In no particular order, the records that did it here in 2011.
1. Ill Blu – Meltdown EP
Launching in February of this year, out of the quirky and ever-reliable Numbers stable, 3 irresistibly stripped down, percussion-laden cuts. UK funky has always been a difficult genre to pin down, but this is a good starting point, as drunken synths rise and fall over clattering, multi-layered drums. If Carnival were a record …
2. Whistla – Darlings of the Tripstream
The future garage pioneer has been as prolific as ever this year, with a string of top notch remixes and originals. His blissful remix of 8th Note’s Alone was on heavy rotation on the Club Soda stereo for a long while, but nothing topped this single – two fascinating, intricately-crafted slices of electronica, landing somewhere between the Fall and Captain Beefheart with synths and drum machines.
3. Maximum Sound – Skateland Killer
It was a quiet year for big reggae records (or maybe I just wasn’t concentrating) but this record was a reminder of the best of classic early dancehall. 3 tracks interpret the riddim from Eek-a-Mouse’s masterpiece “Star, Daily News or Gleaner”, the outstanding cut being Captain Sinbad’s hands-in-the-air anthem ‘Worldwide Rebellion’.
4. Stavrogin – Reflections EP
This artist was a very late find of 2011 for us, but we’re glad we did. Following hot on the heels of Halves which we’ve only just got over, came the Reflections EP on B.YRSLF records, perhaps an even better record. It’s hard to know how to categorize Stavrogin’s music; it’s a bit too chilled for ‘future garage’ and ‘post-dubstep’ just sounds awkward. Essentially, it’s soul music. While chopped up vocal samples may have replaced real singers, the uplifting, soothing effect is remarkably similar. One to watch in 2012, no doubt.
Sully – Carrier LP
Keysound recordings released two massive albums in late 2011, this one and Damu’s Unity. Carrier edged it for us with 10 sublime tunes, none of which could be found wanting in any way. At times it sounds like the score to a 60s sci-fi movie until it goes all weird and ethereal and fucking beautiful in an instant. Side one is funky and joyous, with even a dub siren thrown in on Hearts for added grins. A slightly off-key piano glides through side 2, as things get darker. It’s difficult to place this on the hardcore continuum, there are even echoes of jungle and breakbeat on Trust, the whole thing is rooted in 90s rave but still very much a record of its time with juke, funky and 2-step getting more than a passing nod. The whole thing adds up to something distinctly mournful and poignant, yet it’s still a record for the dancefloor. Hard to beat.