19 of many, many great tracks that been released this year, as picked as personal favourites by our writer team.
Liquid gems, timeless foundation-rooted bangers, dark soulful drum & bass, melodic dubstep and rave tear-ups… Not bad for a year that’s apparently been nothing but foghorns.
Anile – Constant Reminder (Footnotes)
Let’s be honest, DRS smashes it on virtually every track he lends his vocal talents to, but this is the pick of the bunch in terms of his output from 2019, with a few very close runners-up.
After being repped by the scene’s most sage selectors at events and in recorded mixes, including LSB’s Space Age Volume 2 which dropped in April, it finally saw the light of day in October as part of Anile’s No Code EP.
It’s a beautiful tune wherever you listen to it, but especially when it’s played live at a festival or club, with the catchy vocal hook creating a special moment every time without fail. Not just the best tune which featured DRS in 2019 for me but quite possibly the best track Anile has ever made… Which is saying something. (Robin Murray)
Bcee – Back To The Street (Bcee’s Re-fix) (Spearhead)
Spearhead celebrated 100 releases this year and released a huge compilation of new originals, remixes and more, one of which was Bcee’s redoing of his seminal Back To The Street. We’re in love with this one because it combines the pacey drum pattern of the original with the diving reece basses of the S.P.Y remix, a heady blend that makes for arguably the best iteration of the track so far. There’s something about the piano in this tune that keeps it timeless, that way you sort of recognise it from somewhere else but can’t quite put your finger on where. The drop is ferocious, too, and the production quality has gone up as well. Wicked. (Ben Hunter)
Blocks & Escher – From The Ashes (Narratives)
Where to even begin with this… I’m almost inclined to write nothing at all and just leave it in front of you to let it do the talking; because boy, has it got a lot to say. Crooning with all the wisdom of a lost ancient civilisation, From The Ashes carries a certain weight and depth that you can’t help but feel in your heart. It’s all-encompassing, emotional and truly stunning in its composition. Every note deliberate, arranged in an intriguing way.
Blocks & Escher aren’t ones to do anything by halves. Their productions are powerful, thoughtful, and intricate. From The Ashes goes even deeper than that for me, though. Their first release since the seminal Something Blue LP on Metalheadz last year, they had a lot to live up to following one of the most seminal D&B albums of the last decade, and they managed to execute it in signature Blocks & Escher style – that is to say, they absolutely bossed it.
Trickling just over the 7 minute mark, it leaves you wanting more – no simple feat for a track of that length – and has resulted in me playing it on a loop ever since it landed in my inbox. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any deeper, in comes 4:19, and with it that beautifully powerful vocal. A true masterpiece in every sense of the word, it has more depth to it than words could ever express. Bravo fellas. (Maja Cicic)
Circuits – Euphoria Part 1 (Critical)
Having set up their stall as a strong-arm collabo in 2018, Kasra and InsideInfo’s Circuits project leveled up again at the start of the year with the immense hyper rave homage Euphoria Part 1. It begins with spacey atmospherics that hit like a corrupted intergalactic signal then that twisted vocal and growling bassline ride into a build-up that sends you hurtling into a drop that more than lives up to the title. Euphoric, driving rave energy. Where’s part two at, lads? (Craig Haynes)
Current Value – End Game (Korsakov)
It seems like only yesterday the bass world was reeling from the proper neck-snapping throttling Current Value’s That Smile and its subsequent video gave us all. But, believe it or not, that track was released all the way back in December 2017 with his Deadly Toys LP. CV has released a veritable ton of music since then, especially in 2019. From the Searcher and Far Layer EPs on Invisible and Othercide respectively, to MethLab’s co-release with Souped Up to tracks and remixes on Barcode, 0101 even Gud Vibrations, it’s tough to pick a favourite. That said, we have.
The Korsakov Compilations vol. 2, out in October, saw a mass of artists bringing their a-game but, per usual, Current Value brought the End Game. With a neurofunk chugger of a drum line, this is a fun, dancefloor tune that would do well at any Korsakov event but also has that legendary Current Value sound design to back it up and reach even the coolest chin-scratcher in the back. Excellent work. (Layla Marino)
Dogger – Broken Home (1985 Music)
I’ll never forget the first time I heard this track. It was on the beach on the first evening of Outlook Festival 2018, just as the sun was starting to set. That stunning piano intro slowly faded in and time seemed to stop still. Everyone turned to their mates to ask what the tune was as they danced on the sand, but nobody knew.
Maybe it was just a case of me being in a loved-up festival state, but it seemed like there was a shared feeling this was going to be not only the tune of the weekend but of the upcoming year. I’m not sure if those who were around me at the time feel the same as I do now, but for the sake of a nice little story, let’s just say they do.
Quite simply, everything about it is perfect. The drums, the piano and the sensational, soulful vocals from Liam Bailey all combine to make a piece of music which doesn’t get old no matter how many times you hear it, whether at a festival, in a club or at home. It’s hard to think of a producer who made an impact as impressive as Dogger managed with their first release in 2019. (Robin Murray)
Fade Black – Sane (Critical)
Shyun and Cruk have smashed their first year together as Fade Black. Their time cutting their teeth as solo artists have paid off as they combine their skills for a sound and an energy that’s far bigger and broader than the sum of its parts.
This is evident across all four tracks of their debut EP Condemned, but it’s Sane that captures their breadth the most. Thanks to Leo Law, a singer who makes his own D&B debut here, Sane is pure barbed soul but it refuses to compromise weight or heaviness just because it has a full vocal. This unique vibe blend is often attempted but seldom executed so well and is usually associated with the likes of SpectraSoul, Alix Perez or Ivy Lab back in their earliest chapter. It’s the rare type of tune that could just as easily be dropped in the peak of a heavy rave and give people a sudden uplift and change of mood as it could be played in the car while you’re driving your nan to the shops and for it not to scare the bejesus out of her. That’s skills. There’s a reason Kemal played it in this recent mix. (Dave)
Grey Code – Ethics (Metalheadz)
One of several incredible Metalheadz releases from right at the beginning of the year, Ethics was tucked into Grey Code’s debut release on the label. The whole release is brilliant but Ethics especially so, being as it is the clearest distillation of the rough, sophisticated style Grey Code is currently in the process of nailing to the wall. It’s the way the snare and kick drums sit inside the bassline, forming an impossibly satisfying concoction of space and presence, one made even more delectable by the acidic synth lines, which grabs us so much. There’s suspense, grit and musical prowess and it’s all wrapped up in a dancefloor friendly slice of brilliance from the young producer. (Ben Hunter)
Hugh Hardie – Evening Red (Hospital)
Hugh’s second album dropped this year and out of its thirteen excellent tracks came this peach of a Hardie roller, the sort of number we’ve come to expect from the Bristol-based composer but still haven’t quite gotten used to. Evening Red is luscious and floating, suspended upon a bed of breathing brass stacks which pull the music away and into the air, giving it lift and tonnes of character. It’s quite quirky, very loveable and eminently well made, a track which strikes at the heart of the classic Hospital focus on passionate, emotive drum & bass. When the bassline comes in it’s bouncy, the drums are simple yet packed with depth and it all just feels really, really fun, a sick album track and a reminder that liquid’s new generation are straight killing it right now. (Ben Hunter)
InsideInfo – Airwaves (ft. Rhymestar) (InsideInfo Music)
Paul InsideInfo has always been one to favour quality over quantity, and this year has been a real testament to that ethos. Launching his own InsideInfo Music imprint in December of last year, the intention was to have the freedom to explore his own sound and release music for himself, in his own time, and it seems that artistic freedom has inspired some of his best work to date.
Airwaves landed in May of this year on the imprint, and it exemplifies that artistic freedom. Featuring a subtle vocal from Rhymestar, the track is an amalgamation of their shared garage, jungle and D&B roots, with sprinkles of acid influences thrown in for good measure. The fact he’s managed to achieve squeezing all these elements in such a short three and a half minutes is actually ridiculous… The track has four different switch ups for heaven’s sake. Flipping the switch on what’s possible within the supposed confines of tempos and genres, InsideInfo continues to assert himself as one of the most innovative producers in the game. I dare you to sit still through this one! (Maja Cicic)
Klute – Sick Of It All (Function)
The absolute state of this! Klute’s been as razor sharp as ever this year with his album Whatever It Takes hitting all the right spots across both D&B and techno. But this special little nugget on Digital’s Shadows V/A album on Function needs special highlighting because it’s such an unholy bruiser. This is proper, uncut drum & bass from the heart. It’s angry, its relentless, its built in layers that weave in and out giving the track a constant sense of momentum and surprise. Rooted in that late 90s / early 2000s sound that gave us Bad Company, Ram Trilogy, Virus, Quarantine and so many more pillars of the dark art, this is timeless and will forever sound not-of-this-world whatever decade or century its played in the future. Pure flames. (Dave)
London Elektricity – Possible Worlds (feat. Inja) (Hospital Records)
I remember hearing this track for the first time during London Electricity’s set at Hospitality Motion, Bristol, in October and the vocal hook got me straight away. The powerful messaging behind the track left me with a fulfilling sense of euphoria. As soon as I listened to Building Better Worlds fully and came across the track again, I had the exact same feeling. From the inspiration words of Inja, to the epic 64 bar synth solo that breaks out on the second drop, this track really is something special. It has Tony’s playfulness written all over it and you can just picture him busting out the air synth every time the track plays. (Jake Hirst)
MARAUDA – Home (Maurda Music)
When 2019 opened, MARAUDA was still going by his moniker of Mastadon. However, due to his rising popularity, he was forced to make the incredibly tough decision to drop that name and switch to something a bit less copyright-infringy. Who cares though honestly? When a musician is this gifted, the undeniable skill always has a way of shining through.
Known to his loyal fanbase as one of dubstep’s most heavy-hitting acts, it was ironically his “softest” song of the year that resonated with me the most. I know, funny how that works. But what can I say, I’m a sucker for watching my favourite producers push themselves to their creative limits. Featured on his Elevated EP, Home is a drastically different composition from what we’ve come to expect from MARAUDA. While there is plenty of sub bass to help satisfy your wildest satiations, it’s really his use of subtle pauses and creative song-structuring that helps the tune take shape.
I’d like to think that this artist will continue to release more music along the lines of this track, but since that isn’t necessarily a guarantee, I’m going to do my best to enjoy a side of MARAUDA we may never see surface again. Care to join me? (Barrett Nelson)
Monrroe – You Got Me ft. Alexa Harley (Shogun Audio)
Monrroe is a name that’s become synonymous with poignant, charming liquid drum & bass over recent years. His unbridled energy and skill behind the decks doesn’t hurt his status, either. But his track You Got Me’ takes his reputation to a whole new level. Released on Shogun right at the start of 2019, it’s been a sure favourite for me. If you’re still thinking about a track released eleven months ago in an industry with so much good music being released so consistently, that’s a sign it’s got something special. Charismatic, comforting, and impassioned, Monrroe’s sophisticated production pairs harmoniously with the velvety vocals of Alexa Harley for a seriously stunning result. (Rhiannon McCarter)
Oliverse – Unspoken (Disciple)
Oliverse has gone from strength to strength ever since finding his now signature sound, with remixes for Emalkay, Zomboy, Zeds Dead and Delta Heavy, a UKF10 single and an EP on Disciple all released in 2019. It was difficult to pick one track as his best of the year, but ultimately it had to be this one. Catchy vocals, an infectious melodic hook and enough bass to make my speakers shake, Unspoken is an evolution of everything that got me into dubstep in the first place. The top comment on the UKF Dubstep upload of Unspoken states “local British boy single-handedly saves dubstep”. I’m inclined to agree. (Sampo Kaskia)
Phaction – Aviatrix (Metalheadz)
It’s quite hard finding words to describe the happiness which wells up as a result of this track, but an attempt is necessary. Unmistakeable from the second those violin riffs tear through empty space and into the top of the range, Aviatrix is non-stop and unforgiving. It swells up from beneath you whilst dropping down from above, a juxtaposition of tones and frequencies which slot into each other seamlessly, patterns stitched together by a percussive thread with few rivals. Riya adds the final touch, the human emotion in a machine of non-stop movement, her voice hovering like a feather in a storm. The end result of all this is a drum & bass tune that’s powerful, subtle, simple and complex, a roller that’s perfectly weighted; light enough to float, heavy enough to hurt. Phaction deserves huge credit for making this one and we’re more than happy to give it to him. (Ben Hunter)
Satl – All my Life (feat. Steo) (The North Quarter)
I must admit I am a sucker for a good liquid track with a dreamy vocal, and this is exactly what this song is. It comes packing emotion and has a delicate vibe oozing throughout. It’s no surprise this is such a winning combination when the producer behind it is Satl – someone who has been steadily rising up the ranks recently, showing everyone just how talented of a producer he is. This track completely conveys this. Featuring the vocals of Steo, whose voice has become well known in the scene, it was always going to be a mesmerising track taking the listener on a journey into beautiful liquid depths. (Jake Hirst)
SCAR – The Seeker (Metalheadz)
SCAR’s epic High Fives & Devil Eyes LP woke up a drum & bass scene that thought it would get a reprieve, or at least a bit of a break after all the hefty releases in October and early November. Not if the darkstep duo and Metalheadz had anything to say about it. On an album full of highlights, the track Seeker was a highlight as it perfectly showcased in one track why people will still wake up for SCAR, even In the bleak midwinter.
With a minimal beat and a synth which makes up both the bassline and mid range of its staff, Seeker contains everything a great SCAR track should: ravey samples, eerie sinewave synths and flourishes, lots of amen-y snares and, of course, dark, wide-open sound design. Chances are this track will not have lost its luster with the entre of 2020. (Layla Marino)
Vorso – Strange Attractor (Inspected)
The man behind some of the most interesting and colourful sounds in bass music right now, Vorso’s had a great 2019. But this track stands out as one of his best. Crisp, clean, polished and yet still wonky and unexpected, what stands out the most about the track is the textures. Vorso weaves so many sounds in and out of each other it is almost beyond comprehension. Yet, and most importantly, the track never loses its groove. With so many different elements at play and so much to appreciate in just under four minutes, you get the first-time listening chills over and over again. It genuinely never gets old. Complex yet cohesive, we can’t get enough of this chaotic euphoria! (Rhiannon McCarter)