In years gone by, I have used my End Of Year list as an opportunity to discover new music, hanging back until everyone else has finished and cherry-picking the best. This year I'll do things a little differently. 2012 was the first year in memory where I genuinely felt connected to upfront music, both as a very active clubber and as a personal listener. As such, this year's list-making festivities are less a measured appraisal of the "Best" of 2012, and more an compendium of the special moments from the last twelve months, hence the slight contraction of each respective category. Not all of these records have memories attached to them - some are included merely for being brilliant - but all mean something to me.
Albums of 2012:
01. The Future Sound Of London - Environments 4
It feels slightly odd saying the FSOL made the best album of 2012, but that's only because it's so rare that an act can genuinely keep improving after over twenty years of making music. Since the beginning of the Environments series in 2007, the FSOL have made arguably their best material, long after they ceased being relevant to all but diehard fans like myself. This epic psychedelic trip across a primordial savannah plays out like some sunstruck hallucination, trippy, grandiose and genuinely unlike any other album I've ever heard. It was also the soundtrack for one very distinct and happy moment in 2012: walking home on a balmy August evening and pausing by the canal to stargaze and send a text to someone special. A fleeting moment of serene perfection in a madcap year.
02. Solar Fields - Random Friday
2012 was a truly grim year for British weather, even by our own inauspicious
standards. On the rare moments when the sun did shine, it always seemed to be
accompanied by Solar Fields' widescreen opus: effortlessly the best trance long
player since the days of Vibrasphere. Whether falling asleep sunbathing in the
garden or staving off comedown blues in a Bloomsbury park in London, I always had
this album on hand for those blue sky moments.
03. Scuba - Personality
There's been a critical backlash against this album, of course: a whole lot of
wordsmiths irate that they got a totally different Scuba to the one they signed up
for. Well fuck 'em, because this album is just a huge amount of feel-good fun, with
an airy, expansive and totally distinct production sound that reinvigorates its
liberal '90s breakbeat influences. It already feels like a classic, however much
other scribes might protest.
04. Tineidae - Lights
Tympanik Audio is something of an electronic sleeper cell, routinely ignored when
conventional label lists are compiled, but a haven of challenging and out-there
electronic experimentation for those who know. I wouldn't even know how to begin
describing Tineidae's album (haunting glitched out future bass IDM mutation?) which
is a pretty big compliment.
05. Andrew Lahiff - Inner Worlds Returning
Lahiff has been a go-to-guy for space music for a while now, but on Inner Worlds
Returning he channels his inner Vangelis and conjures an ethereal edge to the
wishy-washy pads that elevates this album into what will surely be a career best.
06. Clubroot - III: MMXII
One for the rainy days (and there was no shortage of those) and bitter mornings
huddled under bus stops after long night shifts. Clubroot took a step back from the
epic expansions of his previous album and rediscovered the dank, claustrophobic
dread of dubstep's urban origins. There are still transcendental moments here, but
they're accompanied a harder and more intimidating edge than most post-Burial
chilled dubstep can muster.
07. Petar Dundov - Ideas From The Pond
Neo-trance? Kosmichemuzik? Ambient techno? One of the most hypnotic and engrossing
albums of the year, either way. Bizarrely overlooked by just about everyone's lists
so far, I loved this album so much I bought the CD when I saw it in a record shop
just to give Dundov some hard-earned pennies.
08. Claro Intelecto - Reform Club
Another absorbing slow-mo melodic techno excursion but one with a very different
mood to Dundov's album, Claro Intelecto aims for Detroit melancholy and knocks it
out of the park.
09. Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes
I didn't move in hipster circles quite so much in 2012, so I almost missed the
release of FlyLo's new album. He reigns in the everything-everything omni music
ambition of Cosmogramma in favour of a smokey neo-noir jazz bar vibe that works a
treat. "FlyLo goes opulent" is how I'd sub-head it if I were a lazy hack, and I am.
10. ASC & Sam KDC - Decayed Society
ASC is the Lionel Messi of electronic music. Busting the received wisdom of quality
over quantity, he has put out a mere three full artist albums this year to go along
with multiple EPs, podcasts, mixes and soundtrack work. This Chernobyl-themed
collaboration with the excellent Sam KDC is the best of his albums, haunting post-
apocalyptic ambient with a signature ghostly emotional residue. Late night music if
ever it existed.
EPs of 2012:
01. Deep Space Organisms - Deep Space EP
Out of nowhere, DSO returned one day with a new two-track EP. There's nothing here
that hasn't been done on previous DSO releases, but with their output now seemingly
down to one EP every three years and nobody else even coming close to this level of
tripped out cryo-sleep spaciness, there's no danger of boredom setting in anytime
02. Cosmithex - Shipment EP
Cosmithex has already established himself as quite simply the best in the business
for fresh sounding progressive trance, and this EP was an absolute gem. I've heard
all four tracks crop up in various places and danced to them on more than one
occasion across the year.
03. DjRum - Watermark EP
DjRum probably left more of an impression in 2012 with his excellent podcast
contributions, which softened more than a couple of post-party descents to earth.
The Watermark EP doesn't quite have the startling newness of last year's Mountains
EP, but contains in the same vein and the quality doesn't dip at all.
04. Burial - Kindred EP
Just when it feels impossible that Burial's misty vocal-manipulations won't outstay
their welcome, he brings out another magnificent EP to quash such notions. The
tracks keep getting longer, somehow over-familiarity is kept at bay.
05. Acoustiks - Stargazing EP
Once a year there seems to be an EP of pure old-school atmospheric jungle
revivalism, and Stargazing is another welcome time capsule from 1996. Cozmoz also
goes startlingly into 4/4 kicks halfway through, adding a welcome twist to the
Stand Alone Tracks of 2012:
01. Sam KDC - Synaesthesia
No special memory attached to this one, it's just quite simply the most spine-
tingling piece of electronic music I've heard all year.
02. Incube - Starscream
A track so good I stopped everything and spent two days making a drum 'n bass mix
around it, barely pausing to eat in the process. It still hits me like an adrenaline shot, every single time.
03. John 00 Fleming - The 10th Life (Artifact303 Remix)
The original wasn't half bad, but Artifact303 blows it clean out of the water. An
absolutely insane piece of acid-drenched dayglo psy-trance madness that sounds
unreal on a club system.
04. Airwave - Atlas Winds
No other track destroyed so many dancefloors for me in 2012. It particularly brings
back memories of the Diamond Jubilee weekend, when I saw Airwave in Manchester one
night and high-tailed the length of the country to hear J00F drop it again in
Brighton the following night. Instant classic.
05. ASC - A Song For Hope
The stand-out from his well-received Out Of Synch LP is this spine-tingling strand
of vocal gossamer. An entire sci-fi saga in four and a half minutes.
06. Cosmithex - Aquarius
This deep slice of acid could have slotted neatly onto the Shipment EP. Pitches up
like a dream to turn into an absolute monster.
07. DFRNT - Silent Witness
After threatening to get lost in regressive dubstep-blah, DFRNT popped up with an
album of gorgeous dub techno ambience, of which this opener was the definite
08. Geomatic - They Come From Within
Geomatic attach a more conventional industrial thump to their utterly unique
Lovecraftian tribal vibes on this one-off for a Tympanik label comp. Let's hope a
new album beams down soon.
09. John Talabot - When The Past Was Present
The anthemic highlight of a very good debut album, I particularly associate this
one with a very long September walk into Clumber forest, one of my favourite places
10. Airwave - Oyama (Terra Ferma Remix)
A second Airwave track but really it's all about Terra Ferma's remix, which is such
a defiantly old-school piece of acid trance it will never get played by anyone, and
so deserves rewarding here for its excellence instead.