The humble 10” – it might look like the bespectacled middle child next to its more popular bigger and smaller siblings, but there’s no denying its cult appeal.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the 10″ was the format of choice – made from brittle shellac and played at 78RPM, usually on a Gramophone. Indeed, when the industry switched over to vinyl and a lower speed of 33 1/3 in the 1950s, 10”s were still the most popular format, with 12”s seen as a luxury for classical music lovers only. It wasn’t long, however, before the poor old 10” was relegated to relic status, something dug out only for collector’s editions and limited runs.
Over the years, the format has become principally associated with classic jazz and dub reggae (possibly the 10”s most storied recent usage), but since FACT’s birth in 2003, we’ve watched it accommodate a series of weird and wonderful gems – some well-known, some barely heard.
Genre is hardly a concern – whether it’s Rhythm and Sound’s dub plate dreams or Women & Children’s eager Gramophone nostalgia, there’s a sense that the format lends itself perfectly to the collector’s objectification. It’s just the right size, and there’s still something just so sturdy about a 10” that simply doesn’t apply to the fragile 7” or the flimsy 12”.
We’ve put together a list of the top fifty 10” releases of FACT’s lifetime, lovingly picked by our team of contributors.
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There’s No Crueller Than The Sea, Nor Even As Cruel
(Crystal Wish, 2005)
Pour one out for the now-deceased analogue outfit 7VWWVW – Edinburgh underground heroes, LuckyMe-affiliates and, on their day, a cracking live band. Their more fierce work sounds like Holy Fuck with better synths and a nautical bent, but There’s No Crueller Than The Sea… strips away the drums in favour of stunning, interlocking portraits-for-synth.
No Way Down / On Trade Winds
(Acéphale / Sincerely Yours, 2009)
This highly limited (read: 500 copies) double-pack yokes together the Gothenburg outfit’s 2006 EP On Trade Winds with its revered follow-up, 2007’s No Way Down. Two helpings of jaunty Balearic gorgeousness.
AIRHEAD & JAMES BLAKE
James Blake was in his undeniable prime in 2009-10, and rarely more convincingly than on this mutant foot-dragger. Produced with old mucker Airhead, it’s an incredible bit of sonic ferment – viscous and dazzling, like snorkelling through a rainbow-coloured bog.
Bonkers, brilliant edit of Parris Mitchell’s recently-reissued ‘All Night Long’, smothering the classic Chicago vocal deep in tape hiss, filters, tapped phone conversations and the rest of it. Rare that something this utterly spannered works so well in a club, but watching the needle run through the gap in the groove before the drop never gets old. Just remember to mix out before the tempo change!
(Ghost Box, 2010)
Originally issued in 2004, the expanded edition of the first ever Ghost Box release is everything you want one of Jim Jupp’s records to be – rustic, playful, a shade twee, and just a little spooky to boot. Boasting two extra tracks, the Revised Edition 10″ offers a better harvest than the original.
Ceja de Carnival / Kosmic Lovers
(Arkestra Diskos, 2010)
Poster paint synth-pop from Spain’s Arkestra Discos crew, combining Linn-style drums, soaring chords and shameless saxophone in a manner that might even make Hudson Mohawke blush. On second thoughts, we’re not sure anything makes him blush.
Robot Operating Buddy
Rephlex regular Gianluigi Di Constanzo delivers some top-drawer emotionally distressed electro; Drexciya/Dopplereffekt brainbox Gerald Donald works some dour magic on the flip; somewhere, two assembly-line robots kiss.
COVERED IN SAND
Heaven’s Gate Suicides
Shifted’s spookiest alter ego plants its blood-sodden flag right on the noise/techno border, but plunges it into the soil with more force than Container, Pete Swanson or Perc mustered on contemporaneous releases. Who’s that causing mischief on the flip? Why, noise-to-techno émigré Vatican Shadow. Proper.
(Walt Disney Records, 2011)
The Daft Punk TRON soundtrack didn’t quite live up to the sky-high expectations: too unremarkable to make sense as a full-length, and too damaged by an underwhelming script to hit home in the multiplex. The project made the most sense on these spangly 10″ picture discs, which filleted off the best tunes but, more importantly, really looked the part.
(Sunburnt Institubes, 2008)
Sure, the A-side’s fine, in a maybe-I’ll-dig-out-that-Kitsuné-comp-for-old-time’s-sake way, but Sunburnt‘s triumph is ‘Lite Brite’ – a squiggly bit of poindexter disco we can get down to morning, noon, and (preferably) nite.
(Rune Grammafon, 2006)
Quite who exactly had the bright idea of plopping a bunch of Deathprod tracks on a 10” (remember this is an artist who favours eighteen minute tracks over small vignettes), we couldn’t tell you, but it was a surprisingly brilliant idea. A selection of the artist’s lesser heard remixes, 6-Track was a handshake and then swift punch in the jaw – it was amazing to hear such shadowy music on wax, but heartbreaking to know that it was Helge Sten’s last ever release under the moniker.
(Tube 10, 2011)
True to his name, Distal’s a master distiller, able to wring the best bits out of footwork, booty house, piano hardcore and crunk. Early single ‘Apple Bottom’ is a slag-free zone – tactile, colourful, and hella fun to flail around to.
Acid Bells (Martyn Remixes)
Great Lengths-period Martyn’s on top form on both sides of this marbled blue 10″, but his gorgeous ‘Bittersweet’ remix just takes the cake – a yearning, beatless piano piece that’s as stirring as anything he’s ever done.
(Blast First Petite, 2010)
Subsequent releases saw them sound tighter and musclier, but Factory Floor’s propulsive breakthrough EP is their warmest and trippiest release. The 2013 reissue on special green vinyl is well worth a gander, too. After hearing this, we were more than ready for the album – shame it only dropped a few months ago.
FANTASTIC MR FOX
(Black Acre, 2010)
Surely the most misleading title on this list, Sketches may be a little frazzled but it’s far from unfinished. Burnt-out rave music for NES romantics everywhere.
(Hidden Hawaii Ltd, 2008)
Arriving before his name-minting QMS series, Dark Days sees the Berlin-based drum’n’bass producer – not words you see in each other’s company very often – making the sort of ambitious breakbeat music the Autonomic clique were also dabbling in on the other side of the Channel. Five years down the line, it’s still a rewarding set, particularly in the light of experimental d’n’b’s current purple patch.
FLOATING POINTS ENSEMBLE
Post Suite / Almost In Profile
(Ninja Tune, 2010)
Sam Shepherd indulges his rootsier side on this platter from his 16-piece Floating Points Ensemble. ‘Post Suite’ offers richly orchestrated melodrama, but the 12-minute ‘Almost In Profile’ is the more intoxicating of the pair, and a testament to Shepherd’s commendable ambition.
FLYING LOTUS / HOUSE SHOES
Do-Over Vol 1
(The Do-Over, 2010)
The first instalment of the Do-Over series features one of FlyLo’s dreamiest productions, the Tim And Eric-inspired ‘Sangria Spin Cycles’ – light as a bubble, and all the heavier for it. The House Shoes joint isn’t half bad either, and we can always get down with a design-your-own sleeve sticker set.
GEISHA / TRACTOR
Geisha / Tractor
Bristol’s most underrated metal band might sound like a back-handed compliment, but what a group Geisha were. Released just before their unsung debut album Mondo Dell’Orrore, their side of this split captures the group at their ragged, tempestuous best.
Made Up My Mind
In a different, better universe, the current vogue for anaemic inch-deep house never happened, and Hackman is a very rich man indeed. Glossy yet prickly, hooky yet tricksy, ‘Made Up My Mind’ is the best of Hackman’s killer 2010-11 run – punchy Jack with genuine swing and an actual personality.
Propelled by tin can junglist percussion and that needling, squeaky toy synth jab, Mark Pritchard’s crowd-pleasing jam is a perfect 10″ – instrumental version on one side, Rikodan’s untamed vocal version on the other, and that unapologetically kitsch artwork.
HENRY & LOUIS
(2Kings Records, 2007)
No, it’s not ‘Rise Up’, but the Answer Remixes 10″ offers another impressive meeting between Henry & Louis and Tectonic boss Pinch. With contributions from fellow Bristol types RSD and Sledgehead, it’s a key transmission from bass’ first city.
Hot City Bass
Released back when people still thought Hot City was just one weird dude (fools! – it’s two weird dudes), Hot City Bass offers crunchy US garage that wears its heart on its frilly sleeve. Good messy fun.
I:CUBE & RZA
Can You Deal With That?
RZA leaves the oubliette and cuts loose on this hip-house anomaly, produced by peddler-of-oddities I:Cube. The production is tooled-up dub techno, and RZA is in priapic Dance Mania mode. Unexpectedly, it really, really works.
Boddika and Jon Convex’s prettiest moment, falling somewhere between Simple Minds and Kuedo’s music for sad replicants. Now that Instra:mental are dead and gone, the only shame is that this wasn’t their last release – because how perfect would that have been?
(White Label, 2011)
(Ten Thousand Yen, 2010)
Plenty claim that Bashmore’s dropped the ball – well, dropped, punctured and stamped on it – in the last 12 months, but when he’s good, he’s very good, as 2010 deep house stunner ‘Footsteppin” proves beyond doubt.
Backward / 9 Samurai
In the early days of Hyperdub, label boss Kode9 carved out a home for himself in the 10″ crates with a handful of under-sized outings, including this pairing featuring The Spaceape’s doomy invocations on the off-kilter A-side before sliding into a suitably post-apocalyptic dirge on the flip. Very deep.
LOEFAH / DIGITAL MYSTIKZ
System / Molton
One from the early days of Tectonic, this yin-and-yang 10″ from the DMZ trio is split between Loefah’s fist-swinging, electro-tinged upper and Digital Mystikz’s grimey, cave-dwelling downer. For the attention of all YouTube commenters: this is “real dubstep”.
(Magic Wire, 2010)
The first issuance from Lone’s Magic Wire label, ‘Pineapple Crush’ is an instant classic, a woozy knee-trembler glowing with irrepressible rave energy, mirrored on the B-side by its neon-bright blood brother, ‘Angel Brain’. Squiffy stuff to spill your drink to.
Timesmithing should really be considered alongside its Sinister Ministers sister record, but, if we’re going to pit siblings against one another, it’s definitely the stronger of the pair – a strangely-stitched patchwork of washed-out techno, muggy hip-hop and spoken word narrative. +10 style points for the Sensational feature, too.
Bubblebath synth-pop brought down to earth by Matthew Dear’s brow-beaten mumbling, ‘Deserter’ comes with a Four Tet remix on the B-side, adding scuffed hi-hats and distant bells for a homespun alternative to Dear’s pristine pop landscape.
In a moment of carnivalesque inversion, R&S turn Mr. Atkins – not a man renowned for his sense of humour – over to two of contemporary dance music’s more colourful jesters. Space Dimension Controller’s take is pure staff-waving prog-techno; Bullion’s ‘Rivertrance’ rework nods to, er, Michael Flatley.
(Deep Medi Musik, 2011)
The second transmission from Old Apparatus mapped out some seriously weird, post-dubstep-goes-native territory (which the mysterious London collective are still mining to great effect), pairing their low-end explorations with a ghostly folk vocal (‘Zebulon’) and Mowgli’s head-spinning poetry (‘Hammerhand’).
A sweaty side gig by Chemikal Underground artist Douglas Morland, Older Lover only released this one self-titled EP, but what a record it is. Named after one of The Fall’s creepiest cuts (which, let’s face it, is going some in itself), Older Lover is oversexed splatterhouse glam-punk somewhere between the Swell Maps and Sid James. Sorely overlooked.
RHYTHM & SOUND
Mash Down Babylon
(Burial Mix, 2003)
No list of 10”s would be complete without a nod to Rhythm & Sound’s crucial Burial Mix series, and it doesn’t get much better than ‘Mash Down Babylon’. They might be well established at this point, but this hasn’t aged a day in the ten years since it dropped.
Because – well, it’s ‘Woooo’, innit? The first truly great instrumental grime cut of the decade, made all the more undeniable by DJ Q’s shimmering edit.
I Want To Eat You
(Mordant Music, 2006)
Released on the mysterious Mordant Music imprint in 2006, ‘I Want To Eat You’ was a relatively early drop for the Skull Disco don, and still stands as one of his most effective tracks. Note that you might need a subwoofer the size of a small camper van to truly get the most out of it, however.
(Frijsfo Beats, 2011)
The eternally underrepresented Sully treads carefully on this purple-hued dubstep cut, borrowing from ’80s electro and boogie, but clearly drinking the same hooch as Rustie, HudMo, et al.
SUNN O))) & PAN SONIC / ALAN VEGA / STEPHEN BURROUGH
(Blast First Petite, 2009)
In which, like some sort of eMego-sponsored version of Avengers Assemble, doom metal institution Sunn O))) team up with noise-electronics veterans Pan Sonic to cover classic Suicide. That this even happened is pretty remarkable; the fact that it works brilliantly is the black cherry on the cake.
TB / MARC PIÑOL
(Hivern Discs, 2012)
‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’ isn’t exactly an unmolested sample source, but this anonymous release on John Talabot’s Hivern Discs is probably our favourite bit of Twin Peaks fan-fiction in recent memory. As per Talabot’s best work, ‘Invitation To Love’ sounds cosy and chilly at the same time.
Falling Up (Carl Craig mix)
(Third Ear, 2005)
What to add? C2’s remix of ‘Falling Up’ is widely garlanded as one of the great remixes of the ’00s, and rightly so – this year’s remaster had us eagerly scurrying back to our well-tended 10″ collections.
TODD TERJE / SON OF SAM
(Running Back, 2012)
A nu-disco must-have, Digital Dubplates is home to Todd Terje’s utterly delightful ‘Snooze 4 Love’, previously released on the Ragysh 12″ in 2011, plus Jack Plug’s NDW-facing edit of Son Of Sam’s ‘Nature Makes A Mistake’.
Stop What You’re Doing / I Can’t Stop This Feeling Remixes
This show-stopping double-header pointed dubstep in a thousand new directions on its arrival in late 2009, with young buck James Blake making a dramatic entrance on the A-side with his G-funk-meets-synth-fuzz reworking of ‘Stop What You’re Doing’, while Pangaea’s bruising reinvention of ‘I Can’t Stop This Feeling’ gallops ahead like a thoroughbred.
Music From The BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Released on 4×10″, Music From The BBC Radiophonic Workshop culls material from various iterations of earlier comps BBC Radiophonic Music and The Radiophonic Workshop. The results give the respective works of Derbyshire, Baker and Clarke the chance to shine on their own terms. Classily done, Rephlex.
The world’s been slowly turning on to Visionist’s spectral, Tri Angle-meets-Butterz sound over the last two years, and ‘Mr. 67’ remains the best point of entry into his Gothic imagination. Amphibian grime at its strangest – and, what with being limited to 300 copies, hard to find, too.
WOMEN & CHILDREN
Few knew who Women & Children were when this self-titled album appeared in 2006, and they haven’t done a great deal since, which almost makes it more appealing. Crumbling lo-fidelity folk with an unmistakably eccentric charm, it’s exactly the sort of music the 10” was made for.
WEST NORWOOD CASSETTE LIBRARY
South London producer West Norwood Cassette Library’s a master of rough ‘n’ tough house music, but on ‘Mrs Fingers’ he draws from some of his less obvious influences – hip-hop and early dubstep (ditch the tape saturation and those snares are straight out the Mala playbook), to name two – on a swampy cut straight out the top pocket.
(M Division Recordings, 2013)
A collaboration between Danny “Legowelt” Wolfers and Sheela “XOSAR” Rahman, Xamiga followed up last year’s Unsolved Universe with this aquatic 10″, pressing their analogue gear in service of Drexciya tribute.
Here’s the popular Twitter personality at his most essential, with a pair of bittersweet rave moments built from cascading arcade game melodies and skeletal rhythms. The artful symmetry of the tracks is neatly echoed in the record’s elegant, inkblot-like sleeve, too.