Courtesy of Straight No Chaser
Here’s a selection of bits that I’ve been meaning to share for quite a while. Something old, something new…
1. Austin Peralta – Live at Futura (2011) 
A brief excerpt from the late pianist’s ‘Endless Planets’ album launch at Futura (Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, USA) in 2011. The 22 year old was an astral traveller and virtuoso member of Flying Lotus’ brainfeeder collective. He would have taken jazz to new and daring heights. The music, although scarce, will live on.
2. Tigran Hamasyan – Carnaval [Verve]
Another exciting young pianist, this time from Armenia. Hamasyan takes folk music from his motherland and twists it into exciting new modern movements with often heart-rending harmonies. His voice adds a Nascimento-like flutter to this celebratory song. After making a name for himself with his Verve-released album ‘A Fable’ he stole the show at this year’s London Jazz Festival with an ambitious set of ‘remixes’ and new ideas. Lots more to come from this guy.
3. David Virelles – Magongo Pabio [Pi]
The third of a trio of gifted keys men, Virelles studied under Henry Threadgill and came of age in the bands of Steve Coleman and Ravi Coltrane among others. On “Continuum’ he has set out to explore his Cuban roots and present a highly expressive study of his country’s folklore together with drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist Ben Street and percussionist poet Roman Diaz. The album is a delightful curiosity, a singular work, and rewards patient listening.
4. Andy Stott – Numb [Modern Love]
‘Luxury Problems’ is the Manchester producer’s studio opus, a meditative, beguiling and beautifully produced album, full of yearning, vulnerability and raw emotion. Somewhere in each intricately built track there is a restless beating heart that you simply can’t ignore. Interesting fact: the vocals on this track are by Stott’s piano teacher from his student days. I love that.
5. Flako – Hole in the Dark [Hit + Run]
Taken from the LA crew’s third compilation that recently came out. London-based Flako is a name you’re going to be hearing a lot more of in 2013. In a crowded field of beatmaking producers his compositions paint pictures and sketch scenes like few others. Something’s happening and you get the feeling that things are never going to be the same again.
6. London Grammar – Hey Now [Metal & Dust]
Countless blogs and social networks have been awash with giddy excitement regarding this humble London trio. And they’ve yet to release any music. This song is undeniably stunning, particularly the vocal, and will be available on their debate EP which should be coming out in the new year. Desolate, angular and tense in the mould of an early XX but more effusive.
7. Spaceape – Your Angel Has Come [dl]
After exploring the supernatural, alien life and associated threats to mankind, Spaceape, frequent collaborator of Kode9, releases the brilliant EP ‘Xorcism’, which documents his three-year battle with a rare form of cancer called Neurolymphamatosis. Over seven chapters of sampled Haitian voodoo rhythms the MC takes into a spiritual world full of poettry, pain and paranoia.
8. The Insomniax – Oh She Falls (Swede Art remix) [Earnest Endeavours]
A winning combination of deep love-not-love song, cascading arp and killer soul hook from the Earnest Endeavours label. For all its hazy charm, this tune works equally well on a cold winter’s night as you sit alone in a dark room. Waiting. Wanting.
9. Meridian Brothers – Guaracha UFO (Version Rebajada) [Soundway]
A simply bonkers tune from Bogota’s Meridian Brothers, a relatively new signing to Soundway. On first listen you would be forgiven for thinking this was a resurrected obscurity from a nameless Spaniard who relocated to the Middle East in the seventies. Perhaps it is… I’m told that Meridian Brothers’ mischievous and darkly comic blend of Latin rhythms and psychedelic grooves is the creation of Eblis Álvarez, one of the key figures of the experimental music scene in Bogota, where his contemporaries label him a genius. Who would disagree?
10. Barker & Baumecker – Databass133_1_3 1 [Ostgut Ton]
‘Transsektoral’ is one of the year’s most interesting techno records – not in an aimless chin-stroking way, more because of its variety as sounds coalesce to form irregular shapes, which morph into countless foreign forms as you work through the album. It’s organic machine music you will happily lose yourself in for hours. See you next year.
11. Troy Gunner – Dancing in the Leaves [Mindset]
Troy Gunner is a mysterious young producer from the UK, a stone’s throw from Bath apparently, highly adapt and crafting this lush textures full of warmth and deep pulse. Listen to this and you’ll feel like their on an adventure with him, scaling peaks and meandering through valleys. No he’s not a hobbit. I don’t think so, anyway.
12. Zanshin – Cloud Atlas [Affine]
Another roller, this time of a more broken persuasion. It’s direct, uplifting and will sound splendid on a big system. Zanshin is a new talent from Austria and loves throwing together myriad influences – dubstep, techno, early electronica – and lacing them with “filigree field recordings.” Alright then.
13. Half Moon Run – Full Circle [Indica]
This merry bunch of cherubic voices hail from Montreal and they are one of the finds of 2012. Ah those harmonies. After supporting Metric on tour earlier this year they came to the UK for a triumphant show, marking their arrival as infamous ‘ones to watch’ and not just a group you file next to Fleet Foxes. This song contains one of my favourite lines this year, not because of the lyrical content … more because of the bed of melody it floats in on: “And I watch … as your head turns full circle.” Swoon.
14. Natalie Duncan – She Done Died [Decca]
Thanks to Goldie for bringing Miss Duncan to our attention after his By Royal Appointment talent show last year. We love a tortured soul singer in this country particularly when we can lay claim to her; that is, that the grim reality of life in parts of the UK can make spine-tingling moments of musical pleasure. Duncan hails her arrival as a “welcome grim reaper for the pop world”. Ballsy. The truth is that she can deliver a song with blues gut and real sentiment across a variety of forms. I love the simmering anger in this one although she does despair very well too – listen to ‘Sky is Falling’ and ‘Devil in Me’. Her sprawling debut album (clocking in at more than 15 weighty tracks) proves that and serves as a fine foundation to build on. More of the artist, less of the pop I say.
15. Newban – Bells [BBE]
Respect to Lee and the BBE family for dusting off these old tapes, which contain some truly amazing moments from the early days of the group that eventually became Atlantic Starr. All the great big band soul/funk/RnB crews come to mind when listening to songs like ‘Bells’: Kool & The Gang, Pleasure, Earth, Wind & Fire etc This album is never far from my system. Like Bob Marley’s ‘Legend’, every home needs one.
16. Bassekou Kouyate – Kele Magni (featuring Khaira Arby) [Out Here]
A world without music is one that I couldn’t live in. Yet this is an everyday reality for the inhabitants of north Mali where, after a military coup involving Tuareg rebels, secessionists and Islamists linked to al-Queda swept through the region and banned music and musicians – except for songs containing Koranic verses. Among those driven out was the “Nightingale of the North”, Khaira Arby, who guests on this song from N’goni maestro Bassekou Kouyate’s third album ‘Jama Ko’. “They told my neighbours that if they ever caught me, they would cut my tongue out,” she said. “Music is against Islam,” claims Oumar Ould Hamaha, the military leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the three extremist groups controlling the north. In this extremist struggle against the West there are countless victims, many of whom have brought so much joy to people around the world. Let’s hope that power is wrestled away from the tyrants, restoring peace and sweet harmony to this wonderful country.
17. Debruit – Zef (Fulgeance mix) [Civil]
Two masters of the beat combine to great effect.
18. Foxgen – Shuggie [Jagjaguwar]
Another one of those hot new bands from LA. Only this time they’re not so new. It can take a few years to find your sound but it appears that this duo have hit their stride with their second album, ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic’, due next year. The touchpoints are obvious: all sixties’/seventies’ rock n’roll and glam such as T-Rex, Bowie, the Stones, and even a touch of the more obscure in the shape of the recently resurfaced Mr Otis himself. This track is schizophrenic as hell but it’s also ambitious and good fun. Catch them live in Europe in February.
19. Dr John – Locked Down [Nonesuch]
The high priest of New Orleans’ rhythm and blues returned this year with a heavy set of mumbo gumbo funk, a raw journey into his formative years; all dark alley ways and indiscretions. With the help of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, the doctor sounds reinvigorated, growling with menace as he tells tales backed up by a lean and mean band of young musicians. One of the albums of the year.
20 Captain Murphy – The Ritual [dl]
So after all the speculation (www.kanyetothe.com/forum/index.php?topic=265020.0) the latest mysterious MC du jour is none other than the Flying Lotus. He of the production variety. Pitched down and warped, he sounds a lot like Tyler the Creator; no bad thing. The recently released deluxe mixtape is well worth downloading. This song catches my year on account of the intro: it makes me feel like I’m in a scene from a classic war movie, on a chopper to Nam. Is that really the place to want to be? Anyway, the tune flips you into a different world after that. Go have you own experience.
21. Kendrick Lamar – Sherane [Aftermath]
Lots of love for this guy in 2012 and with good reason. He’s a compelling storyteller with an unusual tone – nasal, smooth, matured beyond his years. A dextrous and nimble MC with a widescreen vision. A young kid made good. Backed by a crew of jeep beat-making clutch of producers such as Just Blaze, not to mention the clout of CPT’s don, Dr Dre, his ascent this year was inevitable. Despite having several ‘hits’ the whole album is best experienced as an album. How many hip hop albums can you say that about? Sit back and listen as a priapic 17 year old drives off in his mother’s car to meet this girl called Sherane. Gets the blood pumping.
22. Roc Marciano – Thread Count [Decon]
Roc has a solid reputation among the hip hop community but he’s yet to really make a dent. That might change with his second album ‘Reloaded’. The Flipmode Squad alumnus purrs gritty street tales of life around the five burroughs as beats animate the scenes he evokes. This tune, the album’s standout, is so deft and mesmerising. Who needs a neck-breaking beat when you’ve got the percussion? Consummate jazz man Q Tip on the production.
23. Nicholas Jaar & Theodore Roosevelt – The Ego [Clown & Sunset]
There are few more inventive producers in house music right now. Jaar is like the musical equivalent of a slow food advocate: part scientist, part aesthete, passionate, taking his time and savouring his produce. This giveaway reveals a more humorous side to his work as he impersonates Theodore Roosevelt over a playful dub. With a Jamaican patois flavour.
24. Janet Jackson – If (Kayranada remix] [dl]
A late addition to my list. Respect once again to Ross Allen, a great broadcaster who is thankfully back on air (mi-soul.com/ross-allen-and-andrew-hale). Montreal’s Kaytanada challenges Mark E (www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zPC5Vz2jAY) for the title of best Janet remixer with this chugging slab of joy. K chops up a song from the singer’s fifth album, filtering and dropping the beat to devastating effect. Will we ever tire of nineties’ RnB vocals over dope house trax? Probably not.
25. Sure Thing – Holdin You Tight (Instrumental) [Gutterfunk]
Bristol supergroup delivers dynamite boogie cut. featuring DJ Die, Futureboogie’s Christophé and Joker. No samples on this one. Original bass, original cowbell, original vocoder (out to Roger Troutman, my man). It’s a loving recreation of time when disco was deadly.
26. Shoebox – Roam no More [Shoebox]
Taken from Shoebox’s second EP, ‘Shifted’, this groove is tense, mysterious and undeniably beautiful. A soulful basement heater with moments for quiet reflection. I like that combination.
27. Policy – One Last Time [Rush Hour]
Again, the tension between a plaintive vocal and tough drum track can make for really interesting music, whether you are in the club or on your lounge. This one is built more for the former, NYC’s newcomer Policy working up a storm at the upper end of the BPM scale. Looking forward to hearing more from him next year.
28. Christopher Rau – Fuck the Projection [Aim]
Rau is slowly but surely maturing into a producer with that golden combination of pulse and passion. Where some of his earlier work on the Smallville label might have been easily dismissed as either muddled or mildly anodyne, tracks like this display a more focused and applied craft. The curious detail is still there but I find that by leaning more towards the floor on this 12, having more conviction instead of dipping into this and that, he’s found his sound.
29. Ossie – Find It [Hyperdub]
The man who produced one of my favourite mixes this year (soundcloud.com/ossieproducer/ossie-mix-the-hyperdub-show) has released this 12 on Hyperdub, continuing his fruitful exploration of that space where house, broken and funky do battle. It’s a fertile space and offers welcome relief from the straight four four disco dub-influenced fare that continues to saturate house music. Ossie’s appreciation of tough and highly percussive rhythm is what sets him apart. But he also knows the power of a vocal and when to unleash it.
30. Daphni – Ye Ye [Text]
Dan “Caribou” Snaith took many of us by surprise with this energetic album of dark and minimal cuts under his alias Daphni. He went in hard on a classic Laurent Garnier tip. ‘Ye Ye’ is immense, building with all the rapturous fervour of Frenchman’s ‘The Man with the Red Face’ and begging to be unleashed on a weary floor of hedonistic clubbers. The title says it all really. Spontaneous and sinister, Daphni is the sound of a masterful producer revelling in the first flush of peak-time release.
31. DJ Steaw – Holding On [Phonogramme]
A slammin’ dose of classic nineties’ Chandler-esque house courtesy of this Frenchman, a new name to me but a big favourite of the Bicep boys (www.feelmybicep.com/2012/10/21/fmb-dj-steaw/) for whom he played at Fabric last October. This is the definition of upbeat; I can’t think of a better track to close the night. House music saved your life once again.