with a warmer, more subtle groove. The real treat for me though was 'Random Romantics', which took some main room house magic and sprinkled in some shuffled, percussive fidget not a world away from the garage sound to create a strange throwback vibe and one of my favourite tracks of the year. Make time to look into High Sheen if you haven't already, as they prove there’s more to Scotland than a barren sense of despair and deep fried dinners.

4. Guido 'Flow / Africa' 12" (State Of Joy)

A Bristol producer who I feel never quite gets the credit he deserves for a sound so unique, 2012 saw Punch Drunk alumni Guido open up his State Of Joy imprint and it was their second release that caught my ear most. A-side 'Flow' featuring vocals from Jay Wilcox was nice, particularly the switch at the end of the track from emceeing to singing, but it was all about the two instrumentals on the 'B' really. Stripped of vocals 'Flow' was allowed to breath that little bit more, showing off Guido's deft touch with cinematic grandeur better than he has ever done before. Too many people throw the word "epic" about unnecessarily these days but no track this year had quite the same grandiose sense of scale (and orchestral strings) as 'Flow' did. Alongside this was 'Africa', which opened on staggered percussion and tribal conga rhythms before some gloriously rich, colourful synths brought it straight back to the West Country, making 'State Of Joy' an all too accurate label name.

5. Submerse - Tears EP (Project: Mooncircle)

Another label that had an all round spiffing year was Berlin residents Project: Mooncircle. As well as numerous 12's from the excellent "Faces" series they also released a pair of absolutely spellbinding LP's with Dread Of An Unknown Evil by Brooklyn based producer KRTS (who will be contributing to our mix series later this year) and the Kidkanevil / Daisuke Tanabe collaboration 'Kidsuke' which I can only describe as the sort of beats pandas make love to. They also found time to beautifully repackage and re-release 'The Branches' by Long Arm and drop an expansive 10th anniversary 4LP set. I suggest, much like Keysound, you check everything they've done this year, but if we must pick a single 12" we're going with the Tears EP by Submerse. It's a bright, airy affair for the most part, full of blissful, chiming beats in the vein of acts like Teebs, and a far cry from his more paranoid garage inflected productions such as 'Hold It Down'. The standouts are many, but the intricate percussive rolls and pitch bent vocal of 'Tears' sat atop warm, surging bass is the cut I’ve gone back to the most.

6. Commodo & Lurka 'Capische / Glue Sniff Riddim' 12" (Black Box)

Black Box had an amazing year all round too, particularly when considering out of all the labels on this list theirs has arguably the narrowest field of focus. Dealing almost exclusively with the heavier, 140bpm style (which, a bit frighteningly I'm increasing calling "the old-school dubstep sound") they outdid themselves in still managing to find not just quality, but interesting and varied takes on the sound. The premiere example of this was most probably the team up of Commodo (who I drunkenly accosted in a Sheffield pub earlier this year) and Lurka, who produced the eccentric, mashed out 50's gangster movie pastiche of 'Capisce?' backed with the shearing scuzz of 'Glue Sniff Riddim'. I'm sure somewhere on an identikit, UKF mid-range, squealing YouTube video there were people posting comments about "absolutely dutty vibes" but you could actually almost feel 'Glue Sniff' sullying your speakers.

7. Chris. E. Pants 'Doggystyle / Pass It Around' 12" (Sleazetone Records)

Quite easily the most fun record it was humanly possible to own in 2012. Produced by a man named Chris. E. Pants (better known to you and I as Chrissy Murderbot) with a track titled 'Doggystyle' on a label called Sleazetone, the tone was pretty much set before you played it. 'Doggystyle' was the slow grower of the two tracks. Featuring pinging electronic effects and an almost endlessly looped sample of "I wanna hit it Doggystyle" sat on wonderfully mucky slap bass. Just when you thought it couldn't get any sleazier some rude brass got thrown in for good measure. Perfect for slithering round a cocktail lounge spilling Martinis on oil barren's daughters. 'Pass It Around' however was the real joy. Crude samples, disco divas, squealing saxophones and the most addictively fat bottomed bass groove imaginable. It had all the class of a prawn cocktail in a Yarmouth social club. Definitely the best disco edit I found all year.

8. Yves St Laur'ant - Beards EP (Whiskey Disco)

Not going to lie here, this one made the list before I'd even bothered spinning it. It's on a label run by Sleazy McQueen called Whiskey Disco (who previously released a disco edit for an anti-Vietnam Creedence Clearwater track) the EP is called Beards, the lovely artwork involves beards and it's disco music. Buy everything this label put out last year. That will be all.

9. River & Phoenix - Castle Rock EP (Editainment)

Yes, more disco edits, but much like truly honourable friends and Soreen malt loaf it's impossible to have to many... Besides these ones are a bit housey. If you are unfamiliar with the Editainment label it is really quite simple: (assumedly) two producers pick comedy duo alias (other handles have included Tiger & Woods, Pop & Eye and Cleo & Patra) and proceed to make purist disco edits out of anything they see fit. This EP had a fittingly throwback vibe, from 'I Wish I Was Hughes' booming bass loop, acid-esque 303's and sample of The Cure to the mild eastern inflection of 'Bold Hunters' New Musik sample, this one had the 80's smeared all down its shoulder-padded jacket. The true genius though was 'Try Not To Lose It' which took key elements from Joy Division's 'She's Lost Control' and turned it into a sad eyed, booming and bleak house anthem... If you've never been for a night out in Chelmsford this tune is pretty much the same feeling.

10. Deech - Urnite EP (Activia Benz)

Activia Benz, a label run by Slugabed and visual artist Jake Slee, and possibly named after a luxury car brand and a pro-biotic yoghurt, leapt in to action in December 2012 with a mad little release from Belarus born Deech. Title track 'Ur Nite' took a footwork-ish aesthetic in its vocal sample and percussion and complimented it with some screwed synths and general eccentricity whilst the Slugabed helmed remix took things on a slightly lighter, bouncier ride accompanied by standard amounts (i.e quite a few) of Sluga's plinky plonk electrical hiccups. It also had lots of slap bass. 'Beach & Vine' applied high speed clicking percussion to yet more day-glo synths to create some warped interpretation of a "poolside" track whilst 'Windwave' came through with a slightly chunkier, Skwee style sound. Ridiculous in the best way and a definite tip for fans of labels like Harmonia or Donky Pitch.

11. The Range 'disk' 12" (Donky Pitch)

Speaking of Donky Pitch they had a marvellous year too, with some wonderfully mad "wot u call it" genre'd gems from folk like Keyboard Kid 206 and Arp 101. The real pearl for me however was 'disk' by The Range. Again in a strange sonic territory unlike most others it managed to be blissfully relaxed whilst hammering frantic percussion ('My DB Limit') melodically hooky ('Nothing Left') had moments of bizarre mounting tension ('No Lie') and shed loads of cowbells ('Tonight'). Much like all of Donky Pitch's work it doesn't matter what it is. It's freakishly lovely... Not unlike Joe Swash. Oh Joe.

12. Romare - Meditations On Afrocentrism (Black Acre)

Another label that didn't drop the ball once in 2012, Black Acre should again be investigated in-depth immediately. Fantastic Mr Fox had some ridiculously good releases (don't call it a comeback etc) Blue Daisy (who we drunkenly accosted at Outlook Festival in September) and Unknown Shapes made one of the most atmospheric EP's we heard all year, Dark Sky dropped a smashing double EP and there were rookie releases aplenty to make seasoned producers shit their systems. The peach of the lot, however, was Romare's 'Meditations On Afrocentrism' which nearly made us weep into our facial hair it was so beautiful. A fusing of old blues samples, swinging funky rhythms, scat vocals, footwork percussion and that rarest of things in electronic music; an actual sense of feeling, it was marvellous. If I had an office it would have been on constant rotation in it… As it stands it spent most of 2012 on constant rotation in my mother's spare bedroom. Absolutely amazing (the record, not the accommodation).

Anyway that was 2012. Tulisa notwithstanding a bit of a banger all round. Ignore these artists and label at your peril Beards!

Also, just to clarify this article was more for things I personally felt didn't get the hype they deserved and not just my favourite 2012 releases, hence the absence of excellently curated labels such as Hyperdub, Deep Medi, Swamp81 and Night Slugs. They all had amazing form, but they also got far more coverage than some of the smaller boutique players on this list.