10 of the thousands of exciting, innovative productions we’ve enjoyed this year. From classic rolling soul to blissed-out breakbeat rave homages to one of the most impressive dubstep comebacks we’ve ever had the pleasure of immersing ourselves in, bass music has satisfied us in all directions this year. As picked by our editorial team…
Bicep – Glue (Ninja Tune)
One for the sunrise crew: Bicep’s Glue was an instant classic for me the minute I heard it. The rugged breakbeat coupled with that gentle flutter of synths – it’s ethereal but melancholic at its core, so always somewhat of an emotional listen. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia it captures of days gone by in UK rave culture that gives it such an emotive vibe; nostalgia that’s perfectly presented in the official video too. All the feels. (Maja Cicic)
Bungle – Cocooned (31)
The sheer energy I felt when this tune first rattled through my headphones almost knocked me off my chair. Now, having seen the reaction it elicits the world over, I’ve come to realise I’m not alone.
Out on Doc Scott’s 31 Recordings, Bungle managed to capture something truly unique with this release. I’ve been struggling to find the words to explain what makes it so special, and that’s because words simply don’t do it justice. It’s the feeling it conjures when you hear those distinctive drums creeping into a mix, accompanied by that menacing buzz that leads into the now infamous drone – it’s pure energy. I think there’s some black magic behind the frequencies in this tune that allow it to speak to us on another level, provoking some truly grotesque facial expressions from anyone in its vicinity.
It’s fascinating the entire thing is driven by a seemingly simple loop that repeats itself over 6 minutes, and still manages to hold your attention and sound fresh the whole way through. The way Bungle utilises a pause to reset the energy of the entire track is really impressive. Salute the badman from Brazil! (Maja Cicic)
He’s only gone and bloody done it again. Using a few simple piano chords and some lovely drums, the main man served up an absolute gem of a release this year in the guise of Sunrise with the help of the one and only DRS. To be honest I could have quite easily chosen a few efforts from his brilliant album, The Deep, but it was this one which really caught my attention. Like many of his tunes, I fell in love with it on the very first listen and it was stuck on repeat for a quite a few days. With the next instalment of the Shelflife series coming next year, here’s hoping it includes some more of this kind of stuff. (Robin Murray)
Caspa – Ice Cold (Insomniac)
This website launched in March 2014 and Caspa was one of our first big interviews. DUBSTEP IS NOT DEAD the headline cried as the Dub Police superintendent himself explained “We’re clearing out the dirty water so people can drink it again. I want people who are saying it’s dead to carry on saying it. Cool, go on then, whatever, move on. The people who believe in dubstep will still remain true.”
We’ve interviewed him every year and he’s not just stuck to his word but driven deeper into the dark art of space, weight and menacing minimalism. Be that his 500 album a few years back, his on-going Vibrations series of one-track monthly murk missions or this absurdly good Ghost Town EP recently released on Insomnia’s Bassrush. Driven by steel foundry drums and bass textures that don’t just bark but bite, Caspa’s unwavering support and drive for the genre is paying off more than ever. (DJ)
Drumsound & Bassline Smith – The Odyssey VIP (Prototype)
When you listen back to the original 2004 version of The Odyssey, it’s difficult to think of many ways to improve what was at the time (and still is) a ferocious drum and bass track packing some serious energy and a frenetic bassline. It was this unique sound that made the track stand out, so to see Drumsound & Bassline Smith stylishly rework it into a modern dance floor smasher with an even heftier bassline is a real pleasure. The track tore up stages across the world all summer – from Fabio & Grooverider shelling it down from the heights of Glastonbury’s flaming Arcadia spider, to a countless number of artists unleashing it at this year’s Let It Roll. This track is going to be packing devastating impact for many years to come. (Jake Hirst)
Enei – Wolfpack (Critical)
Not many people do dark & foreboding like Enei does, and even fewer can translate murky atmospherics into well-made, dancefloor purity. Wolfpack is D&B at its most essential: drums and bass. The complete lack of any frills, any regard for comfort or any sense of humanity is what makes this tune so fantastic, and that grating bass is possibly the most unique bit of low frequency production I’ve heard in years. If you have the good fortune of hearing it live, just try not to wet yourself. It’s hard, trust. (Ben Hunter)
Halogenix – Blej (Critical)
What I love about Blej is the grandiose manner in which it announces itself. The industrial growl of that bassline, best described as an angle grinder gone rogue, creeps in before unfurling into a crisp, yet crunchy roller. There’s something so satisfying about the way Halogenix has layered the tune and the way it rolls out. The textures in the second drop are quite frankly disgusting, and I mean that in the best possible way, of course. Also quite fitting the track name is pretty much the sound most people make when they hear it – Bleeeeeeejjjjjjj. Absolute belter. (Maja Cicic)
Klax – The Mute (Critical)
The saucy Brighton trio Klax made a lot of waves when they released on Critical’s Binary series last year and they’re definitely getting recognition both in the UK and EU, but not nearly enough in this writer’s humble opinion. The Mute released on Critical’s 15-year compilation this year. And while it got a lot of second looks, its real genius was not explored or extolled nearly enough.
The Mute seems simple upon first listen. The drum composition is classic mid-00s two-step, and similarly the two alternating sub bass tracks are pretty recognisable. The main synth and the punctuated phrase breaks start to give the track some punch while the secondary synth adds sort of a spacey feel, but it’s the way this track is constructed that gives it its unique and incredibly evocative quality. The sub bass tracks are set back-to-back so it almost sounds like they’re battling, so the drums thus also sound strange and different. This track also has so many modifications to the sound waves that they almost becomes another layer in themselves. Add the absolutely haunting lyrics and sine wave buzz on top of all these elements, and goosebumps are almost a given.
All that said, picking The Mute apart also doesn’t really work to describe its evocative power. While definitely composed and screwed together like a D&B track, The Mute is a whole, complete and seamless composition, almost in the classical sense because of the way the layers are done. If there are edits and cut-ups and re-works, it’s almost impossible to tell. In a genre like drum and bass where everyone is technically knowledgeable and can see how a song is put together, The Mute leaves a lot of questions in that arena and gives the listener a chance to just enjoy the song for what it is, rather than just loving the drop or the break or the bassline. The Mute and many other things about Klax make them definite artists to watch in 2018. (Layla Marino)
Killsonik – Never Dream Of Dying (UKF)
We’ve all seen it before. Artists we know and love who disappear off the radar, seemingly for good, until they suddenly reappear with a bang! However, more often than not when this happens, the return simply isn’t as good as it used to be.
This isn’t one of those cases. After four years of radio silence (with the exception of a quick collaboration with The Prodigy), KillSonik have unleashed Neve Dream Of Dying and it is everything we ever wanted from them and more. Sitting comfortably half way between the raw fuck off sound design that they’re known for and the legendary gritty sound from their Chasing Shadows days, Never Dream Of Dying is a modern dubstep masterpiece the likes of which rarely surface these days. From the James Bond-esque intro clocking in at nearly 2 minutes before the buildup even starts to the constantly evolving neuro basslines in drop, this track is a masterpiece from start to finish and deserves the title of best dubstep track of 2017. (Sampo Kaskia)
A succulent slice of UK-reared topside 2009 served up on titanium 2017 platter, Take Me Up represents the fun a lot of dubstep artists have been having this year. Miles away from the monster drops, 150 beats and design-for-the-sake-of-design that have characterised some aspects of dubstep, Myro and Bar9 collided for a classic tear-out melting pot slap down. Rave breaks and pianos, swaggering kicks, juicy subs and a hair-raising bassline that makes you feel almost 10 years younger, its vibsey pieces of filth like this that got many of us here in the first place. The facts that Myro has yet to release a bad tune so far and it’s awesome to see Bar9 more active this year are cherries on the top of an already delicious cake. (DJ)