LSDXOXO ‘Burn The Witch’ (Self-released)
When LSDXOXO unexpectedly dropped the BODY MODS mixtape at the start of 2018 it was seven back to back heaters. But Burn The Witch burned most brightly, spreading like wildfire and causing havoc on dancefloors, festivals and airwaves alike.
Fanning its flames was everyone from Ben UFO to Joy Orbison, who made it a set staple for its unfailing ability to create raptorous moments in intimate clubs, parties and just about everywhere else you played it.
Sampling Missy Elliots 'I'm Really Hot' over looping piano chords and intense Baltimore club, LSDXOXO's free-hand, seamless approach to production and distinct ear to magpie the best out of genres and weld them together gave ‘Burn the Witch’ inimitable character. It’s not long released but already feels timeless.
LSDXOXO spent the rest of the year booked and busy gigging through Canada, the US and Europe, travelling almost as far as ‘Burn The Witch’, which has become one of the decade’s omnipresent club tracks. Geralda Cela
Kamaal Williams, 'Salaam' (Black Focus Records)
'Salaam' is a soundtrack for sunny days with a gentle breeze: sunglasses on, deck chair out, cocktail in hand. It's powered by twisting and turning keys, with percussion on a mission to keep the pace, ending up with a masterclass in jazz-funk. Such wizardry came as no shock. Kamaal Williams is led by Henry Wu, the South London producer with a knack of creating jazz-inspired house flavours on labels like Rhythm Section and Eglo Records. Before Kamaal Williams, he was in Yussef Kamaal with drummer Yussef Dayes, a collaborative project that inspired Gilles Peterson to sign them for an album, 'Black Focus', on his label Brownswood Recordings. That record received huge props for its majestic rhythms, but the duo's project came to an abrupt end in 2017. Every cloud and all that: this paved the way for the Kamaal Williams project and his album 'The Return', released on Williams' label Black Focus. This catapulted him - alongside the likes of Ezra Collective, The Comet Is Coming, Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd - to the forefront of the London jazz scene that's resulted in documentaries from fashion brands and a new UK festival from Gilles Peterson.
Seeing Kamaal Williams and his bandmates perform in a chapel at London venue The House of St Barnabas was a live show highlight of 2018 for me. Clever, quickfire improvisation summed up what this whole 'nu jazz' thing is all about. It's littered with swag, influenced by everything from sleazy '70s funk and broken beat to hefty dubstep kicks. 'Salaam' brings all of that together. Obviously jazz in the States is nothing new, but Williams touring North America and being asked to perform the tune live on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim speaks volumes about what he's done for UK jazz. Dave Turner
Yves Tumor ‘Noid’
‘A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down’ declared Mary Poppins rather cheerily back in 1964, and it’s advice Yves Tumor might have been paying attention to when making the attention-grabbing lead single from his 2018 Warp album ‘Safe In The Hands Of Love’. ‘Noid’ wrapped up lyrics about police brutality (“911, can’t trust them”) and ensuing feelings of paranoia and terror (“Have you looked outside? I’m scared for my life”) in an irresistibly breezy and infectious package that paid homage to American alt-rock and hinted at the experimental Tennessee-raised artist’s previous life in post-chillwave act Teams. If Yves Tumor’s intention was to lure the unsuspecting into his batshit crazy experimental live show with a tune that’s as inescapably catchy as it’s possible to be, then he succeeded on all fronts. Sean Griffiths
Equiknoxx ‘Brooklyn’ (Equiknoxx Music)
Equiknoxx are a relatively new name in experimental electronic music circles but have been making dancehall hits in their hometown of Kingston, Jamaica for almost a decade. In 2019 they straddle these worlds simultaneously in a way that is unique and exciting.
Brooklyn, much like its iconic namesake, is a multifaceted beast. The cliché goes that the borough of Brooklyn is, on the eve of 2020, a gentrified playground for money men and tourists. While that is somewhat true, those stopping to take selfies under a B.I.G. mural might be surprised to learn that the gritty city of old still exists, perhaps on the very same block. This paradox serves as a metaphor for Equiknoxx’s BK-inspired banger, a track that otherwise defies easy categorization. It’s rough and smooth, accessible yet odd. Bobby Blackbird’s laconic rhymes, the punky fuzz tones of Shanique Marie’s hook, Gavsborg’s propulsive rhythm and sinogrime synth: a mash-up that sits together in fine style.
Dancehall? Hip hop? Post-modern pop?! Who really knows or cares, it’s fucking dope.
Brooklyn featured on July’s Eternal Children album—a record championed by both Toddla T and Mary Ann Hobbs—and is a peak example of Equiknoxx working outside of dancehall’s orthodoxy, forging an offbeat path into 2020 that is very much their own. Eóin MacManus
Marie Davidson 'Work It' (Soulwax Remix) (Ninja Tune)
Towards the end of the decade gritty and rugged electro and rave textures were permeating dance music culture on an impressive scale. While some may say this was nothing new, there is no denying that increased popularity in these sounds was sparked during this time, brought on by underground artists gaining more traction within the scene. Artists like Avalon Emerson, Job Jobse and HAAi, just to name a few, took major steps forward rising in popularity.
This was evident in 2019, when the Soulwax remix of Marie Davidson’s ‘Work It’ took over the world. While the original was released a year prior via Davidson’s fourth solo album, ‘Working Class Woman’, the updated remix evolved the track into one of the year’s biggest anthems. It’s rolling electro melody, empowering vocals and driving rhythm proved to be a perfect storm for both festival sets and radio in the UK, having been rinsed by Pete Tong, Annie Mac, MistaJam and Danny Howard relentlessly. The track’s reach throughout the electronic music industry was impossible to ignore, as it was nominated for a Grammy, included in Mixmag’s Best Tracks for 2019 So Far and landed on a list of the 10 Most-Shazamed Dance tracks in Ibiza. Harrison Williams