Throughout the year, For Club Use Only has rounded up each month’s most essential underground club sounds.
As 2015 comes to a close, it’s time to examine what stuck and what disappeared without a trace from the CDJs, laptops and Serato setups of the world’s constantly-changing club spaces.
With noise and trance tropes coming back in vogue, instrumental grime continuing to extrapolate on its core concepts and labels like N.A.A.F.I. and Príncipe Discos pushing exciting polyrhythmic forms, questions about the make-up, purpose and meaning of dance music have been brought up repeatedly this year.
Outside of the house and techno hegemony, the options for engaging a crowd of dancers are endless. The following 25 tracks fulfil a range of possibilities, from shock-and-awe to pure, ruthless functionality. The way we consume dance music has completely changed over the past few years, but quality club music is eternal.
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An absolute stomper from Akito and one of many tracks from the Trax Couture World Series that deserve a place here. Out to Rushmore for curating one of the most invigorating release series in years.
(Unknown To The Unknown)
Only the saddest of sad saps didn’t jump on the ‘Hype (Funk)’ and if you haven’t had a late night “sing along” to this late summer anthem over the past few months, you’re missing out.
Maybe even better than the original? Bloom’s ‘Quartz VIP’ comes through as one of the best songs in a stacked 2015 for Mr. Mitch’s Gobstopper outpost, a total assault on the senses that will surely be championed as being ahead of its time for years to come.
DJ Nigga Fox
Releases from Nidia Minaj, DJ Firmeza, Niagara, Blacksea Não Maya and more all stuck out for Príncipe Discos this year, but it’s label star DJ Nigga Fox’s Noite E Dia EP that’s still in regular rotation. ‘Um Ano’ appears to tumble and trip over itself constantly, but the wooden percussion always seems to catch up and Nigga Fox’s characteristic swells and crashes give the track a one-of-a-kind feel.
Dreams and the Private Selection crew have put on some of the best parties Los Angeles has to offer over the past few years, and it’s fitting that his Twisted Karma EP marks the label’s first solo release. As menacing as it is sneakily beautiful, ‘Energy’ is just one of those tracks that sounds classic from the first listen.
‘Burned Into Memory’
It’s been a break-out year for Hodge and any number of his tracks could have filled this position, but the raw intensity of ‘Burned Into Memory’ propels it into the top 25.
Imaabs joining the N.A.A.F.I. roster felt preordained and the Distancia EP does not disappoint, condensing the Chilean producer’s forceful style into four brilliant peak-time numbers. Releases on Trax Couture and Purple Tape Pedigree and excellent remixes for Dinamarca, Arkitect and Kali Muts filled out a banner year for Imaabs.
While Jlin’s cataclysmic Dark Energy LP is better taken in as a whole, the politically-charged core and clattering drums of ‘Guantanamo’ are as good a representation of club music in 2015 as you’ll find on this list.
‘Spirito Sarrando’ (ft. MC Marcelly & G. Dufay / J. Savall)
Technically a blend of Rio De Janeiro’s MC Marcelly and 15th century choral music, ‘Spirito Sarrando’ is as outlandish a piece of dance music as you’ll find all year, a neck-snapping combo that lulls, snaps, drags and smacks in equal measures.
Kid Smpl’s Respond/Ascend EP blends bits of jarring noise with bright, enticing melodies with remarkable ease, and the title track hits helium-high crescendos in a trance workout for people who don’t leave the house.
Letta’s deeply introspective Testimony LP is going down as one of the year’s best grime-related releases and ‘The Recluse’ is one of many melodically genius standouts from the Los Angeles-based producer’s debut album.
Whether he’s taking on footwork, jungle or grime, LiL JaBBA’s tracks usually involve a delicate touch. But ‘BraSS TaX’ is not one of those songs, instead operating as an unwieldy, brass-heavy monstrosity that’s the most fun instrumental you’ll find this side of Butterz.
Really the only track from M.E.S.H.’s shapeshifting Piteous Gate LP that could have made it on a list of the top 25 club tracks, ‘Epithet’ hits on all the right levels, an all-enveloping effort that builds and then tears down.
‘Coincidence Pt. 2’
Seven minutes of hydraulic sounds, clacking noises, new age synths and rubbery pings make up Margaret Antwood’s ‘Coincidence Pt. 2’ and the results are breathtaking – an exercise in patience, anticipation and, finally, release.
A member of the Rudeboyz group, Menchess is one of the most talented producers to come out of Durban, contributing to the trio’s EP on Goon Club Allstars and turning out dynamic originals with regularity. ‘Khumbula Ukubhenga’ is everything we’ve come to love from the Durban sound: choppy percussion, droning synths and a vocal sample that just urges you to keep moving.
Another fast and lean banger from MM (formerly Miss Modular) in a year that saw Her Records’ co-founder expand his repertoire and release a split single with Imaabs on Purple Tape Pedigree. The Lechuga Zafiro remix of ‘9th Ritual’ is also well worth your time.
Often imitated but never replicated, the Murlo sound has become ubiquitous across the club music sphere these last few years and Odyssey, released through Mixpak, sees that sound taken to its ludicrous limit across eight tracks. As the title dictates, ‘Moodswung’ starts off bursting with bubbly energy before lurching into moodier territories, as wave after wave of pristine melody arrives, the effect overwhelming but ultimately soothing.
A standout from Rabit’s Baptizm EP, the prelude to the Houston producer’s widely lauded Communion, ‘Straps’ is more or less the ideal convergence of the Tri Angle rep’s more abstract, brutal tendencies and his roots in grime and club music at large, a thrusting, brash composition that has torn up dancefloors across the world and even appeared in a wild dance video.
‘Halcyon On & On SB Edition’
Arguably the breakout producer of 2015, Turkish-born Sami Baha’s sinewy melodies have been heard everywhere this year, transforming everything from Young Thug and Bone Thugs N Harmony to Lotic and Orbital. Baha’s Atlanta-inflected reworks are as stunning as they are peak-time-ready.
SAS (Smutlee and Serocee)
Smutlee behind the boards and Serocee on the mic is a combination we’d like to see a lot more of in 2015, and their absurd flip of Paleman’s ‘Beezeldub’ is one of the most creative dancehall records of the year.
A member of the House of Labeija and a recent Qween Beat signee, Skyshaker has dropped some of the most immediate, tactile ballroom this year and his Bobby Shmurda edit, released through Venus X’s GHE20G0TH1K platform, has the manic flair of the genre’s best.
It was a huge year for Toxe and the Staycore clan and along with the STAYCORE SUMMER JAMS 2K15 compilation, the Swedish producer’s Muscle Memory EP came to define the label’s output.
If Nervous Horizon Vol. 1 didn’t convince you that the London-based label is taking over, then Tsvi’s Set You Free EP should have, and despite not making it onto the 12” the anthemic ‘Yeah’ is just out of this world.
Still unreleased, Wallwork’s absolutely kooky ‘Final Fantasy’ is going to be setting off adventurous dancefloors for a long time. Like much of the best club music of recent memory, the track’s sense of space and harsh sonics place it in relation to grime, but this bit of 130 magic can hardly be tethered to one genre.
Why Be’s first foray into the more traditional solo production realm was a success, with tracks like ‘Late (Laser Ha)’ and ‘Deeq’ matching his hectic mix sensibility with a more straightforward four-on-the-floor flow. It’s the dynamic ‘Heroin Hat’ that seems to coalesce perfectly, though, full of the alien vocal samples, scratchy percussion and coursing melodies we’ve come to expect from the Berlin-based artist.