XLR8R's Best of 2017: Tracks - XLR8R

XLR8R's Best of 2017: Tracks

We present just some of our favorite tunes of the last 12 months.
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With our Best Releases of the year now out of the way, we move onto our best tracks.

Discussion and debate on this list started several weeks ago when an internal message posted the question: what are your favorite tracks of 2017? There was no shortage of submissions—ranging from downbeat and drum & bass to house and even a little bit of hip-hop. As explained last year, music taste music taste is a subjective matter; and what resonates with you at any given moment may not be the flavor of the month with friends, family—or, indeed, anyone else. It's simply not possible to please everyone. Nonetheless, the line has been drawn and below is a list of some of our favorite tracks from the past 12 months — those records that really stuck in our minds out of all those that crossed our paths. It's likely that some people will have heard of very few of these tracks; while some may even have heard of them all. Enjoy as you will.

Alessandro Cortini "Vincere" [The Point Of Departure Recording Company]

"Vincere" is the second single taken from Alessandro Cortini's latest album, AVANTI, released via The Point of Departure Recording Company. The album used an archive of home videos made by Cortini's grandfather as a starting point, fusing the release with romanticised memories. Undoubtedly the best example of this is "Vincere," an evocative piece of music built from poignant melodies and intricately textured atmospheres.

Hymns "Water Acid" [Salt Mines] 

For his long-awaited return to Salt Mines, Australian producer Hymns delivered a debut 12” of off-kilter rhythms and glistening pads. Opener "Water Acid" is an eerie amalgamation of aquatic electro and tense emotion—a particularly special cut.

Yaron Gershovsky "Disco Baby" Disco Baby (Floating Points & Red Greg Edit [Melodies International] 

The story behind this record is interesting. It's believed that Melodies members Floating Points and DJ Red Greg discovered some original '70s obscurities and described to create their own edits—turning them into modern-day dancefloor disco gems. Of these new recordings, they cut only five copies for themselves and a few DJ friends of theirs. One such cut was "You’re A Melody," one of 10 tracks off a record available to license for film, radio, television, and other media. It was first released in 1979 as a three-minute up-tempo library recording.

Due to popular demand, this rework eventually saw release via Melodies International—becoming the label's sixth release. It arrived as a 7-inch, with the original version and the edit on the flip. It is a true disco anthem.

Kilchhofer "Zahnen" [Marionette]

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Kilchhofer's "Zahnen" arrived on Acosta, a split EP with Hainbach. The five-minute cut is an example of deliciously arranged electronics, invoking feelings of "tribal house and ambient tropes," wrote Inverted Audio. It features subtle drums, brisk claps, and reverse-built strings that captivate the listener from the very start. A beautiful production.

Kamasi Washington "Truth" [Young Turks]

Kamasi Washington's "Truth," a 14-minute epic of stunning musicianship, is one of the most affecting tracks we heard this year—no doubt in part to the equally thought-provoking and touching video accompaniment directed by AG Rojas. The skipping, nimble percussion, swinging bass, and heart-tugging saxophone lines ebb and flow throughout, causing more than a few goosebump moments and deep introspection.

Subjoi "Love Shy" [Pulse Msc] 

Though Subjoi’s version of the Tuff Jam/Kristine Blond UKG classic has been circulating on the internet since 2016, it was only released as a 12” this October—after pushbacks that had fans getting restless. With over a million views, and plays at innumerable parties, I’ve spent many happy moments this year dancing, cycling, or walking to this tune. It’s got the warm kicks, cruising synths, and perfect sampling of the timeless vocal hook that make it a lo-fi house classic.

Equinoxx “Congo Get Slap (Mark Ernestus Remix)” [DDS]

The Basic Channel dub techno genius tackled Jamaica’s most exciting export for years on this peach of a collaboration. The original was already great, with its heavenly chords and leftfield dancehall rhythm, but Ernestus added his own synth touches and melodic samples to create something even more sublime.

Minor Science "Volumes" [Whities] 

It was a vintage year for Whities, and Minor Science’s spectacular Whities 012 sets a benchmark for the new wave of bass music emanating from Europe right now. Glistening synth features intricately decorate a pumping low end, coagulating into a dreamy, glitched-out haze.

Emo Kid "Futuristic Gqom" [Gqom Oh!]

The gqom (pronounced gome) sound has been greatly popularised beyond its Durban roots by the Gqom Oh! label out of the UK. Emo Kid’s Gqomtera EP, which came out this October, showcases the state of the genre a couple of years on from its initial travel outside its hometown, and "Futuristic Gqom" is a burning manifestation of ghetto-minded dance music-making. The tension and propulsion created by the drums and worrisome synths captivates dancers in a sort of thrusting stepping trance, and the way the drops create energy by going against expectation by actually breaking the track down is a masterful piece of dancefloor psychology.

DK/SK "Hammond Blue" [Melody As Truth]

Jonny Nash's Melody As Truth invited label companion Suzanne Kraft to get collaborative with Parisian producer D.K earlier this year. Recorded in the French capital at the start of the year, this six-track mini-LP is a serene excursion, of which "Hammong Blue" is the standout track. It's a masterclass in quality ambiance.

A Sagittariun “Vanishing Point” (Hypercolour)

In which cosmic techno and ambient wizard Nick Harris (a.k.a. A Sagittariun) fashioned his finest 1980s synth patches and went full-on John Carpenter/Stranger Things over a compelling and club tooled rhythm, with a dreamy break-laden dropdown to die for. How could that combination fail? It worked so well, you wondered why no one else had done it yet.

Mahalia "Sober" [live studio version]

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Out of Leicester in the UK, Mahalia is one of the batch of R&B singers exploding right now. She wrote "Sober" at just 18 after a breakup, and the original version has a throwback soulful beat by Maths Time Joy and Mahalia’s touching honest lyrics. It’s a hit. But it’s the live studio version on the YouTube channel COLORS that really lights up and makes it clear that Mahalia’s a true talent to follow. Check her fly all-red '90s outfit, her natural gestures, and just listen to her voice let go towards the end. A well-deserved three million views.

Keita Sano "Want" (Original Mix) [Paragram Records]

Keita Sano is part of Japan’s new wave of music producers. The Okayama resident has been weaving his way through house, techno and electronica releases displaying an affinity to old-school processes and vintage gear. His June EP on Paragram featured "Want," a dubbed out, reverberating, techno track. The beauty is in the simplicity.

Objekt "Theme From Q" [Objekt] 

There weren't many tracks this year that embodied a pure unbridled rave spirit like Objekt's "Theme From Q." With its earworm melody, sing-a-long vocal chops, and wall-shaking breakbeats, "Theme From Q" decimated every dancefloor it was played on—while sending dancers into hysteria in the process.

Kuniyuki "Acid Air" [Optimo Trax]

Originally released in Japan in 2015 on DJ Emma’s Nitelist Music as part of its Acid EP series, only a small handful of copies of this 12” made it to Europe. JD Twitch was lucky to score a copy and both tracks became firm favorites in his sets and much asked about. Twitch felt this music deserved a wider audience so was kindly granted permission to reissue it on Optimo Trax. Hiroshi Watanabe’s "Infinity Sign" is a hypno-ecstatic acid piano-tingling monolith; while A2, Kuniyuki’s "Acid Air" is a slow building organic percussive acid freak

PAINT "Beast Mode" [20/20 LDN]

PAINT—a new duo made up of Tsuruda and Huxley Anne—dropped Exodus back in August on 20/20 LDN. Filled with tense, hard-to-define grooves, Exodus looked to fight against both genre and gender constructs, "placing a man and a woman on equal footing within a technical environment where women are scarcely represented," as the duo explain. From the album, "Beast Mode" stood out for its haunting atmospheric intro and mind-bending rhythmic structures. The track's flow and groove are impeccable and with its bass-heavy beats, it's a sure-fire dancefloor weapon.

Joakim "Samurai" (Meditation Tunnel Remix) [Because Music] 

This is the first ever release from Meditation Tunnel, the new electronic music project from former The Rapture frontman, Luke Jenner. His rework of Joakim's "Samurai" is a slow-burner, and was inspired by a chance meeting in Joakim's Brooklyn studio after which they began working together on Luke's upcoming solo material. It landed in April as part of Joakim's Remixes EP.

Mori Ra "Stormy Weather" [Berceuse Heroique]

Japan's Masaki Morita's (better known as Mori Ra) "Stormy Weather" arrived in January as part of The Brasserie Heroique Edits Part 3. It's a stunning seven-minute piece of music, featuring high-pitched synth movements, saxophone, and a wealth of bizarre noises. It's both groovy and melodic at times, all the while being deeply cerebral. A quite special track that you just don't want to end.

S.A.M. "Out of Touch" [Delaphine]

S.A.M. (real name Samuel André Madsen) returned to his Delpahine imprint earlier this year with the 12” version of "Out Of Touch," a spacy, hypnotic track with plenty of groove. It landed ahead of the release of his debut album Dream State Of A Bellmaker as part of a hand-stamped vinyl EP alongside "Pour Aisha."

Gene On Earth "Pulse Mode" [Limousine Dream

"Pulse Mode" is the track from a tremendous EP. The release, featuring four playful minimal cuts from Berliner Gene Arthur, caused quite a stir: released in the twilight of the European summer, the first press sold out almost instantly, with some soon to be found exchanging hands for considerably more than the original asking fee. Several represses followed, yet demand remained high; it felt like everyone in these circles was on the lookout for a copy. It's hard to pick a standout track because they're all high quality—but "Pulse Mode," with its bendy chords and smooth vibe, is the pick of a very good bunch.

West Norwood Cassette Library “(Every Time You Touch Me) I Get Hype” [Sneaker Social Club] 

Bob Bhamra—or West Norwood Cassette Library—is a skilled producer and DJ whose excursions through hardcore breakbeats, twisted house and disco on his own WNCL and other labels have been some of the most thrilling releases to emerge from London in the last decade. "(Every Time You Touch Me) I Get Hype" from his Hardcore Librarianism was pure fire: a chopped up, new school hardcore piece with touches of classic hip-hop, magpie sample snippets and Sheffield bleep techno bass in its make up.

Daphni “Tin” [Jialong]

First surfacing on his Fabriclive 93 mix, and in embryonic form in his DJ sets, “Tin” was the tune that Dan Snaith’s been building up to for years, as his Caribou and Daphni monikers continue to coalesce. With its flying hats and swung 4/4 garage beat, “Tin” had the heft to move a dancefloor, yet its spine-shivering R&B vocal and transcendent synths had an emotional power which few other producers can get close to.

Luca Lozano, Mr. Ho " F.U.B.U." [Klasse Wrecks]

Klasse Wrecks label boss' Luca Lozano and Mr. Ho teamed up for the second in their Visions Of Rhythm series. The three-track release is full of deep-beat and minimal meltdowns, including the opener, which sound likes an inspired old-school '90s anthem.

Doublet "Mush" [Doublet]

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Giuseppe Tuccillo and Tomoki Tamura (a.k.a Doublet) have released a wealth of good music since they started collaborating back in in 2013, but "Mush" stands out from the crowd. It's a simple and uncomplicated piece of work, but the sultry chords and slinky grooves have made it a favorite among purveyors of this sound.

Deepchord & Fluxion Pres. Transformations "Accumulate Part 1" [Vibrant Music]

Accumulate is the first EP in a series of releases from DeepChord and Fluxion (together known as Transformations). The result is as good as you'd expect from these two producers; " Accumulate Pt.1" is a particularly brilliant slow-burning dub-techno roller.

Neo-Image "4B" (Dab Mix)

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Chad Thiessen's debut solo EP as Neo-Image was brilliant as a whole—but it was this beatless closer that really caught our attention. It's a slow-burning, Autechre-like trippy affair—pristinely produced for maximum hypnotic effect.

Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe "Heart of Sogguth" [Latency]

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Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe served up two mind-bending minimalist rhythm trips on his Kulthan EP for Paris-based Latency Recordings earlier this year. Opener "Magnamite" is ethereal and melancholic, but "Heart of Sogguth" is a spectacular, pulsating minimal monster.

Kllo "Virtue" [Ghostly International]

Kllo's debut album, Backwater, was released back in October via Ghostly International. On the album, the duo refined their shimmering version of synthpop with 12 floating cuts. The album's lead single, "Virtue," with its skittering UK garage-influenced beats, affecting melodies, and Chloe Kaul's soothing '90s-esque vocals, is a perfect example of why this Australian duo have risen to be Ghostly International's pop darlings.

DJ Nnamreg "Probably Too Far" [Melliflow]

The latest release of Binh (real name Germann Nguyen) —albeit under his DJ Nnamreg alias. Melliflow, the label of Vera and Alexandra, has enjoyed another good year after a breakout 2016, sharing a string of solid EPs—but the best was saved to last. Binh's four-track EP is one of the best in the label's discography, and "Probably Too Far" is just about as inspired a cut as we can remember in this field to be released over the course of the past 12 months

Shlømo & AWB "Blind" [Taapion]

Taapion Records dropped the third label compilation in 2017, this time featuring tracks from Bambounou, Shlomo & AWB, PVNV, Kas:st. The second of these, from two of the three label heads, is a dreamy, melodic techno track—a big room cut that's found its way into plenty of sets this year.

Shedbug "Aftermath" (Tuff City Kids Remix) [Flux Music] 

You may have heard Gerd Janson or Lauer (together known as Tuff City Kids) smashing this one out over the summer. It was a really tough choice between this and Shedbug’s more emotive original, but in the end, TCK’s rework took the spot. "Aftermath" is transformed into a '90s revival peak-time anthem: chunky breaks, a touch of acid, strings. Euphoric rave for the new generations.

Grand River "Flies" [Spazio Disponibile] 

Italian composer Aimee Portioli (a.k.a. Grand River) finds a new home on Donato Dozzy and Neel’s formidable Spazio Disponibile imprint. "Flies" from her stunning Crescente EP combines undulating modular textures, commonly found in this deeper region of Italian techno, with classical instrumentations that drift hauntingly in and out of the soundscape.

Kiasmos "Paused" [Erased Tapes] 

Ólafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen returned as Kiasmos with Blurred—the duo's first release since 2015's Looped. The title track itself is a beautiful, poignant musical journey; but the softer, more subtle "Paused" feels more honest—more sincere.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith "An Intention" [Western Vinyl]

There weren't many tracks released this year that were as achingly beautiful as "An Intention." Pulled from Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Kid, another of our favorite releases of the year, "An Intention" paired searing, cut-to-the-bone vocals with stunning synth work for one of the most emotionally charged four minutes you're likely to hear.

Etapp Kyle "Essay" [Klockworks]

Marking the label's 20th release, Ben Klock's Klockworks released a new compilation featuring new tracks from Etapp Kyle, Trevino, DVS1, Klock himself, and more names. Of them all, Etapp Kyle's "Essay"—a subtle and understated melodic techno roller—was particularly good.

Blawan "993" [Ternesc]

Blawan's Nutrition double EP landed earlier this year and featured "993," a grizzly techno track with a snarling bassline and sinister pads. As Mixmag said in their premiere, "it’s just the kind of track you want to find yourself sweating to in a dank basement in the early hours."

Cherushii “Milk of Paradise” [Sound Warrior]

One of two hugely affecting Cherushii cuts from the Warrior Loves compilation—the release pays homage to the fallen artist, one of the victims of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire—“Milk of Paradise” is a rich, deep-vibe gem, brimming with shimmering keys and warm bass. It’s a track that feels a comforting as a warm blanket on a cold night, with the kind of chord progression that can give you goosebumps—but its joy is tinged, inevitably, with the sorrow of a life cut short.

N1L "Hazy One" [UIQ]

Martin Rokis (a.k.a. N1L) released Ikea Zen on Lee Gamble's UIQ label, serving up six tracks of deviant, obtuse dance music that brings buckets of noise and abstract funk. "Hazy One" is a brilliant and highly memorable example.

Errorsmith ‎"Superlative Fatigue" [PAN]

Errorsmith returned in October with his first LP in thirteen years, and it’s a playful sophisticated show of where his particular flavour of angular synthetic dance music has come to. You can read XLR8R’s review of the album here. The title track is a supremely energetic and infectious culmination of Errorsmith’s explorations of global dance rhythms and sonic synthesis. It fits in all manner of peak time party moments and transcends genre limits into being a universally effective dance hit.

Dopplereffekt "Isotropy" [Leisure System]

Taken from one of our top albums of the year (Cellular Automata), 2017’s "Isotropy" ranks as arguably one of Dopplereffekt’s greatest tracks to date. Melancholic horn-like notes pierce through the stark emptiness, underpinned by bellowing synth counterpoint. With such scarce arrangement, its gravity and capaciousness seem all the more overbearing.

Octo Octa “Adrift” (Avalon Emerson Furiously Awake Version) [Honey Soundsystem]

Maya Bouldry-Morrison’s (a.k.a. Octo Octa) “Adrift,” with its pulsing synths and strummed chords, plays like a subdued mini-epic, a downcast pilgrimage down a dusty backroad. It’s a beautiful track in its own right, but when Avalon Emerson boosts the energy, heightens the tension and widens the scope with swoons, squelches and dynamic percussion, it’s transformed into something maximally magical.

Radio Slave "Screaming Hands" (Tuff City Kids Dreamscape Mix) [Rekids]

It was a big year for Matt “Radio Slave” Edwards, with the UK techno and house veteran finally releasing his debut LP, Feel the Same, after a lifetime spent in club music. One of the best tracks off that album was the elasticized belter “Screaming Hands”—but this remix from Gerd Janson and Phillip Lauer is even better. Gone is the original’s linear drive, replaced by a dreamy end-of-the-rave uplift that’s pretty damn irresistible.

Superpitcher “Brothers” [Hippie Dance]

There are gems galore within the avalanche of music that Aksel Schaufler (a.k.a. Superpitcher) let loose in 2017 as part of his sprawling Golden Ravedays series, and “Brothers” might be the most party-ready of the bunch. But the tune’s dreamland-disco strut and jubilant feel are marked by an ineffable feeling of melancholy—it’s as if the end of the party signifies the end of something within yourself. Like many of the series’ tracks, “Brothers” is a testament to Schaufler’s knack for adding layers of emotion into a deceptively simple song.

Bwana "On Patrol For Their Control" [17 Steps]

Bwana united his dual loves of vintage ‘90s electro and classic progressive trance with a three-track EP on Dusky’s 17 Steps label. "On Patrol For Their Control" is a euphoric breakbeat affair that's seen plenty of play time.
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Words from Ben Murphy, Dan Cole, Anton Lang, Bruce Tantum, Vince Morris, and XLR8R Staff.