We are thrilled to present our music blog’s 21 picks of 2021. This year’s music output was incredibly diverse – we saw many releases from smaller, more underground labels. There was an uptick in more international Arab and South Asian-inspired sounds. The line between nostalgia and futurism got increasingly blurred. This exercise in curation was not easy. Even as we feature new music almost everyday, we still risk missing great releases. However, our music blog writers took their best shot at selecting releases that they think deserve recognition for their exceptional quality across a variety of genres and labels. A review will be available for most of them, but a few slipped our radar–until now.
Emmanuel “Emmanuel presents ‘Stealth’ 02” (Stealth) [April 2, 2021]
This four tracker from ARTS label head honcho (in the form of ARTS sublabel Stealth), Emmanuel proves why he’s calling the shots as a tastemaker for ARTS, a label which, let’s face it, is poised to upset more well known labels in its consistent quality output.
Function – “Awakening From The Illusory Self” (Tresor) [April 16th, 2021]
Brooklyn-born and Berlin-based Dave Sumner aka Function provides a 4-track EP on Tresor Records, further refining his expert techno sound last seen on the label in late 2019 with his revered “Existenz” LP.
DJ T-1000 – “The Dirrty Underground EP” (BPitch Control) [July 16, 2021]
Detroit native Alan Oldham aka DJ T-1000 dishes out four raw and fast techno cuts for Ellen Allien’s BPitch Control label out of Berlin, where both the maestros are stationed.
Truncate – “First Phase” (Truncate) [October 1, 2021]
LA’s own David Flores aka Truncate turns out an instant classic for the 10th anniversary and 22nd release of his self-titled label, with UK’s Luke Slater and James Ruskin on the venerated remix duties.
Skee Mask – “Pool” (ILIAN TAPE) [May 7, 2021]
Pool is an unfamiliar planet. You crash land into a territory that is at once organic and otherworldly. By listening, you are tasked with deciphering into familiar syntax something beautifully novel and alien. It is a coded message from another place.
Anz – “All Hours” (Anz) [October 15, 2021]
Downtempo, grime, UK garage, pop; hits from the 80s, 90s, and today: It almost sounds like a tagline for the everyman, everygenre local radio station in hometowns across the planet, but all these influences and more are blended masterfully on this highly listenable release from Anz.
Moktar – “Moktar” (Steel City Dance Discs) [October 15, 2021]
The self-titled release by Moktar brings global inspiration and flare, combining catchy Arabic percussion patterns and vocals with new age break beat and techno. Australian by way of Egypt, artist Moktar channels ancient energy with serious dance potential in his impressive release on Steel City Dance Discs.
Kessler – “Ambivalent EP” (Shall Not Fade) [January 22, 2021]
Forging the metals of chromium synth waves, liquid breakbeats, and steely kickdrums, Kessler proves himself to be a highly original soundsmith in “Ambivalent EP.” Released by Shall Not Fade spearheaded by Kieran WIlliams, the notable UK label has also released an accompanying music video for the track “Vrieselaan.”
Planetary Assault Systems – “Say It Loud EP” (Token Records) [May 14, 2021]
Token Records properly celebrates the Belgian label’s 100th release milestone with a ruthless four-track EP, Say It Loud, from Luke Slater under his Planetary Assault Systems moniker.
Vil & Cravo – “Klockworks 32” (Klockworks) [July 2, 2021]
Enigmatic Portuguese duo Vil & Cravo deliver a 3-track EP on Ben Klock’s imprint, showcasing a deep and soulful take on techno, a stylistic, genre-defining release with its beautiful production.
Ecilo – “Saturn Landscapes EP” (Planet Rhythm) [August 18, 2021]
Indonesian standout talent Ecilo returns with a powerful four-track release on seminal Swedish techno imprint Planet Rhythm.
Stone Techno Series – “Cubic EP”” (The Third Room) [August 20, 2021]
Heady Essen event crew, label and studio The Third Room drops the second slice of its “Stone Techno” series, available on both limited wax and digital.
Franz Jäger– “Rouge” (New Rhythmic Records) [July 16, 2021]
Sweden’s Franz Jäger unleashes his four-track peak time techno EP, Rouge on New Rhythmic Records that will have you dancing until you’re red in the face. Returning with four tracks of peak time bliss, the young artist is cementing himself as a techno producer to keep an eye on.
Tapestry of Sound – “Tapestry of Sound” (Step Ball Chain) [May 26, 2021]
Heavy hitters Roza Terenzi and D. Tiffany team up for an oddball dancefloor smash inspired by 19th-century maypole dancing.
Various Artists – IKDRGLNN (Bazovoe Techno) [May 5, 2021]
Bazovoe Techno (Базовое Техно) premieres a future classic on HATE in lead of their upcoming vinyl-only compilation.
Measure Divide – “Green Parallel EP [CRG024]” (Clergy) [May 21, 2021]
Green Parallel is a scintillating techno ensemble comprised of forward-thinking, fast paced tunes sure to light the dance floor on fire. The songs, especially the first two tracks, take on a philosophical, if not nihilist, pathway designed for introspection alongside its natural dance energy.
Modularz Compilation – “The 6 Planet Discovery Mission” (Axis Records) [May 7, 2021]
Developer takes on the high honor of compiling a release for Jeff Mills’ Axis Records, which has been on fire all of 2021. Staying true to the sound of outer-space inspired techno, the Los Angeles techno wizard provides three tracks himself and features fellow peers Inigo Kennedy, Silent Servant and Benjamin Damage for an intriguing compilation dedicated to newly discovered planets.
Various artists – “Acid Analects Vol. 1″(Aquaregia) [October 22, 2021]
The Acid dons at Aquaregia unleash four sinister tracks with brilliant selection on Acid Analects Vol. 1. The Toronto based label that specializes in acid techno nails their latest compilation with contributions from Nicola Dal Sacco, Elad Magdasi, 747, and DJ Huntsman. Spanning a concise spectrum of pure acid techno bliss, expect dialed in production with old school rave energy.
Sleepy Rich – “Solaris” (Ilian Tape Records) [July 27, 2021]
“Solaris” by Sleepy Rich is a moody exposé of funky patterns, sophisticatedly pieced together to create a mind-altering journey bounding through space and time. Known for their unique style when it comes to techno out of left field, Ilian Tape continues a hot streak of solid releases with the latest offering coming from “Sleepy Rich” the poignant duo of “Sleepy Boy” and “Packed Rich”.
Blawan – “Soft Waahls” (Ternesc) [June 18, 2021]
The ninth in the Ternesc Series from English DJ Blawan, Soft Waahls is a wonderful addition to his oeuvre of creepy, technical music; which sounds like an ultra high voltage seance conducted in a mad science lab.
Rene Wise – “Pleasure Note EP” (SK11X007) [April 2, 2021]
U.K. producer Rene Wise joins Setoac Mass’ SK_eleven sub label to dispense a superbly produced 4 track EP of stripped down techno tracks full of emotive ambience injections to take you to a multitude of dimensions on the dance floor.
Curated by our incredible review team: Lina Xing, Kai Loo, Jeronimo Watson, Jack Plumb, Winston Mann, Sean Ocean, Nicolaas Black and Forest Lieberman.
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