For Club Use Only: Best of 2018

The past half decade has been a turning point for club music.

It’s been a period of creativity, cross-cultural collaboration and unfettered experimentation. Artists, DJs, labels and communities (both IRL and online) have spearheaded a boundary-less ethos. A loose network of club nights spans almost the entire globe. Rapid acceleration and expansion, however, often comes with growing pains. An embrace of hybridity and internet-driven access to everything and anything has resulted in the muddling of many distinct, hyper-local sounds.

But the essence of freewheeling, experimental dance music has not diminished: releases from Colin Self, DEBIT, Lotic, Réelle (rest in peace), rkss and Zuli functioned as both personal opuses and a series of drastic departures in terms of normative narrative structure. Material previously considered gauche has been embraced wholesale in these works while everything from original vocals to EDM sample packs have been tossed into an already tempestuous grab bag of influences and source material.

Labels like Club Chai, Danse Noire, Halcyon Veil, SVBKVLT, Tobago Tracks and UIQ have continued to exemplify the best qualities in curation, prioritizing innovation without losing sight of the connection to their respective real-life and online spaces. Meanwhile, outfits like Country Music, DISPLAY and Scratcha DVA’s Interlude FM have disregarded the constraints of EPs and albums for a looser handle on what a song is comprised of. Despite the ubiquity of user-driven online platforms, there aren’t nearly enough artists and labels utilizing the creative potential the web offers in terms of how we listen to music.

The most effective, fun and vibrant dance music often came from outside of traditional media centers. Baile funk, from artists with mass appeal like MC Brinquedo, MC Hollywood and MC Rafa 22, as well as more independent artists like BADSISTA, Linn de Quebrada and São Paulo’s Tormenta crew, offered eccentric, joyous and unbridled material, some of it at a breakneck 150 BPM. Kampala-based Nyege Nyege Tapes also continued to embrace speed and August’s Poaa LP from Bamba Pana supplied one of the most challenging, physically immediate array of sounds we heard all year.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the New York metro area continues to be home to some of the most important sounds to arise in recent years. Flex dance music (FDM) and litefeet are cemented staples and artists like Epic B, HANN, Hitmakerchinx, Mvstermind and Uninamise continue to filter dancehall and hip-hop into their lean, eminently play-out-able riddims. Newark steadily pumps inspired Jersey club producers and ABE, DJ Flex, DJ J Heat and UNIIQU3 all provided a different glance through the prism of Brick City’s influential sound.

The beauty of innovation and a ruthless push forward in the club music space is that breakthroughs almost always come from unexpected places. Get outside of the online discourse and you’ll find club music thriving in so many new ways.


01. Lechuga Zafiro – ‘Agua y Puerta’
02. 8ULENTINA – ‘Soiled’
03. Elysia Crampton – ‘Soliluna’
04. Oli XL – ‘Mimetic’
05. Air Max 97 – ‘Veneer’
06. Rizzla – ‘Chainsaw’
07. SWISHA – ‘Big Pictures, No Numbers’
08. ZULI – ‘Trigger Finger’
09. Osheyack – ‘Parataxon’
10. Nazar – ‘Air Strike’ [Feat. Shannen SP]
11. Swan Meat – ‘Lullabye’
12. CalvoMusic – ‘Atlantis Level’
13. DJ Plead – ‘DVE’
14. Hyph11E – ‘Enter Nowhere’
15. Mc Gw – ‘Dança Das Mulheres (DJDOUGLINHAS)’
16. HANN – ‘Bout Em’
17. Réelle – ‘amethyst (other mix)’
18. FAKA – ‘Ngizokuzingela’ [Feat. LaSoulmate]
19. Quest?onmarc – ‘Turbulence’
20. UNIIQU3 – ‘Phase 3’
21. DJ Lycox – ‘Las Palmas De Un Desgraciado’
22. LEDEF – ‘Barbie torture area # 2’
23. Lechuga Zafiro – ‘Suave pero Rugoso (TAYHANA Remix)’ [feat. Ansina]
24. Mvstermind – ‘Planet Mind’
25. LSDXOXO – ‘False Idols’

Gabe Meier runs The Astral Plane. Find him on Twitter.

Olivea Kelly is an independent artist and designer. Find her on Instagram or at

Keep up with all of FACT’s Best of 2018 coverage here.

Read next: The 10 best labels of 2018



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