Ostensibly, 2013 has been a huge year for the kind of electronic music that sounds best when you’re on lots of drugs and covered in black light paint. The new revival of the rave scene has progressed forward, proving that the lowest common denominator of dance music will remain the same whether it’s 1985, 1999, or 2013.
As it has for decades, true innovation is happening in bedrooms and basements across the world. Anywhere that there is a creative person, a computer, a pair of headphones, and a decent amount of weed, you can bet that you’ll hear something truly original. If you look in the right places, you’ll find some of the best shit you’ve ever heard. If you don’t want to, that’s too bad, because I went and did it for you anyway.
Siriusmo – Enthusiast
The most slept-on producer of our day probably would have been a rave scene phenomenon if he liked performing. He doesn’t, and instead spends his time crafting nuanced songs that are equal parts Stevie Wonder and Aphex Twin. We are all lucky to be alive while Siriusmo is releasing music.
Torky Tork – PR110
For this 39-track masterpiece, Torky exclusively sampled an old German TV crime drama called PR110. It’s a boom-bap triumph that reminds me why Berlin is such a haven for beat production.
Thundercat – Apocalypse
This is what it would sound like if Squarepusher did a full album cover of Dark Side of the Moon. Thundercat outshines every other character in his scene because of his pure virtuosity on bass.
Jai Paul – Unreleased Album
With “BTSU” as a benchmark, we waited a long time for this album only to find out that it’s not actually an album and instead just a collection of Jai Paul tracks. But y’know what, XL? This is totally the Jai Paul album. You made us wait way too long for it for it to be anything else. This one gets the special distinction of Best Use of Side Chain Compression.
Hearing about a prodigious kid producing beats in a remote Siberian village builds quite an expectation, and Aleph delivers hard. On the opening beat of this EP, he ingeniously flips break that we might have heard in a hey day Chemical Brothers track. Sold immediately.
Sweet Valley – SV
Maybe more well-known musicians should be pushing their siblings’ projects. Wavves’ Nathan Williams collaborates with his brother Kynan as Sweet Valley. Frankly, last year’s release Jenova was more to my taste, but SV is possibly the best experimentation you will hear in the genre all year.
No one can top this man. Last year’s Our Turn Anytime should have been at the top of my 2012 list, but it wasn’t because I’m a forgetful idiot. This single, the only song he released in 2013, is phenomenally well-produced and will blow your head. Japan just does it better.
Ta-Ku – Songs To Break Up To
Like so many others, this Australian first found inspiration in Dilla and began producing in his style. He gained notoriety by holding public production marathons like 50 Days For Dilla, proving that prolificness can be more powerful than sparseness. This release from this year doesn’t account for a fraction of what he’s put out in 2013, but it’s a great example of why he is so fucking ill.
Zomby – With Love
The Guy-Fawkes-mask-wearing UK wizard came through with a double album this year. Naturally, one would expect a lot of filler but there really was none. The tightest 2013 example of why the UK stays on top.
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Very few people were enthused about this record because a) Age and the speed of information have made us all different listeners since their last record and b) After eight years, we demand a spectacular album, not just a very good one. This is on the list to remind us that we’re lucky to have legends that are still releasing music. This is a plain album only by the standard set by previous BoC albums.
Abdullah Saeed is editor-in-chief of GURU. He writes Weediquette for VICE.com every Sunday and has covered electronic music for Noisey, The Creators Project, and THUMP. Check out his 2012 Best Beats list here.