The turn of the decade marked a new era for electronic music in ways stretching beyond the Gregorian calendar. The lines between the underground and mainstream have blurred, as the dance industry has grown into a multi-billion pound colossus with more than a billion listeners worldwide. At its heart, though, it’s still the same scene: developing new trends and unleashing a consistent slew of fresh tracks that make us want to move.
From the deep house boom of 2011 through the strpped-back, deconstructed movement to the breaks revival, alternative approaches to rap and r’n’b and surge of big room sounds, this decade has progressed through many fresh flavours and updated takes on classic sounds. There’s been the controversial rise and fall of EDM, an embracing of sounds from the Global South, increased diversity of people making and playing music and running the industry, propulsive genres like footwork, Jersey club and ballroom sweeping through clubland, UK rap hitting new heights, and much more besides.
We’ve reflected on 120 tracks that defined the decade in the list below. Presented in a year-by-year order, there’s no hierarchy. We hope that as you scroll through, the story of the decade in electronic music will be told, with many fond memories rising to the surface and, hopefully, some missed gems to discover. Enjoy <3.
Joe 'Claptrap' (Hessle Audio)
Looking back, 2010 was an astonishing year for Hessle Audio, putting out Blawan’s debut single, James Blake’s second EP (pre-megastardom), Pearson Sound’s final release on the label as Ramadanman and Joe’s ‘Claptrap’.
Around this time, the post-dubstep universe found solace in slower and more pensive sounds, while I continued to drown myself in bro-tastic, ear-bleed dubstep. I don’t think either of us were quite ready for ‘Claptrap’s’ comparatively cheerier rhythm, which is beaten out by a bevy of snappy claps, sub stabs, frantic drums rolls, piano hits and spluttering coughs (along with the occasional cowbell ding).
Back then, it didn’t do too much for a dour 16-year-old me. However, my love of the track continues to grow as it rears its peculiar head time and time again, every re-emergence a reminder of the track’s anthemic credentials and immense pliability, slotting nicely alongside most of the decade’s sounds, from dubstep and UK funky to hard drum and Villalobos-leaning minimal.
More broadly, ‘Claptrap’ serves as a key moment in Hessle Audio’s rise this decade, affirming the tastemaker credentials of an imprint whose electrifyingly eccentric yet readily accessible releases have left an indelible mark on the wider dance music landscape during the ‘10s. James Ball
Calibre 'Even If' (Signature Recordings)
Calibre is Mr. Consistent, a master of lustrous liquid d'n'b. There's not many out there that conjure up as much emotion as this guy, and 'Even If' is a majestic roller teeming with searing strings and sorrowful vocals that could make any bass-loving raver shed a tear on the dancefloor. Put simply, it's powerful music that tugs at your heartstrings. It's a track to turn to when times are tough, but once those seven-and-half-minutes are up, your spirits will be uplifted.
Listen to the music by the likes of SpectraSoul, LSB and Lenzman - all producers who have flourished in the past decade - and you’ll hear touches of Calibre in there. We kindly declared Lenzman the 'king of soulful drum 'n' bass' a few years back, but the Metalheadz producer was quick to point out Calibre was the man deserving of that crown. The fact is he's revered by ravers and artists alike, and 'Even If' is that one track that's pinpointed in conversations gushing over him. Dave Turner
Giggs 'Look What The Cat Dragged In' (XL Recordings)
Look what the cat dragged in is a saying usually reserved for the disliked or frowned upon. It's possible Giggs chose the title as a tongue-in-cheek diss aimed at himself. He served time in prison in 2003 for firearm possession, a charge that affected his career through the police regularly pressuring his shows into being cancelled. Giggs even claims the authorities tried to scare XL Recordings into not signing him in 2009. Thankfully XL stuck to the plan, allowing the South London rapper to release 'Look What The Cat Dragged In' in 2010. If fans weren't able to see Giggs live, they made sure he was heard otherwise. An electrifying road rap anthem with fizzing synths and Giggs' trademark husky vocals, 'Look What The Cat Dragged In' became a most-played for both inner-city kids and students at uni halls pre-parties, its menace representing the newfound freedom and anything-goes attitude for the latter having left home for the very first time.
Giggs' very real lyricism about life on the road came before a host of other road rap artists tasted success. North West London rapper Nines has released two albums on XL and Krept & Konan penned a deal with Virgin for their debut album 'The Long Way Home'. UK drill music, has seen its popularity explode in the last few years, the likes of 67 (whose tune 'Let's Lurk' featuring Giggs is in this list), Headie One and Skengdo & AM blowing up, and it's impossible not to liken the genre's graphic lyricism to the output of Giggs. It's no surprise then that drill artists are encountering censoring issues like Giggs had to. He's the UK rap hero they can turn to for advice, and it's likely they'd all take pride in sticking two fingers up to the authorities and belting the chorus of 'Look What The Cat Dragged In'. Dave Turner
MMM ‘Nous Sommes MMM’ (MMM)
A career-defining moment is producing a track that becomes the anthem for a generation of partygoers. This first happened for MMM, the collaborative project of German producers Errorsmith and Fiedel, in 1997. Their single ‘Donna’ ruptured dancefloors everywhere, famous for its intangible hybrid of techno and disco that you can’t help but dance to.
It’s one thing to do this once, but to do it twice? Outrageous. But that’s just what MMM did. Their 2010 release ‘Nous Sommes MMM’ became an instant club favourite among punters and DJs alike, from Berlin basements to Ibiza terraces. It was featured in Sven Väth’s mix ‘The Sound of the Eleventh Season’; Väth’s ‘The Sound of…’ mixes are the Cocoon label boss’ personal mix of the tracks that have defined the sound of the Frankfurt label’s residency each summer at Amnesia, their regular home on the White Isle. To have a track featured on one of these mixes is like a big rubber stamp of approval from one of the industry’s titans.
‘Nous Sommes MMM’ fits its title; it’s a brash declaration of presence, a track so imbued with confidence that it can’t help but infect you with it. The track rolls on, relentless with its repeated stabs of melody, only becoming more and more intense as it rolls through the seven minutes of play-time. Not just one for the decade, but one for the ages. Jemima Skala
Black Coffee feat. Bucie ‘Superman’ (White label)
The slowed-down, vocal-heavy club sound of kwaito has been a staple element of South African youth culture since the 1990s, and had slowly been bleeding into productions by some of the more astute and open-minded Western producers in subsequent years. Yet only in the last decade has it firmly established itself as a key element of global club culture from Ibiza to Miami, and no producer has taken it global like Black Coffee.
By the time ‘Superman’ arrived in 2010, the Durban-raised Nkosinathi Maphumulo was already a big name in South African clubbing and production circles, through collaboration with and endorsement from artists like Hugh Masekela and his work with the Red Bull Music Academy. A guest at low-key, afrocentric events in Europe and the US until this point, his breakthrough proper came in 2013 with dates at ADE, Circoloco and the Southport Weekender, partly inspired by the previous year’s live ‘Africa Rising’ record, and partly by the growing legacy of this track.
Over a smooth, soulful, Chicago-style house groove, with moody jazz piano conjuring an urbane atmosphere, South African singer and regular BC collaborator Bucie Nqwiliso brought a mighty vocal performance and then some, requesting of a lover a commitment which was sensual and sexual all at once (“we don’t have to be dramatic, just romantic / do all the little things… that excites me”).
There was controversy in 2017 when Drake re-recorded the song as ‘Get It Together’, with Bucie’s unimprovable vocal inexplicably re-recorded by Jorja Smith, but the legacy of the original, and the part it played in bringing the sound of South Africa to the dancefloors of the world, endures. David Pollock
Flying Lotus ‘Do The Astral Plane’ (Warp)
There are few artists who can demonstrate themselves as being entirely committed to and in control of the execution of their artistic vision as Flying Lotus. From launching a new film division of his record label Brainfeeder to teaming up with David Lynch on his 2019 single ‘Fire Is Coming’, FlyLo has used this decade to do exactly as he pleases: paving the way for new artists unwilling to compromise themselves for success.
From 2010’s ‘Cosmogramma’, ‘Do The Astral Plane’ demonstrates just that. It’s a track that is clean in its execution, and effective for that precise reason. Jazz, funk and electronic music meld so perfectly in that instantly recognisable groove. With a Thundercat vocal feature that strings throughout the track, ‘Do The Astral Plane’ does as its title promises; it takes you to the stars, dancing all the while.
‘Cosmogramma’ itself was an album that heralded a new decade and a new era for FlyLo, as recording sessions for this album started soon after his mother died of diabetes-related complications. ‘Do The Astral Plane’ is a chaotic track that marries the freedom of jazz improvisation and the precision of electronic music and instruments. It’s not surprising that it has survived in the collective consciousness as one of the decade’s defining tracks, particularly as it was covered by one of Tokyo’s legendary producers Toshio Matsuura in 2018. Jemima Skala
Emmanuel Jal ‘Kuar’ (Henrik Schwarz Remix) (Innervisions)
Henrik Schwarz's speciality as a remixer has, at his best, been to imbue vocals with a sense of towering grandeur, to magnify their emotion by swathing them in rich production. Six years into his career, Schwarz demonstrated that his ability to transform unlikely source material into a deep house rush remained strong with this rework of a former child soldier's call for the South Sudanese to vote in Sudan's 2010 elections (the title means "leader" in the Nuer language).
Schwarz - whose affinity for weaving cross-continental African sounds into his work has been a constant - doesn't seek to divorce his remix from this context. It's built around the tension already present in the original, and even retains Jal's "Don't let your vote be bought!" command at its climax. Instead, Schwarz incorporates the vocal parts lovingly into his own aesthetic, wrapping Jal's rap in hypnotic pads and whooshing synths until it has the authority of Schwarz, Âme and Dixon's 2006 classic 'Where We At' and, three-and-a-half minutes in, letting the sung chant explode into the track like daybreak flooding over the horizon. Every time I've been lucky enough to hear this on the dancefloor, the crowd has responded with rapturous chants in kind. Alex Macpherson
Ikonika 'Psoriasis' (Hyperdub)
While it may be a noughties baby – born in an era of flip phones, MSN messenger and questionable fashion choices – Hyperdub’s early years were less about finding its feet or following trends and instead spent bucking them entirely and doing what it wanted how it wanted akin to that of a defiant toddler. The 2010s saw the label continuing in this innovation-first, genre-later mission, its ever-growing roster and increasingly diverse outlets of late suggesting yet another decade of seminal releases and standout artists.
Ikonika made her Hyperdub debut back in 2008 with ‘Please’, a single that introduced both her and her unique take on UK bass to the world. Since, she’s remained a firm label favourite and one of the UKs finest producers, releasing countless 12”s as well as a string of great albums including 2017’s ‘Distractions’ and of course, 2010’s ‘Contact, Love, Want, Have’.
Her refined palette of tough dubstep, computer r’n’b and Kojima game-worthy melodies that pull on the heart-strings were fused with a slew of new sounds in wondrous ways. ‘Psoriasis’, lifted from the album, may not be the most obvious hit from Ikonika’s back catalogue but it’s a funky meets grime mash-up hot-glued together by manic synths and more than a spoonful of Ikonika’s synthetic sweetness, with timeless club appeal. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Maceo Plex 'Vibe Your Love' (Crosstown Rebels)
Eric ‘Maceo’ Estournel was a new name to Mixmag in 2010, but in the decade since, he’s proved himself as adept a producer as anyone else in the electronic scene. ‘Vibe Your Love’, part of his killer Crosstown Rebels album ‘Life Index’, was an instant hit in the office on its release and unusually it stayed on regular rotation for the best part of a year, which is something almost unheard of a decade later. Like the album it came from, ‘Vibe Your Love’ was rich, soulful, melodic and nicely tripped-out. Almost a cover of the Stevie Wonder cut ‘For Your Love’, it was a reminder that in 2010, soulful house was still possible: and we’re not talking about the cheap deep house kind. Ralph Moore
Caribou ‘Odessa’ (City Slang)
Dan Snaith’s earlier work as Manitbo showed a masterful level of talent, whether it was the weirdo drum programming and IDM melodies of debut album ‘Start Breaking My Heart’ or the fucked-up, glitchy garage of 2003 banger ‘If Assholes Could Fly This Place Would Be An Airport’.
But it was as Caribou he perfected his blend of delicacy and dancefloor dynamics. Like a modern day Arthur Russell, ‘Odessa’ sounded both avant-garde and schooled in pop hooks, its earnest lyrics of a failed relationship not stopping it finding it ways into DJs sets from Midland to Soul Clap - and even onto the soundtrack to FIFA 11.
Snaith continued to venture even further onto the dancefloor as Daphni, 2011’s ‘Ye Ye’, with its distinctive wonky bassline, another club hit and one that sampled William Onyeabor two years before the reissue of ‘Who Is William Onyeabor?’ brought his name to the world’s attention. Joe Roberts
Tensnake 'Coma Cat' (Defected / Permanent Vacation)
Marco Niemerski’s evergreen instrumental ‘Coma Cat’ was an instant smash in 2010 and it sent Niemerski into the electronic stratosphere for the best part of five years, including a fly-posted Mixmag cover with one Nile Rodgers. Even now, it’s not hard to hear why he flew: the spirit of the track helped launch a thousand tropical house rip-offs and yet it’s still the original and best. Fun fact you may know: I co-managed Niemerski from 2011 and took him from Permanent Vacation to a global album with 2014’s Virgin release ‘Glow’ via the Defected-released ‘Coma Cat’. But what you might not know is that it was seeing him perform live at fabric that led me to go and meet him in Berlin for the first time with another emerging DJ called Gerd Janson, who also signed two singles from him to Running Back, ‘In The End (I Want You To Cry)’ and ‘Holding Back (My Love)’. Even now, these three remain arguably the most iconic house records he ever produced. Ralph Moore
Lil Silva 'Seasons' (Night Slugs)
Before you start @-ing us on Twitter I know, I know that technically this landed back in 2008 via a rare white label release. But, it did land on Night Slugs officially in 2010. And let’s be honest, it’s too influential to just ignore, so let’s just leave that there.
Anyway, ‘Seasons’ is one in a string of important with a capital I party-starting tracks produced by Bedford-born funky alchemist Lil Silva. It’s also one in a string of important with a capital I tracks released via Night Slugs (shouts to Silva’s ‘Night Skanker’ EP), but I guess by that point it’s a given. Tracks like ‘IRL’, ‘Wut’, ‘(Baby I Don’t Know) What you Want’, the entirety of ‘Classical Curves’, ‘Melba’s Call’ (basically just the whole Night Slugs back catalogue) shelled out to eager fans as and when the label pleased this decade much to everyone’s delight.
For every phoenix-like UK funky rise and rise and fall and rise and so on and so forth over the 2010s, ‘Seasons’ has remained evergreen in its appeal and its workability into most sets, mixes, pre-party playlists – now and forever. Lil Silva remains innovative and in-demand too, offering up his skillset to collaborators and remix subjects such as Sampha, George FitzGerald, Tourist and even Adele. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Maya Jane Coles 'What They Say' (Real Tone)
2010 was a great year for genuinely soulful house and techno: and it was also the breakout year for Maya Jane Coles, with ‘What They Say’, which like ‘Coma Cat’ for Tensnake, is the absolute distillation of Coles as her melodic best as a producer. (The song was later sampled and slowed down by Nicki Minaj for ‘Truffle Butter’, which surprised hardcore fans and upset purists, but in truth was a triumph for the staying power of the record.) Almost a decade and two Mixmag covers on from ‘What They Say’, Coles has become a mainstay on the festival and club circuit and her stock as a producer and remixer remains as high as ever. Fun fact: the record sampled Toni Braxton’s ‘You’re Making Me High’ but it was taken to higher heights by the remix from an emerging Dyed Soundorom. It’s still a class act now. Ralph Moore
Actress 'Maze' (Honest Jon’s Records)
The word actress was phased out over a decade ago in favour of the gender neutral actor - except in the case of awards categories like ‘Best Actress’, but that’s Hollywood. There was one Actress making a big ‘Splazsh’ in 2010, however, and it was a man.
Having moved to London from Wolverhampton, Darren Cunningham aka Actress, put out debut album ‘Hazyville’ in 2008 on his own Werk Discs label, part of a wave of new producers, including Zomby and Burial, operating in the shadows. But ‘Splazsh, his second on Honest Jon's Records, was the album that became inescapable. Outsider dance music before the name was a term, its filled with crunchy, decaying house, techno and post-dubstep rhythms, all 14 track enshrouded by a hazy ambience and driven with a dark, futuristic funk.
Undoubted standout was ‘Maze’. An apparently simple combo of fuzzy bass, monophonic melody, 8-bit bleeps and pads over a rudimentary beat, its supreme feeling stills keep you lost in its grooves. Like the album’s cover of concentric hexagons, Actress’ maze breaks all the rules and leaves no escape. Joe Roberts
James Blake ‘CMYK’ (R&S Records)
If you haven’t dissolved with happiness during the opening raindrops and chopped Kelis vocal of ‘CMYK’ were you even alive in 2010? This was the record that lifted us out of the commercial dubstep doldrums and showed us that a new world, full of melody and emotion and bass warmer than an MDMA cuddle puddle, was possible.
Post-dubstep was lit by Joy O and expanded by James Blake, Mount Kimbie, SBTRKT, Jacques Greene, Disclosure, Koreless, Dauwd and Damu. It was a sugar rush, all liquid movement and samples stolen from the r’n’b collections of older siblings. A brief moment where sounds aligned and we stumbled out of the shadow of tear-out wobble not knowing what to call it but loving every syrupy hit.
It was the first micro scene of the tens, played out in the fast-forward of uploads that has come to define the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lifespans of this decade’s online music scenes. Though it had roots in vinyl culture, things quickly morphed on SoundCloud and YouTube. Some went down in (cult) history, others faded into obscurity. And James Blake stripped back his sound and wrenched his heart out for stadium-sized crowds. Seb Wheeler
Mosca ‘Bax’ (Numbers)
Looking back at the early tens garage revival is like finding a treasure trove of sun-splashed holiday photos during a spring clean. Everyone looks young, happy and is having the time of their fucking lives. Yeah it was mainly a bunch of first year uni students who hadn’t heard ‘RIP Groove’ before but parties got very fun very quickly and all the elders who faced playing throwback nights in Vauxhall ‘til the end of time suddenly had their careers rebooted.
‘Bax’ landed right in the middle of the melee with perfect timing and came primed for a thousand reloads. A perfect example of how to do throwbacks properly, it’s a timeless slice of UKG with a juggernaut bassline and flickers of hedonistic melody. And, obviously, it still goes off now. Having released a knock-out EP for Night Slugs, ‘Bax’ instantly turned Mosca into a poster boy for ‘UK bass’, a moment of unexpected fame that seems to have convinced him to make shadowy techno ever since. Seb Wheeler
Steffi & Virginia 'Yours' (Ostgut Ton)
Steffi and Virginia had known each other for three years before they teamed up on the ‘Yours & Mine’ album for Ostgut Ton. Bonding over a mutual love of Sade, Steffi and Virginia’s friendship, and working relationship, blossomed resulting in their first release ‘Reasons’, on Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality in 2010.
A year later ‘Yours’ became a ubiquitous hit, spreading out from Panorama Bar, where it was played almost weekly, across Europe and the rest of the world. Striking the perfect balance between Virginia’s emotive, sensual lyrics and Steffi’s throwback instrumental, it did the business everywhere it was played. At WMC in Miami 2011, I heard it played at least three times every day as DJs like Seth Troxler gave it a good hammering. At the time there was a real resurgence of feel-good, summery vocal-led club music with artists like Maceo Plex, Art Department, Deniz Kurtel, Guy Gerber and others really breaking through and dominating. For me, and many others, ‘Yours’ really encapsulates those halcyon days.
Not only did the track end up being the soundtrack to a seemingly endless summer of good times, for Steffi and Virginia, all the DJs who supported it, and, of course, myself and the rest of the dancefloor faithful, it also pushed Virginia’s career forward, landing her a residency at Panorama Bar, and leading to her being signed to Ostgut Ton’s agency.
Funnily enough, Virginia’s vocal delivery on the track is all down to Steffi’s direction. Up until that release Virginia’s style had been a bit softer, with ‘Yours’ Steffi encouraged her to give it a bit more punch and energy. The result is a track that remains an all-time classic and helped galvanise the relationship between the two women. Marcus Barnes
Björk ‘Crystalline’ (One Little Indian)
With work alongside Arca and Haxan Cloak, Björk took her music in ever more esoteric directions as the 2010s progressed. But ‘Crystalline’ - from 2011’s ‘Biophillia’ - might be the closest thing she’s made to an out and out banger since her heady mid-90s heyday. Working alongside British production duo 16bit, ‘Crystalline’ begins with a direct and gripping xylophone motif and vocal refrain before descending into one hell of a jungle breakdown. Pre-empting the jungle revival of the late 2010s by a good six or seven years, ‘Crystalline’ was proof that the Icelandic superstar is still always one-step ahead of the curve, and always has one-ear on the dancefloor. Sean Griffiths
Omar S ‘Here's Your Trance, Now Dance!!’ (FXHE)
Omar S has a reputation for treating his musical output and those that enjoy it with a certain level of don’t-give-a-fuckittude. Limited runs, no distinguishing EP names and distribution issues are all some of the common themes surrounding the cult of Omar. It’s this attitude that allows him to make albums titled ‘The Best!’ or ‘It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It’ and for the listener to respond “damn, he’s actually right”. ‘Here’s Your Trance, Now Dance!!’ isn’t just a track name, it’s an order from a DJ so good he can pull out a Detroit classic just like that. Its melodies are beautiful, drums immaculate. But the swagger elevates it to the level of dancefloor deity. Louis Anderson-Rich
Dub Phizix & Skeptical 'Marka' featuring Strategy (Exit Records)
Describing something as grubby isn't the most courteous turn of phrase, but I reckon it's perfectly acceptable when it comes to Dub Phizix and Skeptical's 'Marka'. Dub Phizix might even agree, given the self-deprecating title of his old Tumblr blog, Dub Phizix and Strategy Are Cunts. A breakthrough track for Dub Phizix, 'Marka' comes free of Dettol-assisted sheen and is instead a toxic combination of skeletal halftime drum 'n' bass, dancehall and bashment, Strategy's Patois and Manc accent accentuating the twisted head-fuck atmosphere. Ravers got to witness the tracj’s might on the soundsystems it deserved to be heard on, with Goldie, David Rodigan and Friction all rinsing it during sets as it became an anthem for the 170bpm crew.
Exit Records is the perfect home for ‘Marka’, following on from the inventiveness of releases by the likes of label boss dBridge, Instra:mental and Genotype. And Exit continued to be a hub of outside-the-box bass music in the wake of 'Marka', with Om Unit & Sam Binga, Stray, Fracture and Chimpo all unleashing boundary-pushing experimentations. Chimpo - a fellow Mancunian - came through with shades of ‘Marka’ on the greazy ‘Out An Bad’. The stamp of ‘Marka’ was also all over MCR’s mammoth LEVELZ crew - of which Dub Phizix is a member - who released their debut mixtape ‘LVL 11’ in 2016 and singled themselves out as one of the most exciting - and mischievous - collectives in the UK, if only for a short and hectic time. Dave Turner
Rustie 'After Light' (Warp Records)
A chemical reaction is often synchronous with discovering a love for dance music. For me, hearing Rustie’s ‘Glass Swords’ for the first time stimulated a molecular rewiring of my taste and irreversible love for electronic sounds. Released while I was still in secondary school, it was pivotal in discovering there’s more to life than indie bands and daytime radio. Of the 13 tracks, it was the effervescent bomb of ‘After Light’ that hooked me in most completely. Sparkling, punchy and packed full of emotion, it epitomised a growing trend towards maximalist sounds that also counted the likes of Hudson Mohawke and Flying Lotus among its giddy flag bearers. This decade has seen a sharp increase in the popularity of dance music, and Rustie’s heavy on dazzle, low on subtlety style was the perfect soundtrack to inducting a fresh generation of fans to the overwhelming thrills clubland provides. Patrick Hinton
Nina Kraviz ‘Ghetto Kraviz’ (Rekids)
‘Ghetto Kraviz’ has a stark and brilliant simplicity that can only really come from something being done on the fly, without a massive amount of thought being put into it. Working on a remix that ‘wasn’t going anywhere’ back in 2011, Kraviz picked up the microphone and recorded some improvised and off-the-cuff vocals, embedding them in a simple yet effective drum loop. Inspired by the rough and ready production techniques of Chicago’s Dance Mania label, the track updated the ghetto house template for the 21st century and made Nina Kraviz - whose career had been building for a while - an absolute superstar. Sean Griffiths
MikeQ ‘The Master Blaster’ (Fade To Mind)
Ironically for a fashion-adjacent scene that enjoyed a glamorous turn in the mainstream spotlight this decade, there's a timelessness to ballroom that puts it beyond being beholden to the whims of dance music trends. New Jersey producer MikeQ's first official release, the ’Let It All Out’ EP, emerged as a fully-formed encapsulation of where the contemporary scene was at in 2011; released on the nascent Fade To Mind label, bringing it to a wider audience was a logical progression of founder Kingdom's interest in queering hip-hop, r’n’b and grime.
At that point, MikeQ was already a figurehead of the scene, and the EP gathered the best reasons why: 'The Ha Dub Rewerk'd' was a twist on ballroom's omnipresent break, while the title-track captured the sweaty, competitive pressure of the floor where voguers would dance off against each other. But 'The Master Blaster' was spectacular, a rework of Joint Venture's 1993 epic 'Master Blaster (Turn It Up)' that you could lose yourself in: a disembodied diva vocal and metallic synths stretching the tension out until it crashes down to earth.
For a few years, voguing was hot again: a Fashion Week staple with celebrity fans such as FKA Twigs. But fundamentally, the scene has always been about community - and, more than anything, that continues to be its lifeblood. Alex Macpherson
Levon Vincent 'Man Or Mistress' (Novel Sound)
If you caught Sven Väth in action any time during 2011 you’d almost certainly have heard this absolute smasher in his set. And he wasn’t the only one giving it a well deserved rinse. It was Levon’s first release since 2009 and one which contained a track that, he’d quipped, would ‘make people shit themselves’. Well, there can be little doubt that ‘Man Or Mistress’ is that track. The bounding low end alone is a force to be reckoned with, but when that insanely catchy synth line comes in, it’s game over.
Levon’s ability to construct techno that goes beyond dancefloor functionality and enters a level that can be considered transcendent is remarkable, and there’s probably no better demonstration of his capabilities than this gargantuan tune. Catching Papa Sven give this a good workout on the system at Amnesia during the 2011 closings in Ibiza was an out of body experience. The way the synth writhes and twists, growing and growing and growing with intensity, is borderline orgasmic. Tracks like this one create proper dancefloor ‘moments’, where you, and everyone around you, are transported somewhere else.
It didn’t sound like anything else that was around at the time either, which is the mark of a true classic. The way it destroys dancefloors has to be experienced first-hand, big bassline, unbelievable synth and hypnotic as hell. Sven liked it so much he put it on his ‘Sounds Of The Twelfth Season’ mix. The tune also gave Levon’s career a bit of a boost after a quiet couple of years, release-wise at least. Every end of year chart featured ‘Man Or Mistress’ as one of the top tracks of 2011. One of those special occasions when ravers, DJs and journalists were all in universal agreement that a track was a total bomb. Marcus Barnes
David August 'Hamburg Is For Lovers' (Diynamic)
Before David August was a Very Serious Electronic Musician, he'd send clubs into the highest state of rapture with rolling, soulful house of the Hamburg variety (see also Tensnake and Solomun who are elsewhere in this list). Barely out of his teens when this track landed, I saw Ritter Butzke, Studio 80 and Corsica Studios eat from the palm of his hand as (deserved) hype around him as a fresh house talent hit a peak.
He'd pull the bass out of tracks for what seemed like whole minutes before bringing it back in, enveloping crowds with warmth. This style, as well as his productions at the time, were simple but utterly effective and always very stylish, putting his hometown squarely on the map. He was the first superstar to emerge from the Diynamic camp, preceding Solomun and Adriatique, and invited fans to dig deeper into the Hamburg scene, where they'd find the Smallville label and shop, Golden Pudel and Ego, the former club run by Solomun, his sister Magdalena and label boss Adriano Trolio. Seb Wheeler
Floating Points 'ARP3' (Eglo Records)
With three albums and nearly 20 EPs, all acclaimed for their inventive and original compositions, Floating Points truly showcased a masterful approach that helped him become a defining artist this decade. He’s arguably one of the most successful producers, in a similar nature to St. Germain, who has managed to fuse the soulful textures and intricate layers of jazz with the steady and driving rhythms of electronic music. This unique sound profile has allowed Floating Points to develop a catalogue of captivating material, which in 2011 was beginning to take form with his ‘Shadows’ EP and the standout track ‘ARP3’.
Fluttering and intimate piano melodies, delicate percussive riffs and a deep rumbling bassline mark ‘ARP3’ as a truly timeless track favored by many house DJs. At the time it was being rinsed far and wide by artists like Four Tet, Bonobo and Daphni. It also helped introduce the more dancefloor, house-oriented side to Floating Points’ ouvre, something that would pop up sporadically moving forward with tracks like ‘Nuits Sonores’ and his most recent smash ‘Coorabel’. Floating Points is one of the most versatile producers in the industry, and ‘ARP3’ is a shining moment. Harrison Williams
Gesaffelstein 'Viol' (Turbo)
During 2006-09 ravers were captivated by that slamming, electroclash hybrid brought about by Erol, Justice, Boys Noize and Soulwax. Powered by unbelievably fun and racuous sounds, a generation threw caution to the wind and went fucking bananas to rowdy, jagged synth-lines and demonic drops. Alas, that movement started to fizzle out by 2011 and very few continued along that line. Justice turned to disco, pop and rock; Soulwax focused on a different type of banger and Boys Noize started working with Skrillex.
Who would be the next prince of darkness? The master of throbbing electro and techno? Enter French firebrand Gesaffelstein. His early releases via Zone and PIAS were spacey, melodic electro ditties but when he moved to Turbo, and later Bromance, he started producing proper pumpers. Alongside Brodinski, the two Frenchman flew the flag for fun, banging dance music.
‘Viol’ in particular is a gnarly 110bpm chugger that centres around a terrifying synth melody, with nightmarish sirens in the background penetrating through. Since that 2011 release, the track’s been featured in adverts for Citroën and Givenchy and Gesaffelstein has gone on to work with Pharrell, Haim and The Weeknd.
As the decade draws to a close, Gesa’s music has shown more pop and mainstream tendencies which has left some fans a bit sour but that’s only because the start of his career was so defining for a group of ravers that it’s hard not to lean on nostalgia. One thing’s for sure is that when Gesaffelstein makes bangers, there’s no-one quite like him. Funster
Azari & III 'Hungry For The Power' (Jamie Jones remix) (Turbo)
This was peak Jamie Jones, but it was also peak Azari & III, who had the biggest vocal record of the 2011 Ibiza season thanks to a seismic, sizzling remix from the Welshman. Jamie was beginning his upward trajectory both in the Balearics and in Europe and this record finally saw him recognized as a producer by the older guard, including Pete Tong and Pacha Ibiza superstar Erick Morillo, who would later collaborate with Jones on ‘Medication’ and arguably paved the way for Jones on the island. And while this particular remix was rinsed to high heaven, there’s no denying the power of that wonky synth line and that drop. Ralph Moore
Lovebirds feat Stee Downes 'Want You In My Soul' (Winding Road Records)
Want to know what a Balearic sunset feels like? It’s balmy, emotive, and will build steadily toward a climactic endorphin rush. It’s ‘Want You In My Soul’, an eight-minute epic that’s tailor-made to soundtrack the end of a day spent swimming in crystal-clear waters and drinking ice-cold Rosé. Haters will say that’s pretentious af and maybe it is – but damn does it feel good.
I’ve no idea how much time Sebastian Döring has spent down the beach. Or if he even intended to make one of the best Balearic tracks of the decade (see also: this Franco Cinelli remix). But I’ll always associate this with Ibiza. Or with times when we tried to make it feel like Ibiza – like at 7am in a freezing chalet at Bugged Out! Weekender. We made the snow turn to sand. Pour me another glass… Seb Wheeler
Jacques Greene ‘Another Girl’ (LuckyMe)
Montreal’s Jacques Greene debuted on LuckyMe in 2010 with ‘The Look’, a 2-steppy melting pot of house, r’n’b and post-dubstep that married flavours from London, Glasgow and Montreal in delicious harmony. For listeners (like myself) with tastes that rarely stretch to conventional 4x4 house, Greene’s take on the genre and his smorgasbord of melancholic, clubbier motifs (and Ciara samples, ofc) was extremely attractive, and provided a new perspective on how house could evolve with the times in the decade to come.
The release was swiftly followed up with a new remix project of sorts titled ‘Another Girl’. This time, it dropped with a new, eponymous lead track that on reflection feels closer in sonic ties to Greene’s Night Slugs output as opposed to the maximalist, M-cat sweats-inducing stylings of your TNGHTs or your Rusties. But on the other hand, totally in line with the likes of Koreless or Deadboy (another Montreal name who was signed to Numbers, another impressive Glaswegian label).
‘Another Girl’, when paired with 2010’s ‘(Baby I Don’t Know) What you Want’, sounds like the next chapter in the same story; Greene’s knack for pitched vocals, interesting rearrangements and fizzing melodies evidenced across both bittersweet tracks in mood-shifting ways. Both tracks have stood the test of time, but ‘Another Girl’ most notably is an anthem of the afterglow-singing-in-the-Uber-home-after-the-club-with-your-mates variety. A crucial cut from one of the decade’s best producers on one of the decade’s best labels. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Noir & Haze 'Around' (Solomun remix) (Noir music)
Alongside Tensnake, the German city of Hamburg had one other superstar waiting in the wings: and boy, did this one fly. Solomun was the Bosnian-German DJ and music producer who swooped into Pacha Ibiza on a Sunday when Luciano decided to leave – and in truth, he’s never looked back since. His label DIYnamic was a genuinely on-point house imprint for several seasons and it remains a big Beatport seller today, but it was the early releases and remixes from Solomun that lead to his current status as Ibiza (and Europe’s) biggest German house DJ du jour. In 2011, this record was unavoidable and rightly so: it had a vocal refrain and a deft production clout that made it stand out from the crowd and Solomun is still remixing the A List now, from Depeche Mode and Foals to Black Coffee and Jon Hopkins. That Mixmag cover with Mladen brandishing a toothbrush, however… Ralph Moore
Julio Bashmore ‘Battle For Middle You’ (PMR)
The year is 2030. It’s my wedding day. And I’m stood in the middle of a dancefloor surrounded by my friends and family with my shirt open and my eyes closed, arms stretched up toward heaven. This exact moment is happening 60 seconds in to ‘Battle For Middle You’, when the bass rolls in and the life affirming “People get up, let’s get down” sample kicks off, and I’m transported back to all the best times I ever had.
This is my generation’s ‘Blue Monday’. A record me and all my friends and all their friends know. Likely to soundtrack every Sten Do and milestone birthday that we celebrate together until we’re too old to handle Tyskie anymore. We’ll sit round, the first sprouts of grey hair twinkling in the firelight, talking about how much of a bellend Nick Clegg is and reminiscing fondly about Kate Moross, Plant Food and the golden years of the Megabus. Seb Wheeler
Swindle ‘Mood Swings’ (Butterz)
When I interviewed Swindle in 2011, he was a burgeoning producer who had dedicated himself to fusing the funk and jazz he’d grown up with as a kid with the grime he’d become obsessed with after hours watching Channel U. Pulling that off in a way that actually sounds good is no mean feat, but Swindle, a talented keys player with a deep knowledge of his favourite music, knew he had the skill to make it happen. ‘Mood Swings’ is proof, a lightning bolt of P-funk twang and grimey fizz.
It landed on Butterz, the label founded by Elijah and Skilliam which began life as a platform for instrumental grime producers such as Mr Mitch, Terror Danjah and D.O.K. “Swindle was one of the reasons it all started in the first place,” Elijah told me at the time. “There weren’t any outlets for talents like him so we set up one ourselves.” An instrumental grime wave was unleashed, also giving rise to Gobstopper, Boxed and Bandulu.
As the decade comes to a close you can easily find jazz in the same sentence as grime thanks to members of the UK’s fertile jazz scene. Moses Boyd frequently cites old-skool grime instrumentals as an influence, Joe Armon-Jones chucked Skeng into his Face mix, Kamaal Williams unleashed an epic collab with Mez and Sons Of Kemet brought out D Double E during a headline show at Somerset House. Swindle’s vision preceded all of this by at least half a decade. Seb Wheeler
DJ Manny ‘All I Do Is (Smoke Trees)’ (Planet Mu)
Simplicity leads to perfection as evidenced on this pearl by DJ Manny. It uses just four major components to create a quintessential footwork anthem: undulating bass, skeletal percussion, some choice samples and velvet pads that bring sensuality to the skittering ruckus. This shit makes your body glide. Drop out, skin up and party. Seb Wheeler