Whether it arrived in recognizable shapes or abstract forms, house and techno continued to innovate this year. Scott Wilson selects 2017’s best tracks from across both genres.
From the Jeremy Underground hotel fiasco to Giegling founder Konstantin saying that women are “worse at DJing than men”, you’d be forgiven for thinking that 2017 was the year that house and techno’s core values of inclusivity and community were finally consumed by history.
Looking beyond these controversies however, there was lots to be positive about. In Hamburg, the much-loved Golden Pudel club reopened after almost being destroyed by fire; in New York, the 91-year-old “no dancing” cabaret law was repealed; and in Detroit, veteran producer K-Hand was named “first lady of Detroit” by the city council. House and techno may be a multi-million dollar international business, but the year’s most heartwarming stories proved that local scenes are still thriving.
2017 was just as exciting and innovative for music as last year too. While artists like Bicep, Shanti Celeste and Objekt mined the past for inspiration, they did it in a way that sounded fresh. Meanwhile, Dale Cornish, PTU and Ploy were just some of the artists making music that didn’t sound like anything else at all. In fact, there was so much good music this year that reducing it down to the 20 tracks below was more difficult a task than it’s been in years.
Bicep turned progressive house influences into solid gold on their debut album and ‘Glue’ was the highlight, an emotive end-of-night track with its heart on its sleeve.
Toronto artist Cindy Li delivered one of the year’s strongest debuts. ‘Rain Dance’ is the highlight, an expert blend of moody deep house, icy electro and propulsive techno influences that marks her out as a one to watch in 2018.
‘Aqal Pattern 1’
‘Aqal Pattern 1’ is this year’s most unlikely warehouse techno stomper, an abstract collection of minimal beats and bleeps that’s much bigger than the sum of its parts.
‘Gem In Eyes (ft. DJ Bone)’
(Don’t Be Afraid)
Detroit techno veteran Eric Dulan unites both of his aliases on one emotional epic.
‘S-Drive’ hits that sweet spot between rigid Berlin techno and the rave-fuelled tracks Fiedel makes as one half of MMM.
‘Sometimes The Going Gets A Little Tough’
Demotivational house music in the spirit of the Roulé classics with a cheeky Manchester twist, Finn provided this year’s most bittersweet banger.
EBM and hypnotic wormhole beats have rarely sounded so good together as they do on this track from one of 2017’s breakthrough techno artists.
‘The Workers Are On Strike’
(Don’t Be Afraid)
A contrast of whiplash rhythms and colorful synths make the highlight of Karen Gwyer’s Rembo one of the year’s most unlikely earworms.
Combining ritualistic techno, synthwave and post-punk influences isn’t anything new, but JASSS’s ‘Weightless’ approaches it with a fresh perspective.
‘Camile From OHM Makes Me Feel Loved’
A tribute to Berlin’s other most famous bouncer from a producer that’s previously turned Tinder dating into techno.
A playful club track with a screwface bassline that catches you off guard, ‘Volumes’ packs a serious punch.
‘Adrift (Avalon Emerson’s Furiously Awake Version)’
Avalon Emerson transforms the atmospheric highlight from Octo Octa’s Where Are We Going? album into a buoyant breakbeat roller with one of the most satisfying drops of the year.
‘Theme From Q’
Objekt doing a tribute to classic ‘90s house is every bit as clever as you’d expect from a producer that’s previously fashioned electro and dubstep into bizarre new shapes. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.
Loom swaps instrumental grime for ravey house on ‘Aacccid’, a peak-time bruiser with a massive trance breakdown that distils the glorious excesses of the ‘90s into one track.
UK producer Ploy has been on a roll over the past few years, and ‘Unruly’ might be his most inspired moment yet, stretching the 4/4 format to breaking point and confusing sync functions in the process.
‘A Broken Clock Is Right Twice A Day’
An absolutely bonkers techno cut from Russian duo Alina Izolenta and Kamil Ea that sounds it’s stuck together with sticky tape.
RAMZi’s ‘Fuma’ is tropical house done right: rainforest sound effects, balmy chords and new age textures in perfect harmony, the perfect track for warming up a crowd or listening to in your flotation tank.
‘Thoughts of an Introvert’
(Don’t Be Afraid)
rRoxymore daubs impressionistic synth textures over slo-mo rhythms on a strange but groovy track that takes house music in an unusual direction.
‘Make Time’ is a career highlight for Shanti Celeste, a bumping garage house roller that’s as deep and emotive as dance music gets.
Just when you think Shinichi Atobe’s pulled the last of the treasure from his vault, he surprises you with his finest moment. Hopefully there’s more that are just as sumptuous as ‘Regret’ waiting to be discovered.
Scott Wilson is FACT’s Make Music editor. Find him on Twitter.