One of 2011′s defining trends was the emergence of the 100% Silk brand of dance music: pastel-painted house, disco and acid tracks that looked to recapture the late ’80s and ’90s with minimum production sheen – dance music that’s about moments before it is mixdowns. Ital’s ‘Culture Clubs’ captured that aesthetic like none other, with golden washes of buttery synths coating spider-dance drums and a healthy amount of well-timed dissonance.
‘Natalia’s Song’ was made several years ago – Hyperdub boss Kode9, in fact, charted it for a FACT end of year feature back in 2008 – and first became exposed to the wider world in late 2010, when Kode9 and Burial included it in their guest mix for Mary Anne Hobbs’ last show on Radio 1. This year, 4AD granted the track a full release on a one-sided 10″, its cotton bud trance synths and Russian vocal (sampled from Irina Dubtzova, the winner of reality show Star Factory who promptly kicked off – and apparently still thinks there’s a ton of money in this sort of thing) making for perhaps Zomby’s finest moment yet.
08: AZEALIA BANKS
’212′ may have been the moment that got Azealia Banks signed to a major, but the Harlem rapper’s far from a one track pony; she’s since worked with producers like Machinedrum and Lunice on material that’s just as strong. Even if Banks was a flash in the pan though, what a track to be known for: a tribute to oral sex that’s club-ready from the first note (the instrumental is Lazy Jay’s ‘Float my Boat’), complete with gratuitous swearing and one of the year’s most stylish videos.
The most atmospheric, emotive and dynamic drum’n'bass track of the year, and an instant classic – wrought out of fierce, fanatically detailed drum programming, ghost-traces of This Mortal Coil’s ‘Song To The Siren’ and impeccably timed, gut-skewering bass stabs.
06: JOHN MAUS
(UPSET THE RHYTHM)
Fifty seconds into hearing ‘Quantum Leap’ for the very first time, we knew it would figure in our top 10 tracks of the year. It’s that infectious, that immediate; its ’80s pastiching entirely subordinate to its successful pursuit of soaring pop perfection.
‘WOOOO RIDDIM’ / DJ Q REMIX
Yes, ‘Woooo’ – the most moreish, deliciously simple grime instrumental released in the last three or four years – came out digitally last year, but it wasn’t pressed onto a physical format until January 2011, and we’re including this release just as much on the strength of the original as we are DJ Q’s yearning, synth-coated remix.
04: FRANK OCEAN
(from NOSTALGIA, ULTRA. SELF-RELEASED)
Aided by swelling production from The-Dream’s right hand man Tricky Stewart, crooner of the moment Frank Ocean created an instant anthem in ‘Novacane’, his sense of humour and hip-hop way with storytelling making many of his contemporaries look witless and heartless by comparison.
Nothing was done by halves on Glass Swords, the unapologetically maximal debut album by Glasgow’s Rustie, and that was never more true than on ‘Ultra Thizz’, the single that preceded its release and the most glorious mess of combusting colour that we heard anywhere in 2011.
While the majority of native producers were content to continue gutlessly ripping off Joy Orbison and Burial – with ever-diminishing returns – Mosca was busy summoning the spirit of spruce, street-tough ’90s speed garage and bassline house for the mighty ‘Bax’ and ‘Done Me Wrong’, a single deserving of the double A-side tag if ever there was one. Suave as you like, but outrageously rude with it, it blew up any dancefloor it came near, and reminded us why we fell in love with UK club music in the first place.
01: TYLER, THE CREATOR
Unfortunately Goblin, the second album by Odd Future ringleader Tyler, was a disappointment: it was rarely as hungry or cutting as last year’s Bastard, and frequently descended into the worst kind of lazy cliches. It probably didn’t help that the record he released before it was the best single of the year: a growling piece of burnt-eyed hip-hop that, with touches of RZA and Gravediggaz to both its vocal and its production, proved that Odd Future still could fulfil their promise as the 21th century’s Wu Tang. Even better: it was accompanied by 2011′s best music video, released at a time when were close to forgetting that the medium even existed.