The debate between digital digging and its analog analogue is the same useless arguing as the one pitting digital playback against the analog kind. In 2011, if it sounded good, it was worth listening to. The resulting stew was a mix of past and present where classic house met nu-disco and created a future sound of the old school.
The rules guiding the making of this list of the year’s best 12-inches are quite simple: If a release was pressed onto flat, somewhat circular vinyl that could to be played on a turntable sometime during 2011, it was eligible, whether official, unofficial or reissue. The local leanings of the list are unintentional; New York may have quite a past, but it just also happens to know how to look toward the future.
Various, “Sound Sampler Vol. 1” (Sound Stream)
These high-end purveyors of old-school house meets disco noise believe in quality over quantity. Only their third release in as many years, their planned Mister Saturday Night appearance had to be cancelled due to illness, but it’s hard to get sick of these sounds.
La Tuerie, “The Basement Boutique” EP (Is It Balearic)
Is it balearic? You tell me. Either way, the always hotly debated genre tag is on full display on one of the label of the same name’s many hot slo-mo releases.
The Dead Rose Music Company, “Moody Manoeuvres” EP (Sleazy Beats Recordings)
A tough call for a great label that highly lives up to its name, the mysterious TDRMC show why they’re the great disco hope for 2012 with this stellar EP for the Quaalude set.
Locussolus, “Locussolus” (International Feel)
DJ Harvey productions; Emperor Machine, Lindstrom/Prins Thomas and Andrew Weatherall remixes. Not to be taken lightly.
Various, “A Summer Riot” EP (Futureboogie Recordings)
Any Futureboogie release this year could really have ended up on this list, but this release by three of its stable’s new stars takes the cake. Keep an eye on these UK pranksters.
Sofrito Super Singles, “Highlife Underground” EP (Sofrito)
Awesome wax from Africa was all over in 2011. Occasional New Yorker Frank Gossner’s traveling Voodoo Funk fiesta and tourmate Uchenna Ikonne’s excellent Brand New Wayo comp came out this year, but the medal goes to UK label Sofrito for their excellent series of nu-afro edits—and an embarrassment of free riches on their site.
Bicep, “EP2” (Throne of Blood)
“Are bloggers really journalists?” traditional media mavens often ask. “Who cares when they can produce tracks like this?” we ask. While continuing to run their next-level blog and leaving a DJ path of Euro-destruction in their wake, Andy and Matt Bicep brought their own original sounds to America on two separate excellent EPs for a very busy, fruitful year for The Rapture’s forward-thinking Throne of Blood imprint.
Free School, “Ranting & Raving” EP (Tirk)
A beautiful calming lullaby of a record backed with a music history lesson mini-sound movie (see above) and stellar remixes from The Time & Space Machine and Sportloto. The sound of nu-shoegaze outta nu-Birmingham.
Daphni, “Ne Noya / Yes, I Know / Jiao” (Jiaolong)
Aside from a standout turn on an otherwise disappointing Radiohead remix package, Dan Snaith released so many great tracks as Daphni this year, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d left his Caribou moniker in the Great White North along with his Manitoba guise. Psychedelic is psychedelic by any other name.
CCC, “Acid Snow” EP (CCC Editions)
Speaking of psychedelics, 2011 was all about the acid for CCC (Cid Cid Cid?). With a three-volume anthology of American acid house On Acid, a lovingly produced, colorful compendium of drug essays, and this EP, their music truly captures their (altered) mind state and ushers listeners into the age of “Shaman House.” Forthcoming work on Wolf & Lamb in 2012.
Debukas, “I Am Machinery” (20/20 Vision)
John Debukas has lived 3 lives: One as a member of ’90s candy-colored popsters Bis, another as a quite-good remixer/editor, and his current one, where he exists in his own private psychedelic analog dance orgy.
The Revenge, “Reekin’structions Album Sampler Part Two” (Z Records)
Graeme Smith is one of the most patient men in dance music when it comes to a groove, but you don’t have to be to get hold of one of his edits in a constant stream of releases. Three tracks off his ten track remix collection also released this year and one unreleased dub.
Larry Tiger, “Alone On The Green” / David Woods, “On The Green Alone” (Editainment)
2011 was a busy year for the faceless animal/golf aficionados Tiger & Woods; the duo put out a free digi-album of previously unreleased work, embarked on their first world tour and released twin, intentionally, confusingly named solo EPs that may or may not still just be both of them. They attempted to demystify things when I spoke with them earlier this year, but ended up just drawing us deeper into their 1970s golf “club.”
Runaway, “Stories Reinterpretations” (On The Prowl)
Devil’s doubles Jacques Renault and Marcos Cabral must have Uday Hussein-style stand-ins, as they somehow release records on their OTP and Let’s Play House imprints every few months, drop edits and remixes every few weeks, and spin around town seemingly every 36 hours or so. Here under their Runaway guise, they enlist an all-star cast of remixers to reinterpret their, uh, stories.
Mythical Beasts, “Communicate” (International Feel)
Felix Dickinson, meet Toby Tobias. Toby, this is Felix. Go on ahead and play. Another great IF release. What exactly is in the water in Uruguay??
Various, “Magic Wand Edits Vol. 3” (Magic Wand)
Downtempo loveliness coming from the likes of DJ Steef, Coyote and Jose Manuel taking on Foreigner, The Byrds, The Gap Band and Bumblebee Unlimited. Essential editing.
In Flagranti, “Skematic Tracks Vol. 1” (Codek)
Another lazy duo that spent the year sitting on their disco asses and only releasing one album, ten new, separate a-side singles and this three-track vinyl collection with sexy videos—all on their own imprint. Here’s hoping they have something planned for 2012 so people don’t forget them altogether.
Poolside, “Do You Believe?” (Future Classic)
The crossover track of the year. With a trio of solid remixes from James Curd, Jacques Renault and Cosmic Kids and a string of bootlegs, this track was played by everyone this side of Tiesto and announced LA’s Poolside as a daytime disco force to be reckoned with. Their gorgeous Neil Young cover didn’t hurt either.
Capablanca & T. Keeler, “No Hay Ritmo” (Gomma)
Every morning Christopher Walken gets up he puts his pants on one leg at a time. But once his pants are on, he listens to Gomma releases like this cowbell-obsessed affair.
Benoit & Sergio, “Boy Trouble” (DFA)
In 2011 The Rapture returned home to DFA and helped kickstart a banner year for the label, which kept its vinyl hand strong with a near-perfect string of releases from Holy Ghost, DJ Kaos, Juan Maclean’s Peach Melba project, Rewards, Invisible Conga People, and The Rapture themselves. But the year belonged to breakout stars Benoit & Sergio, who ruled the roost with two great 12-inches on the label, in addition to top-tier releases on Double Standard, Visionquest and Spectral Sound. Next year is theirs for the taking.