Machinedrum 'Vapor City' (Ninja Tune)
‘Vapor City’ meant everything when it arrived: a spectral blend of jungle, footwork and ambient that captured the inner workings of the soul and elevated the art of high speed dance music at the same time.
Machinedrum had hinted at this genius on his previous album, ‘Rooms’, for Planet Mu, but ‘Vapor City’ took his vision to the next level, pushing footwork into the ether and feeding into the oceanic head music being created by Synkro and Akkord around the same time. But where others have failed to make such a depth of emotion work on headphones as well as the dancefloor, ‘Vapor City’ is filled with rhythmically dynamic tracks that roll like thunder. Seb Wheeler
Floorplan 'Paradise' (M-Plant)
When we went to Movement Festival this year, we asked people “What is techno?” and the response was pretty emphatic. Most people replied with “techno is life” and “techno is a feeling”, you know, the usual life-affirming stuff. One person however replied with “techno is my religion” and if one DJ lives up to that sentiment more than most, it’s Robert Hood. As a devout Christian, Hood has spent his entire life channelling the word of the lord through his divine techno bangers. His career spans generations but this decade, his Floorplan project took precedent. Fuelled by melody rather than menace, his gospel-infused offerings made their way around dancefloors all over the world and the 2013 ‘Paradise’ album was his holiest project to date.
Although tracks like ‘Change’, ‘Altered Ego’ and ‘Chord Principle’ still bear his rugged, powerhouse sound, the LP’s stand-outs come when he showcases his funkier, housier side. ‘Baby Baby’ not only became a Ricardo Villalobos staple, albeit pitched down massively when he played it, but a stomping anthem of the year. ‘Never Grow Old’ and its festival-destroying Replant featured a solid gold slab of Aretha Franklin sampling and ‘Confess’ is simply a piano epic for the ages. A dose of pure sunshine if you will. This album is undoubtedly a Mixmag favourite on the basis that we all spent a lot of time on the dancefloor together blissing out to tracks from Hood’s humble masterpiece. It’s an album that seven years later, we still bliss out to, and that says a lot. We were converts to the Floorplan sound from the moment we heard it. Funster
DJ Rashad 'Double Cup' (Hyperdub)
‘Double Cup’ deserves its own TED talk. Or maybe even a Nobel prize. It is the single most important footwork album, a peak in terms of creativity and influence. It also fucking bangs, which is perhaps the most important requirement for being included in this list.
Rashad dedicated his life to taking footwork from the community centres and street parties of Chicago to the world. He founded prominent footwork crew and label Teklife, featured on all of the early records signed by Planet Mu that introduced a wider audience to the genre and was the first footwork artist to tour internationally and make connections in other countries, alongside brother-in-160 DJ Spinn. While he didn’t invent the sound, Rashad was the most influential artist on the scene. “He left an ongoing trail because he left a blueprint for great footwork production and the artwork of it,” RP Boo recently told us.
It is against this backdrop that ‘Double Cup’ was released, a phenomenal example of footwork’s full potential. It includes the hip hop, r’n’b and soul samples typically associated with the genre (and its parents ghetto house and juke) but also reels in acid, jungle and, in the case of ‘I Don’t Give A Fuck’, visceral IDM, showcasing the fascinating way that footwork absorbs other sounds and flips them into something new. The production quality is a cut above Rashad’s previous work, as if he knew this would be received and judged on the world stage. And it includes a raft of contributors from the Chi and beyond, embodying his commitment to collaboration and an open-borders approach to making and sharing music, something that’s kept his legacy very much alive after his tragic passing in 2014. Seb Wheeler
Kelela 'Cut 4 Me' (Fade To Mind)
I think it’s a given by now that both Kelela and her musical output are only getting stronger, more determined and in turn more powerful as the years go on and her vision for what sort of career trajectory she’s craving comes into clearer focus for both her and us alike.
But here on ‘Cut 4 Me’, her 2013 debut mixtape which released on Fade To Mind (the home to her earlier work as well as a bulk of her collaborators), her intentions were spelled out for us even back then via her instrumental choices, her lyrical messaging and everything that falls in between. As I mentioned in our Tracks of the Decade round-up, it’s through a ‘Cut 4 Me’ track, ‘Bank Head’ (produced by Fade To Mind boss Kingdom) that I discovered Kelela. And now, as we near the turn of the decade, it’s hard for me to imagine a musical landscape without her forward-facing, tender take on r’n’b and her confident vocal delivery that bodes well for the club, for getting ready with your girls or, well, the most obvious activity when it comes to r’n’b soundtracking. Tracks like ‘Guns & Synths’, ‘Floor Show’, ‘Enemy’ or fan favourite ‘Cherry Coffee’ are prime examples of how Kelela instinctually straddled the metallic-to-the-taste beats on offer and breathed life and feeling into them in a way that intrigued us all.
With the likes of Jam City, Bok Bok and NGUZUNGUZU behind much of the production on ‘Cut 4 Me’, the release is inherently rooted in the 2010s, for the advent of Fade To Mind and Night Slugs, and their shared – yet varied! – takes on genres such as grime, rap, r’n’b, house and regional bass-led club sounds only occurred in this decade; making for a snapshot of sorts that sounds more and more nostalgic as we approach the 2020s. But, will always remain at the cutting-edge thanks to just how much the output offered when released, and just how vital all those involved – Kelela included – were in this pivotal period of electronic music. Jasmine Kent-Smith
Special Request 'Soul Music' (Houndstooth)
It’s not easy to nail a record nodding to nostalgia without it sounding like a one-dimensional ode to the good times - the period for “The Pills Were Way Better Back In My Day Brigade” - rather than being something utterly progressive licked with nostalgic memories. Enter Paul Woolford and the Special Request alias he launched for rave music and fierce jungle cuts harking back to the pirate radio era. ‘Soul Music’ is his debut album under the Special Request moniker, making for a drum-clattering LP primed for dancefloor havoc. Just months before it was released he delivered a tasty piano house jam - ‘Untitled’ under his own name, so this love for times gone by wasn’t a surprise. ‘Soul Music’ isn’t for sunrise festival sessions like ‘Untitled’, though. ‘Soul Music’ is for those grubby rinse outs in dank club spaces.
While junglist flavours are the obvious influence, techno-meets-breaks-meets-electro-meets-breaks is the MO throughout. ‘Mindwash’ is a relentless sizzle of synths, ‘Body Armour’ shakes with gun cocks and acidic bleeps and ‘Lolita - Warehouse Mix’ is a fizzy, spun-out trip. The Metalheadz-esque ‘Black Ops’ is the breakbeat KO, while the Special Request VIP of Tessela’s ‘Hackney Parrot’ deserves a mention for the carnage it caused in raves. Breakbeat might not be seen as something to shout about, but there’s plenty of it in ‘Soul Music’ - an album that’s likely to have had as much influence on Bicep’s ‘Just’ and ‘Glue’ as it has on German label Ilian Tape and the work Stenny and Skee Mask to name a few. Go to a festival and it’s a near-given your favourite house DJ will drop in a jungle tune or two as well. Dave Turner
Mr G 'Retrospective' (Rekids)
Colin McBean, aka Mr G, had been around the block more than once by the time of ‘Retrospective’, a compilation of tracks made between 1999 and 2007.
He’d started out in the late 90s as half of UK electro and techno duo The Advent, run his own G Flame label since just before the turn of the millennium and appeared on cult tech-house labels, such as Surreal. But it took ‘Retrospective' to cement his across the board G status - and spur him to release six albums in the decade or so since.
Perhaps it’s his background as a chef, but 'Retrospective' struck a chord because it revealed a man who used just a few key ingredients and made sure each was as fresh as could be. Usually working with just bass, drums, groove and dusty samples, he could conjure up the soulful swing of ‘Live And Let Live?’, jazz-influenced jackers such as ‘Moments’, or pounding main room weapons, as on ‘Danger (Glyph Theme)’.
It was a vital reminder that tracky, functional dance music need not be throwaway or forgettable and, having fallen in and out of fashion, it helped lay the foundations for a full-on tech-house revival. Joe Roberts
DJ Koze 'Amygdala' (Pampa)
DJ Koze might be our favourite bonkers-brilliant experimentalist. He’s also the boss of one of the most consistent labels in underground and occasionally overground circles, a favourite of Caribou, Cocoon and CIrco Loco alike. On this album, he unites with a mighty band of musical brothers, including Matthew Dear, Caribou (on the nicely-judged opener ‘Track ID Anyone?’ before going into a very dark pop tunnel with Apparat on ‘Nices Wölkchen.’ More than anyone in his field though, he’s able to provide psychedelic trips that appeal to the head, the soul and the feet without compromising on his vision, which always emerges into the light. And on ‘Magical Boy’ with Matthew Dear, the collaboration truly sounds like no-one else at work: like Matthew Herbert here in London, he is a complete one-off musical wizard. Listen and learn. Ralph Moore
Daniel Avery 'Drone Logic' (Phantasy)
Daniel Avery is a former Mixmag cover star, but in truth, he has as much in common with classic NME and Melody Maker as he does with Mixmag in 2019, hence the decision to use former NME photographer Steve Gullick to shoot our cover. Daniel shares musical DNA with Phantasy label boss Erol Alkan and his own style of indie-driven electronica. The big single on this album was ‘Drone Logic’ which sounded a lot like Paul Woolford jamming with Miss Kittin and The Hacker, but also, more importantly, sounded a lot like himself. Later, he mined the sound of classic Warp and early Orbital with woozy acid cuts like ‘These Nights Never End’ and the killer ‘Naïve Response’. Most of all, he emerged as a fully-rounded artist and Phantasy’s first big album seller back in 2013. Ralph Moore
Logos 'Cold Mission' (Keysound)
I’ve been a fan of Logos’ music since as far back as I can remember. Alongside Mumdance, the way he used to approach making grime – distilling beats down to their core elements, utilising space, building atmosphere – always gripped me and on ‘Cold Mission’, he totally re-wired what seemed possible at the time. It raised the bar.
In 2013, Logos was a key player in a blossoming experimental grime scene in London fronted by Boxed – the club night he co-ran alongside Mr. Mitch, Slackk and Oil Gang – but even those of us who used to have our minds blown by instrumental dubs in Dalston clubs once a month, ‘Cold Mission’ felt light years ahead, completely alien. Every sound is razor-sharp, piercing, scything almost and every break, every silence felt deafening. It was (and still is) a masterclass in production.
Mesmeric, star-gazing cuts like ‘E3 Night Flight’ sat alongside the frosty, rumbling swell of breaks-y rollers like ‘Wut It Do’ ft. Mumdance and the brute force of weaponised, reconstructed grime burners like ‘Seawolf’. Then there was ‘Swarming’ – a disorientating, mind-bender of collaboration with Rabit – not to mention the evil, intricate genius of ‘Menace’. If this record was a jigsaw, Logos never wanted you to find the last piece.
I was quoted in an interview back in 2015 as saying that a main ambition for my own label was to release an album as good as ‘Cold Mission’ one day. And that very much still stands. Tomas Fraser
Disclosure 'Settle' (PMR)
There’s something wonderfully naive about ‘Settle’. The product of two brothers – one in his early twenties, the other in his late teens – moving away from the dubstep that acted as their gateway to electronic music toward the more cosmopolitan styles of house and garage. In that pressure-free moment they created something all their own and captured the zeitgeist of their generation, of the kids doing exactly the same as them: discovering the strobe-lit highs of club culture for the first time. Suddenly Croydon gave way to Ibiza and Disclosure were a headline act with a number 2 single in ‘Latch’. It’s no wonder they captured the imagination of a legion of young people who would follow them into the heady realm of dance music. Seb Wheeler
Boards Of Canada 'Tomorrow's Harvest' (Warp)
The artwork for Boards Of Canada’s sixth album, ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’, depicts a city skyline beyond barren fields bathed in amber sunshine. From the outset of their 2013 LP, which came after a seven-year break, it’s as if you’re a character in a dystopian flick being taken on an airborne tour of that place, somewhere devoid of humanity with empty streets. ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is the soundtrack for that, a cinematic masterpiece of eerie drone and beautiful downtempo inspired by the likes of film score icons from the 1970s and ‘80s, horror and sci-fi specialists Wendy Carlos and John Carpenter specifically.
The crackling textures and drawn-out pads of ‘Reach For The Dead’ perfectly represent the feeling of isolation and search for life, while the glittering ‘Jacquard Causeway’ meets somewhere in the middle of hope and loneliness. They find brief moments of human existence with the upbeat ‘Cold Earth’ and enlightening ‘Palace Posy’ that comes with muffled vocals, but those continue to be countered with searing synth dread and morose sonics. Dare we say the Stranger Things score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein draws comparisons to ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’? Fearful film scores have also come from Oneohtrix Point Never (Good Time), Moderat, Gajek, Anstam (A Thought of Ecstasy) and Mica Levi (Monos) in recent years. Not to say they were directly inspired by ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’, but Boards Of Canada have been doing score-like albums for a while and it’s only natural for others to follow suit. There’s even a virtual instrument that’s taken inspiration from them. Dave Turner
Jon Hopkins 'Immunity' (Domino)
Jon Hopkins has spoken about his love for meditation while writing music, and you can tell from the patient and detailed tracks he produces, these songs stem from a deeper state of mind. This album is a perfect example of the artist’s gripping sound. Each track is textured perfectly and at no point in the album is there a moment that hasn’t been strongly nurtured.
It’s not an album to be enjoyed casually - it’s an experience. It can only really be played in its entirety - start to finish and with your full attention. I can guarantee you’ll be feeling completely at ease, with your consciousness fully expanded by the end of listening to this album. Step over Pink Floyd, you’re not the only ones who can alter and encapsulate someone’s exact emotions through music: Jon Hopkins is doing this now in his own unique, timeless way. Lydia Webb
Kanye West "Yeezus' (Def Jam)
Before Kanye West pivoted full-time to God with ‘Jesus Is King’, he’d always leaned heavily on the idea of religion on his albums. His holier than now image over the last year however was preceded by a very different take on the higher power. Long before he rapped about the joy of finding God, he of course famously proclaimed that he was in fact, a god, on the track aptly titled ‘I Am A God’. On the same track he also claimed to have chatted to the messiah: “I just talked to Jesus. He said ‘What up, Yeezus?’. I said, ‘Shit, I’m chilling. Trying to stack these millions.’” The track was taken from his 2013 album ‘Yeezus’ and once again we’re presented with a very different Kanye to the one we have now.
If you look past literally everything else about Yeezy, the last ten years have provided some of his greatest music to date. The argument that ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ or ‘The Life Of Pablo’ are better albums is a fair one but ‘Yeezus’ for its dark, raw, rugged and twisted ethos, is essentially a modern dance music masterpiece. It’s one of his most off-kilter and inventive albums to date and although there’s no forgetting his work with Daft Punk on ‘Stronger’ from ‘Graduation’, his productions alongside the French robots on ‘Yeezus’ is an entirely different beast. The album’s first track ‘On Sight’ channels ‘Homework’ levels of Daft Punk brilliance. It’s some of their most brutalist work ever and when coupled with Yeezy’s venomous lyrics, it makes for a savage, no-holds barred opener. ‘Black Skinhead’ comes hurtling in shortly and alongside the robots, fellow Frenchmen, Brodinski and Gesaffelstein worked on the track. To be honest, you could go through every track on the album and easily write 1000 words on the composition, red-hot bars and production. Across the LP there’s work from Hudson Mohawke, Lunice, Benji B, Arca, Evian Christ, Mike Dean, Travis Scottt, Lupe Fiasco, Frank Ocean, Justin Vernon. Oh, and Rick Rubin. With this in mind, Kanye delivered his most explosive and urgent album thus far and the poison that seemingly runs through it only adds to its brilliance. Kanye enlisted electronic music royalty, both past and present, to create something utterly unique and as result it’s completely addictive. These days Kanye is devoted to the word of God but to be totally honest, it sounded a lot better when he thought he was a God. Funster
James Holden 'The Inheritors' (Border Community)
In an age of advanced software and in the box production, modular synth setups can seem like an expensive indulgence; you can make beats on iPads now don’t you know! But the transcendent peaks hit by James Holden on his 2013 album ‘The Inheritors’ more than justifies however much was splashed on hardware. Named after a William Golding novel about a tribe of Neaderthals and fronted with artwork depicting carved symbols on stone, the music of ‘The Inheritors’ also has a kind of ancient quality to it: sublime synths, ritualistic percussion and probing rhythms evoke a complex, pastoral world that feels as though it’s swimming with possibility. Patrick Hinton
Toro Y Moi 'Anything In Return' (Carpark Records)
Released in 2013, ‘Anything In Return’ was a landmark record for Toro Y Moi, aka Chaz Bundick. Previously, he was known as one of the progenitors of chillwave. On ‘Anything In Return’, Bundick makes a concerted effort to distance himself from the movement he helped to create.
The album’s lead single ‘So Many Details’ remains to this day Bundick’s most streamed track on Spotify at over 22 million streams. It’s so indebted to hip hop, but with a guitar rumble that marks it so clearly as early 2010s indie. As the inner monologue of a close intimate encounter, the accompanying music is similarly frenetic. Throughout the album, Bundick doesn’t shy away from experimentalism, moving from jazz to hip hop to electronica to pop in the space of four minutes. ‘Touch’ starts off like a Moodymann track before the fractured vocals bounce around the track. ‘Rose Quartz’ is similarly playful with what and who it wants to be, and its instrumental intro lasts half the track.
With this, his fourth album, Toro Y Moi proved that you’re always capable of breaking out of the box that you’re put in. Innovation is always around the corner; you just have to be willing to look for it. Jemima Skala
Dean Blunt 'The Redeemer' (Hippos In Tanks)
Dean Blunt has form for being intentionally bewildering. From the bizarre visuals featured on the Hype Williams YouTube channel to hosting an exhibiton solely showcasing a stock photo and painfully piercing note to live shows seemingly intent on suffocating and deafening crowds with OTT smoke machine use and subwoofer volume, he’s a crpytic figure who’s shown no inclination to break down the obfuscating wall that surrounds him. Dean Blunt isn’t even his real name. But on 2013 debut solo album ‘The Redeemer’, he sounded vulnerable. Maybe it was meta-commentary, satirising vulnerability. These are thoughts you entertain when it comes to Dean Blunt. But like a sleeper spy who becomes accustomed to their cover life and turns double agent, when you’re in this deep, well, a spade is a spade. And ‘The Redeemer’ is a heartbreak etched, emotionally open album that hits you in the gut again and again, via mournful strings, wounded vocals, piano ballads and melodies in the minor key. Perhaps the realest insight we’ve gained into the decade’s most enigmatic artist. Patrick Hinton
Mount Kimbie 'Cold Spring Fault Less Youth' (Warp)
I remember seeing Mount Kimbie play songs from ‘Cold Spring Fault Less Youth’ on London’s Southbank in 2012 and feeling let down that there were Actual Vocals and Loads More Guitar. The duo who had defined the warm melancholy of post-dubstep were pivoting to indie! But of course they were actually just becoming braver with their songwriting and more sophisticated in their delivery and those tracks, like ‘Made To Stray’, would become even more anthemic than early hits like ‘Carbonated’. It’s difficult to think of an act that’s been as consistent as Mount Kimbie this decade, having released three excellent albums and crafted a sound all their own, the preserve of true electronic music legends. Seb Wheeler