Liverpool dance music – a year in review plus top 10 albums of 2016

2016 - a year in review

2016 – a year in review

As we approach 2017 like some sort of driverless steam train, hurtling towards the New Year with murderous intent, Getintothis’ dance editor, Ste Knight, rounds up his highs, lows, and in-betweens of 2016.

So 2016 was a bit of a shit year – the UK set the ball rolling on Brexit; Shredded Wheat-topped uber-dick Donald Trump became US president; half of the world’s greatest music icons decided to put into action their exit strategies and joined the great gig in the sky.

However, away from the wider world and deep in the underground dance scene, everything was pretty rosy. In fact, if you only paid attention to dance music news, and ignored all other forms of reporting, then 2016 was pretty fucking special.

Sure, we had the closure of Fabric nightclub in September, but come November, news broke that the iconic London venue was to be granted a brand new license, albeit under the conditions that a much more stringent door policy be put into effect. It seems as though a small victory for the ‘little man’ had been achieved, for a change.

Liverpool’s dance scene has been thriving. We’ve seen the opening of new venues; established venues have gone from strength-to-strength; new and exciting club nights have sprung up here, there, and everywhere; the nights we know and love have served only to bolster their already fantastic reputations. It really has been quite a brilliant (and tiring) year on a local level.

There have been several personal highlights of the year for this particular writer. Most recent, was the trip to sunny Blackpool (which I’m convinced has NEVER seen a single ray of sunshine in all its days), to take in the truly momentous sights and sounds of the Chemical Brothers.

Now, I have to admit that prior to this I was a complete and utter Chemical Brothers virgin. I’ve been a fan since I first heard Song to the Siren on a Q Magazine compilation, so you can imagine the sheer excitement I was feeling as I entered Blackpool’s Winter Gardens for not-the-first-time, to see them play and holy fuck did they play.

I’ll be honest, I was going that berserk I couldn’t possibly give you a full rundown of the tracks they played, but the second those opening thuds of Hey Boy Hey Girl dropped, I was in my element. It was stultifyingly brilliant. The lasers, the lights, the gigantic robots…and the music. Oh god, the music.

Flying through all their classics: Galvanise; Chemical Beats; Leave Home; Block Rockin’ Beats; Do it Again; Out of Control it is more than fair to say that they absolutely nailed it and I have to be honest, the visuals that accompanied the music were some of the best I’ve ever seen, with a clarity I’ve never before witnessed. They may have actually been in 4K, I don’t know, I was fairly twatted, but they looked incredible.

That wasn’t the only musical highlight. If you’ve been reading my reviews then you’ll know the year was peppered with them. HUGE props go to the 303 crew, who have put on some of the best parties this side of Jupiter. This year we’ve seen some amazing sets from all manner of techno royalty. Dave Clarke, Mr C, Erol Alkan, Daniel Avery, the list goes on, but never let it be said that 303 don’t know how to smash your back doors in.

Same goes to the wonderful folks at 24 Kitchen Street for playing numerous blinders, including Perc and Truss, and Awesome Tapes From Africa, as well as hosting some of the finest local talent you could imagine. We wish them all the best in their battle against those shit stains at Liverpool Council.

With 24 Kitchen Street in mind, if you ever get the chance to catch Akasa, then do it. I don’t recall being so impressed by someone’s live performance in quite some time. She was ace and you really need to head down there next time she’s there to catch her twisted acid techno action.

We’ve seen the launch of the new Distant Future project here in the city as well, which brings together artists from across the globe to make wonderful music together. Their launch event was really something to behold. Starting off in the Kazimier Gardens, we enjoyed all manner of sonic wonderment, before heading over to 24 Kitchen Street for even more. Epic times were indeed had.

We were pummelled to within an inch of our lives with hardcore chiptune, acid techno, glitch-hop, electro, italo-disco. It was the absolute tits, and we can’t wait for the next instalment.

Warehouse Project returned to Manchester for its 2016 season. What a series of events they organised. It is difficult to even begin imagining the amount of work that goes into organising WHP. Huge artists from across the globe have played (and are still to play) and covered such a broad range of styles that we can be certain that everyone’s tastes were covered.

I was lucky enough to catch Warehouse Project VS. The Hydra, featuring a class line-up an equal to which you’d have struggled to find across the rest of the nation that night. We arrived as Krysko and Greg Lord were going b2b to destroy room three with some chunky tech-house that saw everyone present shakin’ some serious ass.

From there we moved to room two where we caught the end of Dolan Berghin, who was absolutely wrecking it before Andrew Weatherall came on and continued to keep the energy at a high level.

Room one was where the action was at for the majority of our evening, though. We collared Ben UFO playing some awesome party techno which left me, personally, gobsmacked and wanting more. More I got, as Richie Hawtin entered the fray to deliver a tremendous lesson in how to throw down relentless power techno.

I mean, come the fuck on. Hawtin‘s ability to manipulate four tracks into something completely new is what makes him a total master of his game and is one of the reasons that his DJ sets so impressive. He consistently packs out massive rooms like WHP‘s room one. The two hours that he manned the decks was a dream come true, and the kind of blistering techno that he played satisfied my desire for something a little harder.

Despite Hawtin being a tough act to follow, Ben Klock managed it. He came on around an hour before our minibus back to Liverpool was due to arrive, so we enjoyed a further suplex off the top ropes with Klock banging out some seriously funky techno. What a night, and a testament to the hard work of the organisers at WHP year upon year.

2016 has been techno’s year. There have been some utterly brilliant tracks released throughout the past 12 months. Recondite dropped his powerhouse floorsmasher, Warg. Midlands techno don, Surgeon, did the Birmingham bizniz on Blueprint Records with his track Search, in the same year that Blueprint celebrated their 20-year anniversary with Structures and Solutions: 1996-2016. Cleric took us to his 2nd Limit with his release on Clergy. You can check out some of my favourite tracks from the past year on the playlist at the bottom of the page.

There was so much quality techno released that I fear I may have given myself some sort of permanent ear damage. Not least because of my habit of sticking my face inside the speakers at whatever club I might be attending, but also because I insist that techno doesn’t sound any good unless I’ve got it on full whack on my headphones.

Techno really is what I would consider a ‘phoenix’ music style. By that I mean its popularity and quality is cyclical. I distinctly remember Eminem pontificating that ‘Nobody listens to techno’ while slapping a Moby-a-like around his bald head. Well, sorry Marshall, but techno proved you wrong didn’t it? By the way, 8Mile was fucking shite.

The underground is stronger than ever at the moment and hopefully this will continue well into 2017.

You’ll have seen me banging on about dutch DJ and producer Odette. Well never let it be said that Ste Machine (that’s me, in case you hadn’t guessed) doesn’t know his shit, because this young producer is well on the up, and I am hotly tipping her for great big massive things in 2017. I won’t say too much, as I might get a telling off, but just go and check out her SoundCloud to find out why. Honestly, you’ll be glad you did.

Check out our dance archive here for more of our electronic music musings

I could go on, and on, and on, mentioning literally every night I’ve been to this year, as there was ne’er a disappointment to be felt, but sadly I’m going to have to draw this to a close and make you read about what the best albums of 2016 have been for me. So I’m going to. Get on my selections below, kiddas. But, just one more thing, have an amazing Christmas and a brilliant 2017 you lot.

Top 10 Albums of 2016

Autechre Elseq 1-5

Autechre Elseq 1-5

10: Autechre – Elseq 1-5

Autechre returned in 2016 with their Elseq 1-5 album, which was released, as you might expect, on Warp Records. The album is classic Autechre, with brazen noise recorded with Gallileic accuracy, so mathematically sound that you’d think it was produced by some sort of futuristic machination.

Convextion 2845

Convextion – 2845

9: Convextion – 2845

If spacey, cosmological dub techno is your bag, then you almost certainly need to get your hands on a copy of Convextion‘s 2845 record. The opener, a 16-minute dub-techno masterpiece, is peppered with glistening little stars that twinkle in the background as the kicks rumble like a rocket launch. Saline Moon is so space-techno that I actually feel like a Jetson when I listen to it. A stunning album, for sure.

Skee Mask - Shred

Skee Mask – Shred

8: Skee Mask – Shred

Skee Mask drops a killer breakbeat album on one of Germany’s most forward thinking labels, Illian Tape. The album is a wonderfully crafted work and it is Mask‘s masterful manipulation of the well-known breakbeat sound that really makes this album stand out.

Nina Kraviz - Fabric 91

Nina Kraviz – Fabric 91

7: Nina Kraviz – Fabric 91 Compilation

It seems as though Nina Kraviz and Daniel Avery have switched positions in 2016, as Siberia’s ice cool Queen of Techno slams your brain cells together for her Fabric compilation, which follows her 2015 mix for DJ Kicks. The album features a myriad of obscurities, masterfully melded together with forthcoming releases from her own трип imprint. This is fucking brilliant stuff and well deserves its place in our top ten of 2016.

The Field - The Follower

The Field – The Follower

6: The Field – The Follower

Axel Willner arrived on Kompakt in 2016 with his fifth long player, The Follower. The album is all muscle – the entire formula for full pelt electronic body music is here and The Field, intentionally or not, has made a record that seems as though it was produced to be felt as well as listened to.

Daniel Avery - DJ Kicks

Daniel Avery – DJ Kicks

5: Daniel Avery – DJ Kicks

Avery‘s first mix album since the release of his Fabric compilation sees him in fantastic full-throttle techno form. The album is Detroit/Berlin through and through, and is a must for any techno fan, as we see tracks from Ulwhednar and Post Scriptum enter the mix in a dleightfully dark fashion.

Blueprint Records - Structures and Solutions

Blueprint Records – Structures and Solutions

4: Blueprint Records – Structures and Solutions: 1996-2016

From the second your hear Metal Slipper, and you’ve cleaned the shit out of your pants, you’ll be hooked on the Birmingham label’s 20th anniversary album, which features favourite Brummie faves Surgeon, James Ruskin, and Oliver Ho all feature on a blistering release.

Umwelt - Days of Dissent

Umwelt – Days of Dissent

3: Umwelt – Days of Dissent

Umwelt released a brilliant album in 2016, which fused together all manner of styles including electro, techno, motor city funk, and acid. Well worth investing in as you don’t get a great many long players of this quality. The record captures the notion of the thumping hydraulics and hissing steam engines of industry perfectly. Check it.

Second Woman - Second Woman

Second Woman – Second Woman

2: Second Woman – Second Woman

IDM may be, to some, a bit pasé. However, Second Woman dropped a stunning techno long player that really hits the listener right in the middle of every one of their senses. Beautifully luscious techno from the New Orleans duo which nods towards the 90s catalogue of Planet Mu and Rephlex Records.

SNTS - Losing Sight

SNTS – Losing Sight

1: SNTS – Losing Sight

SNTS has produced what is, for me, easily the album of 2016. Fusing gothic apocalyptica with Judge Dredd-style futurism, via retro technologies and marshal law loudhailing, SNTS brings the absolute ruckus with Losing Sight. Dissonance, mystery, and madness are the order of the day on the album, which the enigmatic producer recorded in a cave – the sound of which the record fully encapsulates.