Pev & Kowton ‘Raw Code’ (Hessle Audio)
Things got tough for hardcore continuum devotees for a while back there. House music was omnipresent: ‘Au Seve’ seemed to blare from every car stereo and BREACH, Duke Dumont and Storm Queen found themselves toasting UK Top 40 success. Everyone was off to Ibiza, Amsterdam or Berlin for inspiration and nobody seemed to want to dance to rude shit anymore.
Thankfully things were brewing in Bristol, where a loose collective of artists had bubbled the sonics and atmosphere of dubstep, jungle and warehouse techno down to a BPM more palatable to the wider dance music community. It was the next evolution in the continuum and a riposte to house hegemony, lead at first by Peverelist’s Livity Sound which sprang to life in 2011 and acted as a vehicle for experiments in this new style by himself, Kowton and Asusu.
A network of labels and producers soon developed to push this new UK techno forward. Dusk and Blackdown’s Keysound and Beneath in London; Acre and Alex Coulton in Manchester; Pinch’s Cold Recordings and Hodge, Batu and Facta back in Bristol. A second wave of labels like Timedance, Wisdom Teeth, Dnuos Ytivil and Madam X’s Kaizen appeared, launching more artists like Simo Cell, Bruce and Laksa, all contributing to one of the most important and long-lasting UK movements of the decade. Seb Wheeler
Mssingno 'XE2' (Goon Club Allstars)
There are a couple of unconventional methods that I use to judge the calibre of a track or artist, away from publication scores or the consensus of the comment section. The first: how well a release, dropped at the tailend of the year, cuts through the round-up fog and list season haze. The second: the reaction of security staff when said release is played out in a club.
‘XE2’, produced by then newcomer Mssingno and released on then emerging label Goon Club Allstars, is one of those omnipotent and omnipresent bangers that got bouncers’ heads nodding, editors singing its praises and grime fans in a frenzy when it came out in 2013. It was the standout among the tracks offered up on his 16-minute, self-titled debut EP and offered a fresh take on the instrumental grime sound being explored in the earlier half of the decade.
I can’t quite say what it is about the track that just hits but I can say it elicits personal, introspective yet ultimately connective responses in all that indulge in its sugary, moreish goodness. Much like the work of Plata or Dark0, Mssingno’s material – ‘XE2’ in particular – confidently fuses the chest-rattling frequencies and screw-face inducing motifs of instrumental grime with the tenderness, emotion and hooks of r’n’b in a way that feels truly appreciative of the oft-scoffed genre.
To this day ‘XE2’ can transform floors of gun-finger grime heads, monochromatic headnodders and actual dancers alike into an impromptu karaoke sesh; grown men in streetwear and David Rudnick scarves holding up their pals and their bevs while harmonising to the R Kelly vocal sample in a ‘true love is who you think of when you hear XE2’ kinda way. Jasmine Kent-Smith
SOPHIE 'Bipp' (Numbers)
SOPHIE’s 2013 release ‘Bipp’ is as much about dance music as it is about space. Or, more specifically, the act of creating it. With ‘Bipp’ SOPHIE planted two diamanté spiked heels bang in the centre of dance music’s dancefloors, clearing the stage for an off the wall approach that was glossy, cute and slightly berserk. Her indentity was kept mysterious at the time and for years after, even with pop and rap stars like Charli XCX, Madonna and Vince Staples tracking her down for production. That changed in late 2017 with the release of single and video ‘It's Okay To Cry’. It saw SOPHIE reveal herself to the world as a trans woman and become an immediate icon for the LGBTQI+ community, stepping out from the shadows to rightfully claim the space her innovation had carved out.
As a track, ‘Bipp’ also plays with space - it stretches, extorts, even removes elements, never quite dropping at the expected time or even hitting the right notes. There’s a ‘90s nostalgia to the hook, like we’ve been here before - but SOPHIE takes the familiar and turns it on its head. It disorientates, refusing to meet conventions, forcing the listener to dance to their own beat. With ‘Bipp’ SOPHIE created more than a brilliant dance track - she created a safe space for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t fit in. Alice Austin
Palms Trax ‘Equation’ (Lobster Theremin)
It really speaks to the fluid nature of music genres this decade that a track played a pivotal role in an entire subgenre without sounding like said subgenre. But here we are, one uncovered 90s skate video and YouTube algorithm later catapulting a label, artist and scene into the dance music mainstream. While lofi house (like vaporwave and future funk in its marriage of sound and A E S T H E T I C) didn’t last the distance, Palms Trax’s ‘Equation’ did. Its rare blend of Larry Heard, Chicago jack and Detroit techno made it a classy house banger that outlived facebook groups, fisherman beanies and the SMACKOS TAPE STATION plug-in. Jay Donaldson’s creation made Lobster Theremin a buy-on-sight label and four represses kept it relevant for the crowds of Corsica Studios and Dekmantel years after its release. Palms Trax would go on to release on the aforementioned Dekmantel and become a festival headliner himself, proving you should never judge a song by its DIY YouTube music video. Louis Anderson-Rich
Green Velvet 'Bigger Than Prince' (Hot Since 82 remix) (Circus)
Been there, heard that and worn the (Prince) t-shirt: that’s my own personal story behind this summer-straddling remix from Leeds producer Daley Padley aka Hot Since 82 of the biggest and baddest Green Velvet record of recent years, a record so big it’s just been revisited and reissued with new remixes from Alan Fitzpatrick and Jamie Jones and Darius Syrossian. The record was originally licensed by Yousef for Circus Recordings’s X compilation back in 2013 and it essentially put Hot Since 82 on the remix map, not to mention giving Green Velvet the biggest club and Beatport hit of his latter career. As for the song title, taken literally, it was a diss track that allowed everyone to feel good about themselves. (Since the man himself was only 5 foot 2, even the shortest raver was able to walk tall!) It was also a cool Prince pastiche, full of minor-key synths and billiard-ball Linn Drum hits: it deserved everything it got. Ralph Moore
Daniel Avery 'Drone Logic' (Phantasy)
You can’t beat a track that takes its time. ‘Drone Logic’ develops at its own pace, distracting the audience from their impatience and encouraging concentration on its detail. There’s no need for any dramatic changes here. As with many of Daniel Avery’s tracks, we find ourselves getting gassed over the tiniest developments.
First introducing sounds reminiscent of The Prodigy, Avery then takes listeners on an intense six minute build-up, before dissolving upon an unexpected cliffhanger. You’d almost be left wanting more, if the start to finish production expertise were not so unquestioningly assured. Lydia Webb
Joy Orbison 'Big Room Tech House DJ Tool - TIP!' (Nonplus Records)
As clubland hooks go, there’s been none bigger this decade than the seismic WOMP of Joy Orbison’s 'Big Room Tech House DJ Tool - TIP!'. The monumental bass tore through dancefloors like the voice of Bart Simpson amplified by stacked megaphones. It first surfaced in my first year of University, in a golden period of newfound freedom, neglibile responsibility, and an indefatigable obsession with clubbing. It was also a time when rinsed anthems seemed to take an eternity to release, with imprints like Swamp 81 quick to sign tracks then sluggish behind the scenes. While waiting for 'Big Room Tech House DJ Tool - TIP!' to offically drop, the craving to hear it powering through a system made me get methodical: working out which DJs held the file, watching their tour dates for nearby shows. The bass hit different. The record was even so powerful that the Hard Wax satirising title mortified the German record store into dropping its ‘TIP!’ stamp of approval for a time. Truly a Highly Impactful Danceflor Weapon. Patrick Hinton
Paula Temple 'Colonized' (R&S)
The sheer power of Paula Temple’s debut, ‘Colonized’, on R&S has to be felt to be believed. The jagged beats and jackhammer drums make it a full body experience. This was a seminal release for a couple of reasons: 1) It was Paula’s first step back into production after taking a long break, 2) She became the first woman to release on the legendary R&S imprint and 3) The EP was very different to anything else that dropped on R&S that year, so it really stood out and made an impact.
This was the genesis of Paula’s evolution into the ‘noisician’ she is today, inspired by social and political commentary - as much of her work is - and utterly uncompromising in its visceral nature. Essentially, this was ground zero for Paula’s current sonic identity, the foundation of it all, and landing on such an influential label had far-reaching impact, undoubtedly triggering the rise in popularity of noise and industrial sounds over the past five years or more.
Standing in that sweet spot in the middle of the dancefloor at Berghain, drenched in sweat, surrounded by topless dancers letting out impulsive primal howls as this one pummelled us all via the club’s impeccable Funktion-One system is an experience that takes some beating (literally). Marcus Barnes
Mano Le Tough 'Primative People' (Tale Of Us Remix) (Permanent Vacation)
It’s the start of the decade and dance music is moving in two polarizing directions. Producers of house and techno are either drifting toward bright and melodic chords or deep and moody motifs. Yet as the EDM bubble burst, a crop of artists merged these two directions into one movement that is still having an impact on dance music culture. Enter Tale Of Us and the cult of deep techno.
Artists like Dixon and Âme had already paved the way for this distinct style to expand its reach throughout clubland with their Innervisions label and Maceo Plex was showcasing just how massive electronic soundscapes could be. Plus, enveloping and cinematic textures were steadily becoming more prominent in Tale Of Us’ music during the early years of their career. That said, in 2013 they made a major sonic move that would propel them and the community of deep, driving dance music into the spotlight.
Tale Of Us’ remix of Mano Le Tough’s 'Primative People' helped spark a thirst for grand and cosmic dancefloor excursions. Like Maceo Plex and Gabriel Ananda’s ‘Solitary Daze’ or Sasha’s remix of ‘Hey Now’ by London Grammar, this booming sound became massively influential to the next generation of listeners and launched some of the most successful dance music brands in the industry today. Harrison Williams
RP Boo ‘Speakers R-4’ (Planet Mu)
You’d think that someone who was a key part of inventing a genre would rest on their laurels once the whole thing was up and off the ground. Not so footwork originator RP Boo, who made foundational tracks like ‘Baby Come On’ and the Godzilla track in the late 90s and hasn’t stopped messing with the DNA of the sound since.
Of course Boo can make anthemic footwork – the sleek, propulsive type loaded with killer vocal chops and hype samples – like 2015’s ‘Bangin’ On King Drive’. But productions such as ‘Speakers R-4’ reveal his more intricate side and are arguably more mind boggling. Here, he’s a master experimentalist, conjuring dancefloor tension from a minimal amount of components. These left turns have ensured footwork has gone from strength to strength over the last 10 years, able to morph before our very eyes (and ears, and feet). Seb Wheeler
Bonobo 'Cirrus' (Ninja Tune)
Most Bonobo fans can remember the first time they heard ‘Cirrus’. For many it was the opening track during his Boiler Room set in 2012. When it was made public on SoundCloud requests for the ID littered the stream, clouding the opening four minutes with user profiles begging for the emotive and steely deep house track. While Bonobo had already released four albums, establishing himself as a key underground figure showcasing organic and jazzy productions, ‘Cirrus’ was the beginning of the next chapter of his career. He was about to become an industry-leading superstar and one of the most beloved artists of the decade.
Nearly a year after that fateful debut session and the buzz surrounding the track was almost palpable, ‘Cirrus’ was officially revealed on Gilles Peterson’s BBC Radio 6 show. It was the first single off Bonobo’s fifth studio album, ‘The North Borders’, an album released via Ninja Tune that also included iconic tracks like 'First Fires' and 'Emkay'. Yet ‘Cirrus’ stands out as one of Bonobo’s finest productions, with its deep resounding bassline, gripping percussion, delicately-placed chimes and soothing atmospherics. He would soon embark on his debut live tour that would see him perform his captivating original material with a full band. ‘Cirrus’ stands out as a major cultural moment for dance music exploding beyond the underground, reaching a crop of new listeners who gravitated to Bonobo’s beautiful and sophisticated sound. Harrison Williams
Commodo 'Space Cash' (DEEP MEDi Musik)
Like many of the most iconic and sought after dubstep tracks, Commodo’s ‘Space Cash’ was initially a dubplate only rinsed by a select few key DJs. During most occasions when it was played, a rewind would follow after its ominous, haunting and minimal intro led into the drop of its dark and gritty bassline. These rewinds helped build intense interest in the track and when it was released in 2013 via Mala’s prolific and reliable Deep Medi Musik imprint, the dubstep community exploded with elation.
While ‘Space Cash’ gets the nod in this list, we can’t leave out mentioning the artists who also supplied us with dubstep’s finest material during the last decade via Deep Medi Musik. Shouts to Kahn, Goth-Trad, V.I.V.E.K, Compa, Quest, Silkie, Truth, Tunnidge, Kromestar, Jay 5ive, Pinch, Swindle, Gantz and of course, Mala and Coki. The pioneering work of the label helped the scene through the ghastly mainstream dubstep phase and nurtured a wave of artists dedicated to pushing the OG vibe of the genre. Harrison Williams
Floorplan 'Never Grow Old' (Re-Plant) (M-Plant)
Robert Hood, Sir Bobby if you will, a bastion of techno music since the very beginning. One of the forefathers of the chugging Detroit sound as we know it today and an artist who, to put it simply, just keeps churning out the bangers.
When his Floorplan project launched (now a father/daughter duo with Lyric Hood) it gave us a chance to hear the gospel-influenced, melodic side of his sound. Pianos, epic vocals and sunshine ran through the LP and one of the best was ‘Never Grow Old’, loaded with Aretha Franklin’s soaring tones from her 1956 classic of the same name. If you found yourself on a dancefloor when this came on, you’d be the odd one out if you weren’t fist-pumping on the spot with a big grim wrapped around your face.
The techno-focused edit was played at every festival (it became a Dekmantel anthem) and reputable club in 2013 and it still gets rolled now with the same amount of significant damage. It’s pulsating and it’s got venom running through it but those uplifting vocals and beautiful high notes still take you to a state of euphoria. As a man of God, Robert always intended to take you to a higher place with his music, and with his remix of ‘Never Grow Old’ a lot of us still haven’t come down. Funster
Daft Punk ‘Get Lucky’ (Columbia)
Ah the robots, arguably the biggest dance music act of all time. They made some fucking anthems didn’t they? But then they went quiet. 2005’s ‘Human After All’ was Daft Punk’s last studio album for eight years. In that time there was the iconic ‘Alive 2007’ live album and the Tron Legacy score to keep us happy, but no original music. Roll on 2013, a vintage year for dance music and, whether you liked it or not, whether you wanted it or not, Daft Punk pulled off an absurdly viral marketing campaign that saw cryptic billboards pop up around the world (pun intended) teasing their return. Then it came, crushing everything in its wake. ‘Get Lucky’ was the sound of the summer, just ask Limmy, and it was as infectious as any of their other vintage bangers.
It’s arguable that the album it was part of, ‘Random Access Memories’ was one of their weakest LPs but we’re talking about tracks of the decade here. The impact this track had and the significance of the electronic duo’s return warrants its inclusion. You all know how it goes… Funster
Tessela 'Hackney Parrot' (Poly Kicks)
The cry of ‘Work me with tem-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah-tah’ was inescapable in 2013 as Tessela’s ‘Hackney Parrot’ ushered in a new era of breakbeat culture alongside Paul Woolford’s Special Request project, breaking the monotony of four four beats.
Emerging from the post-dubstep scene, Tessela, aka Ed Russell, transformed his previously garage-leaning sound in 2013 via industrial strength breaks and a sprinkling of rave vocals. ‘Hackney Parrot’, the first release on his own Poly Kicks label, distilled these into something both colourful and piercing, vocal up front and inescapably in your face, hardcore breaks chopped and screwed into a new, steppier 130BPM tempo. It was the definable beginning of breakbeat’s revival and a fresh ‘10 Ton Mix’ in 2017 raised the intensity even further, underlining the classic status of ‘Hackney Parrot’. Joe Roberts
Storm Queen 'Look Right Through' (MK remix)
No matter how big some of the records were in this list, none of them were as big as MK’s remix of the UK chart-topping house anthem ‘Look Right Through’, originally the work of New York house maestro Morgan Geist, who'd previously recorded as Metro Area but never quite crossed over into the pop arena until Marc Kinchen came along and delivered one of the biggest remixes of his career. The uncredited vocal on the track actually came from a busker in Chicago called Damon Scott, but it was the way Kinchen weaved his remix magic around the track that made it the iconic and all-time vocal champ that it eventually became. Picked up by Ministry Of Sound in November 2013, “They don’t talk to me” became the hook of a lifetime for everyone involved, and it brought Kinchen new notoriety as a DJ and producer and made him an A-list star after a short period in the wilderness (translation: working with Will Smith). There were mixes by Aeroplane and Jamie Jones too, but this is the one that matters. Ralph Moore
Herbert 'It's Only' (DJ Koze remix) (Pampa)
There was a pivotal moment at Timewarp when Sven Väth dropped this incredible cut several years ago and everything stood still: even now, a short blast of this remix takes me back to that special, otherworldly place. As a remix, it’s right up there in the top 3 best DJ Koze remixes of all time (the other two being for Moderat and Låpsley’s Operator) and given how many good ones he’s made, that’s a real compliment right there. Released on Koze’s own Pampa imprint, it was arguably the biggest vocal techno cut of 2013 and was so singular in its approach that it sounded sonically like it had been cut by a sharp blade out of pure granite. Koze himself often brought his own sets to a close with the track at the time, and it’s not hard to hear why: even now, it’s an absolute showstopper. Ralph Moore
Yung Lean 'Kyoto' (Sky Team)
Aged 16 in March 2013, wearing a bucket hat atop his head and his heart upon his sleeve, Yung Lean birthed a movement. His ‘Ginseng Strip 2002’ video went viral, showcasing a lo-fi and emotional take on rap music with mumbled bars about drug binges and feeling sad. Coinciding with the growing influence of SoundCloud and YouTube, his approach helped build a scene in which rappers were able to gain huge fan bases without the backing of labels or access to expensive recording studios. Along with the atmospheric production of Clams Casino and introspective vocals of Kid Cudi stateside, he helped lay the groundwork for, and provide audio cues to, future phenomenons such as the internet literate Lil Yachty, emo revivalist Lil Peep and early collaborator Travis Scott.
Numerous stylistic trends can be traced back through Yung Lean’s early days, from post-internet visuals to rocking a shotter bag across his shoulder in 2014, years before it became a British youth staple. His most assured release in this period came at the end of 2013 with the Yung Gud produced ‘Kyoto’. Alongside a strong visual identity merging high production value with a heavily stylised, DIY aesthetic, it marked the moment Yung Lean started rapping in clearer, more confident tones. A seminal peak for his artistic voice, in more ways that one. Patrick Hinton