An average of 250 D&B releases are sold on Junodownload every week. That’s approximately 1000 per month / 12,000 per year. It’s a miracle any of us can agree on any tunes as favourites, let along work out some of the best of the year.
And that’s just drum & bass. Similar levels of all bass genres are pelted out into the ether week in, week out. And while that’s exciting for DJs and dancefloors, and means we’re constantly exposed to exciting levels of freshness, it makes it incredibly hard for any artists trying to make themselves heard in an ever crowded market.
But talent and craftsmanship does rise to the top… Especially when a good 50 percent of releases should probably have stayed on the DAW and worked on a little more. These 18 tracks, however, were cooked for the perfect amount of time and represent the sheer scale and breadth of exciting music we’ve enjoyed this year. Here’s to the next 12,000 releases….
Akov – Exodus (Self Release)
As we continue to wade through a sea of radio-friendly three-minute instant-gratification bangers, all tarted up with quick-fire Instagrammable drops, Akov delivered something genuinely special this year. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and take 12 minutes out of your life to indulge in Exodus.
A bonafide opus, Exodus defiantly bucks all trends and tells a real story. It salutes and celebrates almost all subgenres of drum & bass from jungle to neuro to pure abstract cosmicity and glitch-riddled trippiness with unashamed narrative drama. Transcending the dancefloor or any specific moment in musical time, Akov has created something remarkable here that takes you on a genuine trip and neatly brings you back to the starting point just when you think there’s no return. I’d love to hear more artists do this in the future. Not everything has to be written for the club. (Dave Jenkins)
Break, DLR & Randall – Song & Dance (Sofa Sound)
Production line-ups don’t get much more spectacular than Break, DLR & Randall. The holy trio collaborated on DLR’s brand new imprint Sofa Sound this year and the result was Song & Dance, a devastating yet sophisticated dancefloor cut that rolls out with serious swagger. This is the roller of all rollers, carved out of Break’s drums, DLR’s characteristic bass-weight and Randall’s wisdom, a manifestation of all three men’s unbelievable ability to not only make music, but be part of every step of the journey from A&R to promo to DJing. Song & Dance is a representation of how strong the scene has been this year, an ultimate collaboration between like-minded D&B heads. The good news for us is that the track is incredible. Everyone wins here. (Ben Hunter)
Brookes Brothers – Every Minute (Drum&BassArena)
You can always count on Brookes Brothers to deliver those warm, fuzzy, feel-good summer vibes, and that’s exactly what they’ve delivered with the absolute gem that is Every Minute.
From the very first note it’s clear the duo are back to their musical roots, bringing the sounds of soul into the future in their signature style.
Their musicality and attention to detail shines bright with every note in this track, stirring some serious nostalgia while rolling out an infectious groove. Even the breakdown is so superbly constructed, this is Brookes Brothers in truly brilliant form. Bringing proper vibes back to drum & bass, which is so refreshing at a time when production techniques can be somewhat overly technical and over-produced, losing the most important thing – the soul.
Throw in two brilliant remixes from InsideInfo and Bladerunner, and Every Minute is the gift that keeps on giving. Can’t wait to see what else they’ve got in store next year. (Maja Cicic)
Caspa – Hot Head (Sentry)
Only a handful of dubstep first generation artists have been as unwavering in their faith and support in dubstep as Caspa as Youngsta. So when Hot Head and Gutter Riddim finally landed on Sentry (after at least a year of floating on dub) this felt like a big deal. It sounded like one, too; all wobbles and hammers, there’s a strong whiff of 2007 running throughout. We spoke to both artists at the time who agreed that dubstep was in the healthiest place it’s been for years: “There are more ups and downs for those who don’t jump ship and keep on sailing the flag,” they explain. “Right now in 2018 it’s clear to see and feel that there’s blatantly a new and exciting wave that we must, and will, embrace to the fullest.” Amen. (Dave Jenkins)
Delta Heavy – Exodus (Monstercat)
It’s not been Delta Heavy’s most prolific of years (which means they’re probably up to something in their laboratory) but Exodus caught pretty much everyone by the short and curlies. One of their first big dubstep tracks since White Flag, and their first on Monstercat (rather than their usual home Ram) this tore a hole out of the summer in a contagiously catchy way. Sci-fi to the core, coupled with a spoken word that tickled all of our inner-geeks; everything about this track commands attention from the dramatic orchestral elements to the epic synths right the way through to the toxic bassline. Tipping a nod to their days of Demons, Hold Me and Get By, Exodus was the sound of Delta Heavy getting back into their groove and reminding us why we fell for them in the first place. (Michael Janiec)
Document One – LSD (Shogun Audio)
One of the few tracks released this year to send genuine shivers down our spines not just the first, but each and every time we’ve heard it since, Document One’s LSD combines the best of charming, harmonic melodies, soulful horns, evocative vocal sampling, sassy strings, and a psychedelic vibe that fully immerses you – every detail, element and vibe is clearly considered and works so well. Just brilliant. (Rhiannon McCarter)
Dutta ft. T>I – One Round (Souped Up)
Dutta has emerged as one of the scene’s most promising talents, so when he linked with T>I (who is a certified badman himself obvs) on his debut EP on Serum’s Souped Up Records imprint, you just knew it was going to be quality, and oh boy did they deliver.
One Round kicks off with the sounds of the rainforest, but don’t be fooled, this ain’t no ambient forest adventure. This number is about to be interrupted by a rude growl that launches it into a tightly-produced stepper, rolling out with intricate precision, and championing a sound that has reigned supreme this year. Like all of Souped Up’s output this year, it’s straight up fun with serious attitude, can’t go wrong with that… (Maja Cicic)
Freddie Martin – Limbo (Southpoint)
There’s been a glut of impeccable breaks-based music this year and it’s come from all directions. Whether it’s My Nu Leng firing their fracture cannons, Echo Knight ripping up our UKF On Air Studio or kick ass labels such as Stanton Warriors’ Punks, Left/Right’s Broken or the more technoid influenced Swamp 81, broken beats have ruled the 130 roost over the last few years and remained an exciting melting pot for all types of hybrids and blends. Southpoint have been especially prominent in this movement. They’ve been at the forefront of fusion since they launched in 2015 and recent faces to the label such as Bushbaby and Freddie Martin have take the breaks-based mould to new levels. Freddie’s Limbo in particular is a great example of how exciting this style can be in the right hands; a powerful evocative intro, a drop into pure bass poison and a blend of breaks and bassline 4x4s that’s strong enough to charge a Tesla Model X and still have enough to charge your iPhone for two weeks. Stinking. (Dave Jenkins)
Kid Drama x DLR x Ulterior Motive x Hydro – Dredger (CNVX)
This has got to be one of the biggest collaborations of the year. I mean, come on… Featuring some of the most innovative producers in the game, the names in the title alone give the tune serious weight, let alone when you hear the debauchery they’ve produced.
Opening with a hauntingly playful trickle of piano, Dredger launches straight in with rugged drums and that menacing growl. The way this tune rolls out is simply rude; packed with sheer, raw power, it’s incited some seriously furious head-banging from me since it blasted its way into my headphones.
This is the sound of five producers jamming in the studio, geeking out over that late 90s funk-infused tech-step sound, and bringing out the best in each other. More of this please fellas! (Maja Cicic)
Koherent & Constrict – Dystopia (ft. Jolla) (Dispatch)
At the end of last year, I chose these guys as one of my ‘ones to watch for 2018’ and they haven’t disappointed. They released Dystopia – featuring MC Jolla – on their Depth Charge EP this Spring and it’s been on repeat ever since, a ferociously crafted, snapping roller that sits underneath Jolla’s vocals like shadowy dream. Fitting in perfectly to 2018’s shift towards the minimal and techy, Dystopia’s subtle switch-ups give it endless character and charm, as a halftime section hits you out of the blue or a shivering bass creeps in on the second drop. Koherent have only just begun their onwards march and Dystopia is emblematic of how far that march looks set to continue. (Ben Hunter)
Kyo & Total Science – Murder Tonight (Symmetry)
Where to begin with this gem… It was released on Kyo’s debut EP on Symmetry, and with it she cemented herself as one of the most talented vocalists in the scene. Bringing Total Science in for a tune was of course a brilliant move – they’re simply on some serious next-level gangster shit aren’t they? These guys manage to strike the perfect balance of sophistication and soulful musicality with a healthy serving of badman riddims in every production.
Those loose jungle breaks, with that deep fluttering bassline sprinkled with Kyo’s dulcet tones is just a genius balance of contrasts. The soulful funk they then launch into in the final 20 seconds of the tune is just superb. This one works on the dance floor as well as in a chill setting. Pure class. (Maja Cicic)
My Nu Leng & Holy Goof – Gully (Maraki)
October was mad month for power house bass house collabos; not only did Jack Beats, DJ Zinc and GQ all hook up on Raise It Up, but Leng and Goof finally blessed us with a collaboration that had been rumoured for what feels like forever. Pure fusion on a nuclear level; the intro and build up are pretty much neuro, the drop is a tsumani of siren-induced skin ripples, the groove the track settles into after the main drop is loose, warm and vibey and Takura provides on point navigation and narration. Oh, and it absolutely murders crowds whenever it’s dropped. There’s been a lot of copycat and formulaic bassline cuts this year; My Nu Leng and Holy Goof remind us how it’s done properly. (Dave Jenkins)
Need For Mirrors – Oval (Commercial Suicide)
It’s been a huge year for Need For Mirrors. Prolific as ever, his output was frequent, but with an un-rivalled focus on quality. The release of Swim, his debut album on Commercial Suicide, was an outstanding way to wrap up the year and a truly brilliant body of work. I always found myself going back to the interstellar sounds of Oval. As much fun to mix as it is it daydream to, this is what I’d imagine space-travel to sound like, encapsulated perfectly in the stunning album artwork too. This track is just from another planet really, as is NFM himself. I for one welcome our new interplanetary overlord and look forward to more cosmic treats in the new year. (Maja Cicic)
Satl – Everything Anything (Integral)
Calibre’s remix of London Grammar’s If You Wait is an absolute gem and if you’ve heard it played out, you’ll know just how special it is. Sadly, however, it sounds like it will never see the light of day and will remain an unreleased bootleg, no matter how much we pester. But it’s not all doom and gloom as Satl, who is steadily rising through the ranks with each release, gave us Everything Anything, which samples the trio’s aforementioned song to dreamy effect. But it’s not just that sample worth mentioning; the overall production of the track is exceptional. The chord change before the drop sends shivers down the spine and there’s definitely a Dawn Wall feel to it, which is no bad thing. Those in the know have been banging on about Satl for years now and it looks like he’s finally starting to get the kind of praise he deserves. He gifted us with two fantastic EPs this year, with Everything Anything followed by Everything To Me, the title track of which was another standout release from 2018. (Robin Murray)
SpectraSoul – Untitled Horn (Ish Chat Music)
Unadulterated dancefloor damage. Pure and simple. As we all know, 2018 was the year of the horn with seemingly every producer and their dog featuring it in their tracks, particularly in the jump up scene. But in my opinion, nobody utilised it as well as SpectraSoul on Untitled Horn. It’s a fairly simple track but one which goes off every time without fail. I first heard Break drop it on the Void stage at Outlook and it was one of those unforgettable moments we all crave in the rave, with the drop being met with a noise which wouldn’t have sounded out of place at a football match. It got a rewind, naturally, and the second play was met with an even bigger response. There’s something almost scary about the moody build-up and the drop is, as mentioned above, absolutely massive. It’s the first track on their Silence EP, which also includes Faithful, Silence and Like This, making it one of the year’s best without question. Like a fine wine, SpectraSoul are only getting better with age. (Robin Murray)
Ternion Sound – Parasite 6 (Artikal)
Just listen to this bassline and anything else we write is mere conjecture. Ternion Sound are capable of turning you inside-out with their designs and they’re only just warming up. A Minneapolis trio comprising Nostalgia, Apparition and Johnny Foreplay, Ternion Sound has been a tour de force since emerging on Dank N Dirty Dubz way back in January. Since then they’ve worked with a list of impressive labels: DUPLOC, Silent Motion, Chestplate and, most recently, J:Kenzo’s Artikal with the absolute stinker Parasite 6. Authentic gully that taps deep into the source but still sounds like its own, other Ternion essentials this year include the rubber ball bassline of Hopeless and the alien invasion Verify Me. Everything they’ve released so far has been impressive and we suspect they’ll have an even bigger 2019. (Dave Jenkins)
V.I.V.E.K – Where Were You (Blacklist)
Pure emotional rawness trembles through V.I.V.E.K’s Where Were You right down to its very bones. A barbed soul flip to recent wounders such as the flabbed-out Namaste and bruk’d up system shaker 94, this shimmers with a heavy almost hymn-like poignancy. Written during chemo as he successfully battled cancer last year, everything about it stops you in your tracks from the churchy organs and measured chords to the stumbling kicks and rolling bassline. When V.I.V.E.K dropped this as his final tune at the last System in Camden the whole club turned into one en mass goosebump.
For more goosebumps, check the interview we did with him in the summer where he told us “I have to take the positives from that for my life moving forward. It’s not good to go through really negative, challenging things in life. But when you do it makes you stronger. I’ve just realised what’s what and I am happier for that.” It doesn’t get more inspiring than this. (Dave Jenkins)
Vorso – Crisis (Pilot)
What we like the most about this track is its seeming genre defiance – it’s not often you come across a track as curious yet will put together as this, but Vorso has seriously nailed it. Opening on a delicate note with choir chants and indistinct vocals, he wastes no time introducing us to his unique sound design and even more interesting arrangements. Thumping drums and amped up electric guitar riffs steal the spotlight amidst subtle hints of the more neuro-leaning stuff the producer is normally known for, yet all the while protruding a captivating energy that has allowed us to play this song on repeat hundreds of times without getting tired of it once. Pimped as one of UKF’s artists to watch this year, Vorso has beyond delivered and is a name people need to be talking about more. (Rhiannon McCarter)