Review of the year, 2006

It’s been quite a busy year for me. January I put up the second 94 jungle mix, Jungle Got Dub. BTW, this is up at I should really re-master it – bit bass heavy. People seemed to like it though. There was the first in a trio of Phil Hine interviews in January too. March was big – the first in the Dubstep Sufferah series went up. I put some time into that, I loved doing it and it got a bit of attention and a couple of thousand downloads between here and Barefiles. Plus I went to the inaugural night at BASH – fucking mental and I met lots of dubstep people for the first time, and even better, saw Mala play in Sheffield with Space Ape. Just beyond belief. In April I did my first “modern” dubstep tune, or at lest my first halfstepp-y thing, Lickle Friction. (As you may recall Kode 9 had got in touch about some of the old 138 stuff back in, IIRC, 2003.) Anyway, Lickle was built around the Jammy’s / Scientist phone call mp3s that were doing the rounds at the time and was quite a nice little roller, and it’s been played out a bit apparently. Even bigger, me and John’s mix for the wonderful Dave Stelfox’s show on Resonance FM went out on the nineteenth of this month. It’s still up here. And I went to see Mala play too… In May I put up No Sunshine, my refix of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine, which had been going round and round my head since January. I still love this, so much so I did a remix of it in a mate’s pro studio later in the year. It’s been played out lots. Plus I finally got to DMZ. And John released the first RSI Radio, which was great, and which I did some editing and mastering on. In June I did the second Tense Nervous House Music mix, where I caught up with the glorious renaissance of techy deep house that’s been brewing for the last few years, best exemplified in my view by Ame and Trentemoller. In July, I think it was, me and John did our first contribution to the magnificent Blogariddims series. Didn’t do much for the next few months – other than work on Dubstep Sufferah 2, which took a while, though not as long as the first volume did. It finally went up in October. It’s only done a few hundred downloads, but I think it’s the best mix I’ve ever done; when it first went up the demand took out my server in hours. After that I was just too busy with work to do much. So – three solo mixes this year plus two collaborations with John, which isn’t a bad tally.

Besides my own stuff, it’s been quite a good year musically. Obviously I’ve been focused on dubstep, of which more in a minute, but there’s been loads of good house too. As for reggae, I have yet again failed to fulfil my new year resolution of buying fresh reggae every month, but not for want of trying. Just wasn’t feeling much this year. No doubt Eden’s end of year round up CD will show me where I went wrong. I think 2006 will go down as the year that dubstep finally fulfilled its potential on vinyl. Anyway, all my favourite tunes this year were dubstep. My top ten should hold no surprises really, but here they are in order of them embedding themdselves deep into my mind and obsessing me:

1. Loefah: Ruffage / Mud

Jesus. What a fucking tune Ruffage is. I think Loefah is the best producer in the world right now and I tell you, he’s only just started. Mud needs a big system to really work, though it sounded fab on dubstep warz, but Ruffage is just… “rough… beats…”. It’s an AMAZING record, deep and lush and throbbing and saturated with flavour, I just love the electro style Loefah’s been pushing this year. You think this tune is just all groove and no soul, but… it does… Obviously Disko Wrekkah is even better, the best record to come out of dubstep and it will be the biggest dubstep record of 2007, assuming it comes out – which I expect it will. But that’s not out yet… I’ve had it since the start of the summer – probably my high point for the year – but it’s been so much a Loefah signature tune I haven’t dared play it. Maybe it’ll go on a mix when the release date is coming up. In the meantime go to DMZ just to hear it, and listen to Ruffage. Fucking mental. I should put up the vocal dub mix of Ruffage I did for Sufferah 2, see if anyone wants to play it out…

2. Pinch: Qawalli (VIP mix)

Oh boy. The deepest, heaviest, low slung deep funker of a track that dubstep has produced. Ultimate squidge. Right up there with the great deep, aquatic techno and house tunes…

3. Skream: I (Loefah Remix)

Loefah sends this tune into a downward spiral of bass that never ends. It rocks. Loefah thinks I is better than Request Line – and it is now.

4. Loefah: System

There’s just nothing to this tune. Couple of synth horn stabs, primitive electro beat… there’s a couple of bars with a variation in the drum programming at the end that would take this track into a whole other universe, but he just casually slings in a taste of it… and it’s just unadulterated genius.

5. Skream: Dutch Flowers

The “big” Skream track you’re not supposed to like but what a tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeee!!! I know Blackdown doesn’t like the digidub influence in dubstep and especially in Skream’s work but I have to say, I just love it and this tune exemplifies that digidub template while taking on a ridiculously happy, bouncy energy. Love it love it love it and it’s a CRIME it didn’t get a female vocal version to take it into the August top ten… maybe next year…

6. Benga: Zombie Jig

Probably 2005 really but it was on the CD (which, ahem, was patchy IMO), so… Is Benga more talented than Skream? I guess they’ve worked so close to each other for so long that a comparison is pointless, but in any event Benga has truckloads, I just wish he could get a few more records out.

7. Virus Syndicate: Major List MCs

Is it dubstep or is it grime? I don’t know that, but I do know we need more records like this – unbearably funky but intensely spacious backing matched with outrageously tight ensemble vocal flow.

8. Mala: Left Leg Out / Blue Notez

I love Loefah’s stuff but I expect Mala will eventually be seen as the greatest producer to come out of dubstep – the spiritual force of his records ensures that. It’s almost a cliche now to compare Mala with Shaka – my favourite DJ ever as regular readers know – but the comparison really does stand. His and Coki’s records are, in the main, dub missiles designed to pulverise dancefloors on plate. Mala is as interested in the transcendent potential of sonics in and of themselves as any 1980s industrialist and much Digital Mystikz output this year has translated that vibrational arsenal directly, and gloriously, into vinyl. But it’s not the sucession of wobblerz that will cement Digital Mystikz’ wider reputation – it’ll be the more emotive tracks tracks like these.
9. Digital Mystikz: Ancient memories (Skream remix)

Feel the jazz funk vibes seep in tt=he darkness!

10. Headhunter: Sleepwalker

THE standout track from the Tempa All Stars two double pack.

And a few more that didn’t quite make the top 10:

BlackDown: Lata

Intimations of greatness here – Martin walks it like he talks it…
DQ1: Wear the Crown

The bad-man producer. Difficult to choose between this Headhunter.
Digital Mystikz: Earth Run a Red / Conference / Haunted

Sheer dread heaviosity. (Can get a bit wearing compared to the best of their contemporaries though.)

Digital Mystikz – Anti War Dub

Super 4×4 excursion and ubdoubtedly a classic (but doesn’t quite have the legs it might have done)
Random Trio: Indian Stomp (from the Cyrus EP)

Such space, such minimalism… terrific tune and a great mixing tool.

Caspa: Rubber Chicken

Great, laidback, deep funk tune, possibly the ultimate wobbler… but hold tight for next year’s LFO King, which I’ve had for fucking months and is dayglo rave aceness.
Toasty – The Knowledge (Vex’d Remix)

Boxcutter – Brood / Sunshine

Great, creative single package – didn’t quite make me want to get the album.

And lots more – this was the year it became impossible to stay utterly on top of all the dubstep releases. It was even harder to properly absorb all the radio shows, even with the help of the magnificent talents of Deapoh and Boomnoise. These two have between them rendered a hugely valuable service to both today’s dubstep massive and future generations by recording and hosting all the key radio sessions. Boys, this was your year.
Outside of dubstep? Well, as mentioned both Ame and Trentemoller have really rocked my world. In rock, I did not prove immune to the attractions of Arctic Monkeys. When my wife got the CD I listened to it all, then put it straight back on and listened to it all the way through again. And again. I haven’t done that with a CD for years – not even Burial’s. (And yes, it is a great CD, not for me quite as good as other people have found it to be, but a lot better than, say, the Hatcha mix CD -amazing selection, terrible sequencing… but enough dubstep!). So yeah, the Arctics are the best British rock group since the Stone Roses as far as I’m concerned – just looking at the festival shows on TV it was obvious to me how much tighter they played than all the other bands and how much better their songs are.

Anyway… a very good year, especially with the quality of dubstep and dubstep related events I’ve been able to make it to this year, principally DMZ and BASH. I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.