Following on from our albums of the year, we look into the seminal shorter body of works delivered to us in 2018.
From the fiercely abrasive introduction to Shygirl with Cruel Practice to the softer tones of Jenny Hval’s The Long Sleep, it’s been an equally ground-breaking year for EPs.
Sinje Hawke and Zora Jones – Vicious Circles – Planet Mu
Chosen by Kate Hazeldine (LUNA, MDR Producer)
Back in August, the hard-hitting ‘God’ was the track that introduced me to this dynamite duo. I’m a sucker for samples and a fan of Eastern European sounds, so when they hit me with a Bulgarian choir sample it was an instant winner. Paired with hypnotic beats and stabs of pizzicato strings, this spectacle is definitely going to be carried through to my playlists of 2019.
Two pioneers of electronic music, Hawke and Jones fuse together all sorts of abstract influences throughout this debut collaborative EP. Pounding beats with ominous synth bass can be heard on ‘Source of Conflict’, while ‘Lurk 101’ demonstrates percussive chaos guaranteed to get you jumping through the roof. ‘BabyboySosa’ radiates more of a trap feel with bouncy 808s and manipulated winding vocals, while the closing track ‘And You Were One’ is a gentle, dreamy conclusion to the record with a pitched-up vocal dancing over chiming sounds.
Having just finished a small international tour of their AV set, I cannot wait to see what these experimental geniuses may collaborate on next.
HDMIRROR – ADRENALIN – Self-released
Chosen by Bryn Davies (BЯYN)
Probably the most over-the-top Hardcore release made, if Hardcore wasn’t already over-the-top enough. I’m pretty sure I’ve included at least one track from this release in every set I’ve played this year; it’s club ready, brutal, fun and it’ll never fail to energise dance floors into anarchy. I wasn’t too sure if this was an album or an EP but it’s a collection of tracks from an HDMIRROR live set, which I was lucky enough to see at Unsound Festival 2018 in a soviet hotel kitchen turned club space. It’s a party starter and the release is on Bandcamp at the kind “Name your price” – doesn’t get much better than that!
Locked Club – Svoboda – Private Persons
Chosen by Jack Charnley (Altered Voyage)
The mysterious Russian outfit, Locked Club, deliver five tracks of rough breakbeat electro. Soaked in acid, with a big ol’ slab of scratching that hits like a left hook, the title track makes this my favourite EP of the year. I first heard them on their last EP for Private Persons, Forever Punk, which is equally as sick so as soon as I saw this it was a buy-on-sight. Svoboda, which translates to ‘freedom’, was influenced by recent governmental issues with Russian club culture such as raids and closures of clubs/festivals. This makes this record all the more relevant considering the recent announcement of club closures closer to home i.e. Constellations and Buyers Club.
“Damage was inflicted on our beloved clubs and festivals such as Outline, Arma17, Rabitza. We admire our neighbors who fought for their houses and managed to protect them: Ukrainian Closer, British Fabric and Georgian Bassiani.”
Elysia Crampton – Elysia Crampton – Break World Records
Chosen by George Maund (Cartier 4 Everyone)
Here our beloved departs slightly from textures previous (as on every release), turning further towards her long-running research mission of discovery through her people’s traditional homeland in Bolivia and Peru. Throughout this more personal (if experiment) musical reflection, we are shown the results of Elysia’s endless road trip; her current findings on display for us to absorb. What we hear could be recognised variously as music concrète, as cumbia’s relatives, as prog metal/jazz fusion, as electronic folk, as an ambient digital archive. What’s most clear to me is what this art represents: for Elysia, it will give her access to a world beyond her lifestyle as a trans drifter and audio archaeologist, while also acting as a critique of how we in ‘the West’/‘global North’ approach and then sometimes appropriate ancient rhythms in their current forms. Layered, nuanced, moving and guided, I hope I see this performed live.
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Aphex Twin – Collapse – Warp
Chosen by Rich Furness (Abandon Silence and Chibuku)
It was a quiet year for Aphex fans up until July and then it all started going haywire. Marketing campaigns, merchandise drops, live dates, magazine features and the main driving force behind it all: new music.
The Collapse EP is pretty much your standard Aphex fare and light years ahead of the pack, but it was the title track and the accompanying video from Weirdcore which elevated it to a new level. Never has the word ‘Collapse’ been more apt; the sequencing and all round feeling of dread which emits from the two minute mark was more proof that no one can even come close to the king.
After this, finally getting to see him live this year for the first time and actually getting to own a ‘Windowlicker’ umbrella, it’s been a vintage year for this particular Richard D James enthusiast.
Tony Allen & Jeff Mills – Tomorrow Comes the Harvest – Blue Note Lab Records
Chosen by James Zaremba (MDR co-founder)
Two giants collide on this 10” slab of wax out on Blue Note’s “Lab” sub-label. Tony Allen, an Afrobeat legend and Jeff Mills, who requires little introduction as a unmissable figure in techno are both masters of rhythm in their own right.
A collaboration of music, mind and spirit – this four track EP melds the two musician’s musical styles together following two years of successful touring together. The EP was recorded in Paris and is as smooth as it is raw. The perfect musical alchemy.
E-Talking and Laska – Blue 04 – Whities
Chosen by Léa Ben Saïd (Bruits)
It has been a long time since Whities have put music out and I have not immediately bought it. Be it an EP or an album, Tasker is clearly smarter than all of us and is able to immediately and consistently put out some of the best music on the scene right now. As it is without a doubt my favourite label, I went through what has been released this year and the choices are many. Ultimately, my favourite must be Blue 04, the split EP between E-Talking and Laksa. Laksa in particular has been releasing some of my favourite music this year and seeing him release on Whities was something I was looking forward more than ever.
Between the techno roller and the dusty but nostalgic breaks, there is room for everyone to fit the music within their own palate.
Accidental Records – The Drip – Accidental Jnr
Chosen by Benny Maths Goulsano
Again, how are you meant to pick just one from such a rich year?! So, special shouts to the crunchy, distorted, speaker-busting sonics of The Jaffa Kid’s Start to End on la beauté du négatif, the body-quaking heaviness of Riko Dan’s Hard Food on Tectonic, the booty-shaking cheekiness of Sworn Virgin’s Fifty Dollar Bills on DeeWee and the wonky grooves of Asa Moto’s Playtime EP also on DeeWee. But the one that edges it from the last 12 months for me is The Drip EP on Accidental Jnr, featuring a track apiece from Matthew Herbert, Cosmo Sheldrake, Yann Seznec and Crewdson. Each serves up some squelchy, sub-aquatic rhythms straight out the leftfield, their skewiff weirdness being matched the way they compel you to the dance floor. Sheldrake’s ‘Splosh’ is my pick of the bunch, but all four tracks will leave the dance floor soaking.
Fugal – Parallels – secondnature
Chosen by Maximillian Carton
My entry for EP of the year comes via Berlin-based, Korean-American techno artist from Seattle… yup! Fugal is an artist who creates tension through insistent rhythms and nuanced emotion. A resident DJ at the label in which this release sits, secondnature.
As someone who searches for the most industrial techno, funkiest house and everything in between, Fugal has provided me an almost perfect four track EP with every box ticked along the way. Starting with ‘A1 Monolith’ and it’s straight clunky drums, polyrhythmic percussion and filtered low end. Then ‘A2 Plurality’ with dreamy pads, skippy-almost Dettman/ Klock hi hats intertwined with a Function-esque mid frequency metallic roar and trippy vocal stabs. ‘B1 Parallels’ has to be my favourite track on the EP. Choppy 90’s house stabs, rides to make Mr G proud and sharp drums combined with an insanely funky bassline makes this a contender for my favourite track of the whole year. The EP concludes with an almost dub techno number with ‘B2 Arrival’, a track which I can only describe as the perfect ending (contrary to the track title). A dreamy conclusion to a dreamy EP.
Cromby – Retribution EP – Feel My Bicep
Chosen by Conor Gibson (Refreshments)
Cromby has been grafting away for years, putting in the hours across Belfast, London and Berlin. Resident at Shine in Belfast (RIP Mandela Hall) and now based in Berlin, his tracks throw back to the early sounds of Chicago and Detroit with driving, saturated bass lines and dark dissonant synth work on top. Cromby’s most recent release Retribution on Feel my Bicep Records brings these elements together perfectly. The lead track ‘Retribution’ takes aim directly at the dancefloor, with a memorable detuned synth stab that washes across the higher frequencies throughout. The Defekt remix takes you down a darker path, with a class electro remix that contrasts the washy pads of the original mix against a huge 606 kick and a dark modulating bassline. The beauty of this EP is the curation of it, three tracks that sit together as one, complimenting each other fully but still standing up fully on their own merit. The final track closes up with a ‘Chill Mix’ from Bristol’s Shanti Celeste. This slows the EP down into a fuzzed-out 6 minutes of flanger and tape hiss – pure lovely and definitely one for headphones.