With rampant overdrive and reverb, the warehouse music Alex Ridha pulls into yet another Boys Noize mix grabs its listeners by the chest and throws them into a dark dance floor filled with sonic booms, thuds, and hisses. In the culture surrounding this music one can find leather-clad punks bouncing from dusk to dawn to repetitive acid-synth arpeggios in clubs around the globe. A complex melting pot of techno, punk rock, and disco house gives Boys Noize the unique sounds and image many associate with the project.
There is something beautifully sinister to be found in the sweaty incantations that a mix like this places over its listeners. In this featured mix for The Ransom Note, Ridha teases out samples from and remixes of tracks in Mayday, his latest feature length album. Listeners can hear vocals from “Overthrow,” “Euphoria,” and “Midnight” cutting in and out between hypnotic kick drums and erratic breaks.
In an interview with The Ransom Note that accompanies the release of the mix, Ridha opens up about the inspiration, motivation, and history behind his music. Tracing his roots back to the 1980s house with names like Farley Jackmaster Funk, Steve Silk Hurley, Marshall Jefferson, and DJ Pierre, Ridha accounts his early days in DJing as a 15-year-old in Berlin gay and house clubs.
The atypical culture surrounding Boys Noize mentioned above seems rooted in Rihda’s 1990s experiences, such as seeing 2manyDJs mixing techno with punk-rock by Iggy & the Stooges. Ridha ends the mix by mixing punk rock with techno, enigmatic of the Boys Noize project, but also historically ironic because Iggy Pop hated techno. When interviewers ask, “what does your music sound like,” Ridha responds appropriately: it’s like “punching into a sunny side up egg.” Ridha’s jovial attitude brings to mind the yellow smiley face symbol iconic to acid house and adopted under the Boys Noize name for nostaligic merchandise. The interview is full of comical remarks by Ridha, and the mix features a transformed vocal with his unique “drink more water” introduction, which is a recurrent trope throughout many of his mixes.
To commemorate one of his biggest years to date, Boys Noize has delivered an epic video recap of 2016, featuring unreleased songs from an upcoming remix compilation for his fourth album, Mayday. The montage draws footage from stops throughout Alex Ridha’s recent Mayday tour, providing fans who have seen him live in the past year an opportunity to revisit the German techno veteran’s electrifying lights, sounds, and breakdowns.
Beginning with shots of what appears to be the assembly of Ridha’s live stage setup, fans who have witnessed this futuristic DJ exoskeleton get deeper look into the structure’s labor-intensive assembly process. After a briefly teasing of a live edit of “Overthrow,” the video offers a taste of Boys Noize & MXM’s remix of “Euphoria,” as well as a reprise of “Starchild.” Both tracks are presumably taken from the Mayday remix album, which has no confirmed release date as of yet.
Boys Noize has had a marquee year to say the least. He released his fourth studio album Maydayto critical acclaim, with an ensuing post-apocalyptic live show that manifested itself as one of the top live performances of 2016. The German techno luminary firmly maintained his dominance in a year that saw techno widely stepping out of the warehouse and beginning to creep into the mainstream.
Before 2016 officially comes to a close, Boys Noize has shared a live set from one of his coveted Mayday shows, recording during his performance at Frankfurt’s iconic Robert Johnson nightclub. The two-hour recording is chock full of dark, eerie techno, shifting breaks, and wiry acid house. Commanding his crowd with syncopated drum beats and gritty tech loops, Boys Noize delivers two hours of flawless live mixing for his final offering of 2016.
In the reigning electronic music era, the term “DJ” has become extraordinarily convoluted. Many electronic artists are judged and ranked as DJs based on their production prowess, rather than their skills behind the decks. Furthermore, as music technologies continue to develop, the lines between the actual tools which electronic artists use onstage have become increasingly blurred. Many of dance music’s most important figures don’t use anything resembling turntables or CDJs during their shows.
This list celebrates the ten electronic artists that we believe provided the most evocative performances in 2016. While many of the names below have released spectacular music within the past year, the artists’ production skills were not used as criteria while compiling these rankings. Rather, the aim of this list is to highlight the acts who most formidably astounded their audiences in their concerts; the artists whose tour announcements sent a hush throughout the electronic music realm; the musicians who put on shows so spectacular that the moments they cultivated have achieved legendary status in the year’s canon.
These are Dancing Astronaut’s Top 10 Performers of 2016.
Year after year, Sonny Moore remains one of dance music’s preeminent influencers, and to his credit, one of its most energetic performers. In addition to heading up his OWSLA imprint and continually providing a platform for new talents, Skrillex held down a breakneck performance calendar in 2016. Among Skrillex’s international touring itinerary this year were noteworthy performances at ComplexCon, Chance The Rapper’s debut Magnificent Coloring Day Festival, and his Boiler Room debut in Shanghai. Moore also returned to Burning Man and Coachella, to accompany Snails.
What long-time fans may consider treasonous is actually the key ingredient to Skrillex’s ubiquity — nothing is too dissimilar from his current work to touch. He brings the same earnest and genuine energy to his performances. Dubstep fan or not, its one of the most inclusive environments in the mainstream scene.
– Lucy Davidson
9. Bob Moses
Bob Moses hit the nail on the head with their 2015 debut album, Days Gone By, entering the dance music realm at the exact right time for the industry to welcome them with open arms. With the rise in popularity of indie-electronica crossover acts over the last few years, listeners were ready for something different, and the Canadian partnership of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance proved perfect to provide that difference.The duo’s multifaceted style yields a stellar live show, but impressively isn’t compromised by their DJ performances. Rather, the two divergent live formats allow Howie and Vallance to explore different facets of their tastes and talents.
2016 has seen Bob Moses play sets at some of the biggest festivals in the world, including Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo. Howie and Vallance have also garnered mainstream attention, receiving a great wealth of airtime on BBC Radio 1 and earning the chance to perform on The Ellen Show. Conversely, the duo fit right in with house and techno legend Lee Burridge on his “All Day I Dream” tour, easily catering to the more underground side of the spectrum. With their enthralling live performance, unique combination of influences, and ubiquitous appeal, it’s glaringly apparent that Bob Moses have established a firm, yet still blossoming legacy.
– Toby Reaper
Amid the rigorous clamor that defines much of the dance music scene, there is the beautiful sound of Tycho, which continuously reaffirms the notion that there is much more to composing music than simply putting sounds together. A true artist in every aspect, Scott Hansen, the leading force behind the project, creates breathtaking, organic soundscapes wherever he goes. Whether performing at the Dusty Rhino art car for his Burning Man sunrise set, or headlining Red Rocks, Hansen’s performances are always inventive and tranquil. Tycho’s music breathes with life, brimming with meaningful depth in both its composition and its performance. Artists with such capabilities have become increasingly rare, as technological advances make production — and performance — more accessible, but arguably less personal.
– Toby Reaper
7. Claude VonStroke
Dirtybird label boss Claude VonStroke has been transitioning from an underground hero to a household name over the last decade. In 2016, a number of mainstream accolades began rolling in for the DJ as well. In September, Claude was named America’s Best DJ (via fan votes in Pioneer DJ and DJ Times’ annual poll), and his uniquely nostalgic festival, Dirtybird Campout, drew an enthusiastic international crowd for its second iteration. At Campout, the DJ performed both as himself and under his real name as his hip hop alter-ego, Barclay Crenshaw, demonstrating that his breadth as a performer is continually expanding, even at this stage in his career.
The house and techno scene is alive and well in the United States, but VonStroke possesses a unique quality among his cohorts — a sense of humor about his craft. In 2016, VonStroke stepped his game up by incorporating elements from his side projects, Get Real and Barclay Crenshaw, without losing the heart of his performance: the tangible irreverence of a Claude VonStroke set.
– Lucy Davidson
Ambitious producer, live musician, and All Good Records owner, Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ, had yet another year of exponential growth in 2016 — and for good reason. GRiZ is an innovator, and it’s easy to see that he enjoys setting the bar ever higher as he builds his style of futuristic funk into something of a movement. Kwiecinski’s world-class musicianship shines brightly at each and every show he plays, big or small. The energy at a GRiZ show is a spectacle to behold, due to his formidable skills as a saxophonist and Ableton live controller.
From his groundbreaking sold-out Red Rocks show to playing sets all over the Playa at Burning Man, GRiZ can, and will, do it all. The dedicated performer appears at practically every major festival amidst his rigorous touring schedule. Furthermore, the multi-instrumental talent never shies away from a unique collaboration, which perhaps manifested most notably this year during his Big Grizmatik set at Summer Camp, where Kwiecinski partnered with like-minded influencers Big Gigantic and Gramatik to purvey a legendary performance. GRiZ’s most astounding trait, however, is his unbreakable authenticity — both as a musician and a person — which has fostered a devoted cult following (known as “The Liberators”) that few artists can achieve.
– Toby Reaper
5. Pretty Lights
As a performer, Pretty Lights has constantly evolved. Following a musical reawakening in late February, Derek Vincent Smith premiered his Episodic Festival tour. In their new live performance, Smith and his band have finally achieved the perfect balance between their electronic and instrumental components. Pretty Lights has always been revered for his live edits during shows, but in 2016, he inverted his performative process entirely. In the new era of Pretty Lights, Smith implements his improvisations within Ableton impeccably with those of his bandmates.
Overall, the well-tuned musical experience provided during the Episodic Festival is the ideal marriage of Pretty Lights’ contrasting elements; the yin and yang innovate, rather than collide. Greg Ellis’ subtler lighting choices melded masterfully with Pretty Lights’ new performance. In the accompanying visual production, Ellis favored psychedelic laser displays over frenetic rave patterns and reintroduced the sepia-toned cityscapes which were definitive of Smith’s earlier tours.
To create an inimitable live experience that combines free form jam band music, calculated electronic music, and hip hop is an ambitious feat. Setting this divergent combination to an ever-changing, astounding, and harmonious visual spectacle adds a further layer of difficulty.
In 2016, Pretty Lights achieved this feat with resounding success.
– Will McCarthy
4. Boys Noize
Fans were unsure of what to expect when Boys Noize premiered his Mayday performance at Barcelona’s Sónar festival in June. Alex Ridha hadn’t crafted a new live experience since the haunting skull booth which accompanied his electro-heavy Out of the Black tour following his 2012 album of the same name.
In 2016, Boys Noize’s live show manifested the essence and theme of his Mayday albumimpeccably. Rather than revisit the sinister occultism which pervaded his Out of the Black tour, Ridha masterfully recreated the apocalyptic pandemonium which defined his fourth album. Standing behind an elaborate industrial rig, designed with towering iron bars and glaring alarm lights, Ridha wove his dystopian scores through an array of equipment complex enough to make deadmau5 uneasy.
In order to ensure that the Orwellian sensibilities of his Mayday show were properly executed, Boys Noize took a step that very few performers possess the dedication to take. While seamlessly integrating live edits into his performance, Ridha additionally controlled a significant portion of his own visual production.
As the German visionary crafted an apocalyptic masterpiece from behind his industrial imprisonment, chaotic visuals designed by Sus Boy and LIL INTERNET completed the experience, culminating in a showcase which simultaneously evoked visceral energy and airs of totalitarian oppression.
Independently, Boys Noize’s live shows of the past year were a staggering artistic feat. Given the pre-apocalyptic despair that many people are feeling as 2016 draws to a close, one might say that Alex Ridha’s most recent tour was a conceptual embodiment of the year itself.
– Will McCarthy
3. Eric Prydz
Eric Prydz is a veritable juggernaut of a performer. The multi-talented, multi-monikered DJ excels onstage regardless of which identity he chooses to don for any given show. As Cirez D, he purveys a selection of techno which is harrowing and recondite, yet also energizing — often playing warehouse sets for hours on end.
However, Prydz’s shows under his given name are his crowning achievement as a performer. The veteran DJ’s live shows have become so legendary that they have spurred a revered series of their own: Eric Prydz in Concert – appropriately abbreviated as EPIC. Its 2016 edition, EPIC 4.0, is the zenith of a DJ career which spans more than a decade.Eric Prydz in concert is, funnily enough, less of a concert and more of an audio/visual journey.
The technical prowess of Eric Prydz’s EPIC stage production is unparalleled. Prydz shrouds himself within a colossal LED encasement, upon which a vibrant, ever-shifting phantasmagoria enthralls his audience. As thousands of lasers project from his inventively lit fortress, Prydz carefully selects music from his extensive oeuvre to score his inimitable sensory experience, taking spectators on a journey with his uniquely immersive visual platform.The energy of the experience undulates as the multifaceted musician shifts between segments highlighting his various alter-egos.
Each year of Eric Prydz’s storied career has been momentous, but in 2016, Prydz raised his own bar substantially as a performer and producer. Given the artist’s innovative leaps in the past year, the degree to which he’ll shake the dance music world when he premieres EPIC 5.0 in May 2017 is unfathomable.
– Will McCarthy
2. Carl Cox
Carl Cox needs no introduction — the legendary artist’s residency at Space Ibiza concluded its 15 year-run in September with an epic ten-hour, all-vinyl set. While a packed room ushered in the closing of Space, millions of viewers tuned in online to watch Cox’s dazzling final performance. The set further marked the end of a 27-year era, as Ushuaïa will take control of the site next Ibiza season, but the king of dance music isn’t hanging up his crown just yet.
Infectious energy and an ear-to-ear grin are only some of the trademark elements of a Carl Cox DJ set. Over the course of his career which spans more than three decades, Cox has become a master curator with an inexhaustible archive, and a masterful technician to boot. Simply put, there is no superior DJ anywhere, and Cox proved in 2016 that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
– Lucy Davidson
1. Porter Robinson & Madeon
“One single song, one single tour, and then it’s over.”
There’s a bittersweet beauty in the nature of transience. Diamonds are coveted for their rarity. Gesaffelstein’s announcement that his Coachella performance would be his “last live show” made its experience that more exciting. The same principle applies to the “Shelter” phenomenon.
In 2016, no other artists managed to engender widespread fervor for their live shows to the degree which Porter Robinson and Madeon did with Shelter. When Porter Robinson and Madeon abruptly partnered in the studio and onstage, both artists’ respective fan bases were ecstatic. Based upon their sudden ubiquity and undeniable compatibility, many hopefully assumed that the pair of prodigies would continue to work together extensively for years to come.
When Robinson and Madeon announced that their dual tour would mark the end of their partnership, a sizable faction of their followers were devastated — and understandably so. However, while the retirement of their partnership is a disappointing loss, it’s important to note that its impact is inextricable from its ephemerality. Live edits from the show, such as Madeon’s revision of Robinson’s “Flicker,” are evocative not only because of their intrinsic qualities, but because they only exist within the context of the Shelter performance. Robinson and Madeon’s tour is formidable largely because it is fleeting.
The Shelter tour was simultaneously a perfect reflection of both artists’ unique live aesthetics and an expert fusion of their compositional styles. Bookended with renditions of their sole collaboration, Porter Robinson and Madeon transformed each other’s original works throughout their joint performance, both individually and in conjunction. As the pair alternated vocal and instrumental duties behind separate altars, the accompanying visual production was a dazzling combination of both artists’ signature live spectacles.
We were astounded by Porter Robinson and Madeon’s collaborative live endeavors in 2016, and we are excited to see what both artists individually have in store for 2017.
– Will McCarthy
Photos by Rukes, Molly Gale, AJRPhotography, and courtesy of artists.
2016 has incurred a renaissance of full-length albums. As dance music becomes further commercialized and single-driven in certain sectors, numerous skilled producers put forth thoughtfully-crafted LPs that prove dance music hasn’t sacrificed substance for the sake of style. This year, veterans and rising stars alike dedicated precious time in the studio to deliver extraordinary albums. Baauer and Zhu graced their devoted followers with debut albums, while Flume and Rufus Du Sol put out masterfully-woven sophomore efforts.
Due to the wealth of superb albums released in 2016, narrowing down the year’s best albums was a painstakingly difficult task. There were a number of stellar albums which did not make this list, but deserve recognition, such as Eric Prydz’s magnificent Opus and Mr. Oizo’s delightfully bizarre All Wet.
Below, we’ve compiled the ten innovative, stylistically diverse, and viscerally evocative albums that we believe shone most brightly amidst a formidable pool of contenders.
10. Sasha – Scene Delete
Sasha’s latest 21-track LP, entitled Scene Delete, is a project that truly wears its heart on its sleeve. Taking pause from his signature progressive and techno-laden club tracks, the legendary Welsh producer leveraged the blissfully introspective Scene Delete to showcase his longtime-subdued ambient and downtempo production proclivities.
Using the compilation series Late Night Tales, Sasha’s post-minimalist modern classical-influenced album features emotive piano and string sequences that evoke feelings of relatable melancholia in tracks such as “Shelter” and “Cassette Sessions D.” “Warewolf” is another standout single, as the track carefully layers tender, ethereal soundscapes over infectious breakbeats. Sasha drew upon a seemingly uncharacteristic stylistic vision while compiling Scene Delete, and the end result proves the risk of doing something different was well worth taking.
– Anna Laurash
Standout Tracks: “Pontiac,” “View2,” “Rooms”
9. Tycho – Epoch
Few releases this year displayed as much command over the album as a form than Tycho’s fifth full length effort, Epoch. Too often producers put out LP’s that come off more as a collection of singles than a complete unit, but Tycho is not most producers. The ambient master crafted an intricate, detailed, and masterful work that, when taken as a whole, becomes vastly more than the sum of its parts.
Though the album’s forté is its entirety, that is not to say that the songs on Epoch cannot stand on their own. On the contrary, each of the album’s 11 songs is almost bafflingly well written, with catchy, moving melodies; rich, luxurious sound design; and deft, assured arraignments that crystalize into one of the best albums of the year.
– Patrick Hooks
Standout Tracks: “Epoch,” “Horizon,” “Division”
8. Baauer – Aa
With the “Harlem Shake” meme and resulting popularity now far from relevancy, the viral hit’s creator rises from the earworm’s ashes to immortalize his prowess in bass music. Enter Aa, Baauer’s debut album that encompasses his culmination as an electronic trap trailblazer, and his crossover journey thereafter.
Aa blasts off with an instrumental intro, led by the junglelike “GoGo!” and sprinting at full speed until the hip-hop inspired “Sow” switches it up. Collaborations take hold of the latter half, with M.I.A tapped for the ferocious “Temple,” and Pusha T and Future serving up a dope connection on “Kung Fu.” Though the producer’s debut album comes after trap’s heyday, Aa serves as the electronic branch of the genre’s most essential full-length feature to date, proving that musical fluidity yields great finesse.
– Kim Reyes
Standout Tracks: “Sow,” “Temple,” “Kung Fu”
7. GRiZ – Good Will Prevail
Who knew that all it would take to put soul back into electronic music was a little live instrumentation? GRiZ’s fifth studio album arrived in September like a shot in the arm, full of raucous bass, ebullient horns, and more irresistible funk than any other release this year. Every moment of ‘Good Will Prevail is bursting at the seams with an infectious, seemingly limitless energy, and each song seems like an attempt to outdo the last in danceability and exuberance.
It is no accident that every cut on the album, aside from “Feelin’ Fine,” is a collaboration. To help his album prevail to its greatest potential, GRiZ called upon a strong cast of contributors, including Big Gigantic, Cherub, and Sunsquabi. While some releases may have been more conceptually ambitious or boundary breaking, with Good Will Prevail, GRiZ and company did exactly what their figurehead intended – they threw the year’s best party.
– Patrick Hooks
Standout Tracks: “Wicked,” “PS GFY,” “Good Times Roll”
6. Zhu – Generationwhy
After the immense success of Zhu’s EPs The Nightday (2014)and Genesis Series (2015), the once-mysterious producer has finally lifted the veil on his identity with his most multi-faceted release to date, Generationwhy. Zhu’s debut studio album marks a departure from his signature underground sound, ditching heavy house for catchy melodies like the jazzy “Cold Blooded” and the sultry “In the Morning.” The producer chronicles his first exploration of a new spectrum of dance and pop music, as seen the upbeat “Numb” and fresh-faced “Hometown Girl.”
At first listen, fans of his previous work wouldn’t categorize this as classically Zhu, especially in the album‘s closer, its eponymous single. Ultimately, Generationwhy highlights his growth from experimental beginnings to full-scale musical artistry, confirming Zhu’s right to remain in the spotlight, still cloaked in enigma yet front-and-center, once again commanding and receiving our full attention.
– Kim Reyes
Standout Tracks: “In the Morning,” “Palm of My Hand,” “Generation Why”
5. Rüfüs Du Sol – Bloom
While the first studio album from Aussie trio Rüfüs Du Sol debuted at number 1 in Australia back in 2013, it was their 2016 sophomore album, Bloom, that catapulted the group to global esteem. The 11-track LP, released on Odesza’s Foreign Family Collective, features a brilliant balance of live instrumentation and electronic music. Drawing upon the trio’s nu-disco influences, some of the LP’s biggest successes, such as “Brighter,” “Like An Animal,” and “Say A Prayer,” encapsulate the trio’s penchant for seamlessly combining soulful vocals, melodious synth chords, and entrancing beats that work together to wholeheartedly pull listeners into the album.
From one track to the next, Bloom takes listeners on a journey filled with with genuine human emotion and airy production sequences. This auditory-driven emotion is perhaps best represented with the album’s wistful hit “Innerbloom” – a single that not only stands as a work of melancholic perfection on its own, but also received numerous revered remixes from the likes of Sasha, Lane 8, and What So Not.
– Anna Laurash
Standout Tracks: “Like An Animal,” “Innerbloom,” “You Were Right”
4. Boys Noize – Mayday
Boys Noize’s Mayday is a veritable techno masterpiece. As its title suggests, much of the album is thematically cataclysmic. The dystopian lyrics and caustic production of the titular track echo the tumult which pervades the world’s political climate. Indeed, Oliver Stone selected “Mayday” as part of the official soundtrack for his non-fictional Orwellian film Snowden because of its sonic relevance. More important than the album’s social relevance, however, is the music itself.
Boys Noize has proven his status as a versatile producer throughout his storied career. In Mayday, the producer reaffirms his ability to transcend the status quo across stark stylistic contrasts. Thunderous tracks such as “Overthrow” and “Dynamite” match the quality of the album’s more mellifluous songs, such as the mystifying “2 Live” and the recherché “Starchild.” Ultimately, Mayday is as clamorous as it is beautiful; it is as innovative as it is nostalgic. Alex Ridha’s fourth album is not only a tour de force — it is his magnum opus.
– Will McCarthy
Standout Tracks: “Overthrow,” “Starchild,” “Rock The Bells”
3. Kaytranada 99.9%
Kaytranada originally found his footing by releasing music online, mostly through his SoundCloud, which currently hosts an impressively large collection of original productions and remixes. The 24-year-old has already established his career by producing for big name rap and hip-hop artists like Vic Mensa, Taleb Kweli, and Freddie Gibbs. However, Kaytranada only just released his debut album, 99.9%, this year. Comprised of mostly collaborations, 99.9% opens with two instrumentals, “Track Uno” and “Bus Ride,” before cruising into “Got It Good,” a smooth R&B stunner with famed vocalist Craig David.
Kaytranada floats through 99.9% on a foundation of funk, linking up with AlunaGeorge and GoldLink on the bewitching dance floor single “Together,” and reuniting with Anderson .Paak on the silky and syrupy “Glowed Up.” The producer closes his first full-length feature by working with Little Dragon on the captivating “Bullets,” leaving 99.9% to drift out as an ideal album to keep on repeat. Kaytranada’s debut has garnered high acclaim across the board, and the producer’s well-deserved recognition has likely only just begun.
– Kim Reyes
Standout Tracks: “Got It Good,” “Together,” “Glowed Up”
2. Flume – Skin
After making fans wait an agonizing four years from the release of his first album, Flume overcame the immense pressure of expectations which accompanies second albums to deliver Skin, an astoundingly accomplished opus that showed the Australian luminary pioneering sounds lightyears beyond his peers. Defying the legions of imitators that tried to replicate his earlier styles, Flume made Skin into such an ambitious, assured, and cohesive work of vision that it flouts any attempt at mimicry.
It is no small testament to his skill as an artist that Flume could put songs as Top-40 accessible as “Say It” on the same album as compositions as experimental and complex as “Wall Fuck,” yet have nothing seem discordant or out of place. Flume’s sophomore LP didn’t just push the envelope, it rewrote the rules and exceeded all expectations on its own turns. Skin is transcendent, utterly unique, and one of the absolute best albums of the year.
– Patrick Hooks
Standout Tracks: “Say It,” “Tiny Cities,” “Never Be Like You”
1. Justice – Woman
Five years after the release of Audio, Video, Disco, Justice have emerged from the studio with Woman, a revitalization of their last album‘s funky spirit, amped up to the next degree of disco. The 10-track feature grooves through a textured audible experience, commencing with the cinematic “Safe and Sound” and continuing with the roaring “Alakazam !” Vocal-heavy tracks like the crooning slow-jam “Stop” and retro-pop throwback “Randy” usher Woman into another dimension, with “Heavy Metal” sounding most reminiscent of their 2007 debut, Cross.
The album finishes with “Close Call,” a doting instrumental that extends Woman’s vigor beyond its end. In ending their hiatus that seemed like a lifetime, Justice triumphantly returned and exceeded expectations, giving fans a taste of the sweet masterpiece that has the duo breathing new life back into nu-disco, for an electronic milestone akin to man discovering fire. Needless to say, Woman was worth the wait. Because of its expert composition, unyielding fluidity, and cultural impact, we’ve selected Woman as our top album of 2016.
– Kim Reyes
Standout Tracks: “RANDY”, “Safe and Sound,” “Close Call”
Honorable Mention: deadmau5 – W:/2016ALBUM/
Despite the highly self-critical deadmau5 discounting his eighth studio as being “slapped together,” W:/2016ALBUM/ was undeniably one of 2016’s most highly-anticipated albums – and rightfully so. With W:/2016ALBUM/, Zimmerman reaffirms his status as a progressive house innovator while also demonstrating his progression as an artist by experimenting with new genres.
The album’s wide-ranging tracklist features everything from Essential New Tune-earning “4Ware,” a single that demonstrates Deadmau5’s classic melodic chord progressions at their best, to the trance-influenced “Three Pound Chicken Wing,” to the glitch-hop, ‘80s inspired midtempo track “Whelk Then” – and each does its respective genre justice. Demonstrating the producer’s strive for forward-thinking originality, W:/2016ALBUM/ evokes both nostalgia and a sense of curious excitement, coupling revered vintage Deadmau5 with a retro-influenced sound that may indicate what Zimmerman has planned next.
In 2011, Boys Noize executively produced Spank Rock‘s sophomore album, Everything Is Boring And Everyone’s A Fucking Liar, upon which he has three writing credits – “Ta Da,” “Energy,” and “Birfday.” However, the song which seems to have intrigued Alex Ridha the most from the rapper’s LP is “DTF DADT.” Though Ridha doesn’t hold a writing credit on the song, the time-tracking vocal loop that provides its backbone has since become a staple in Boys Noize sets.
“1 AM, 2 AM, 3 AM, Midnight…”
Boys Noize has gone on to repurpose the memorable sample as the basis for his own song,”Midnight.” Ridha fashioned “Midnight” with retro, lo-fi production, initially releasing the song on a vinyl 12″ before placing it on Mayday. In recent sets, Boys Noize has tended not to play “Midnight” in its original form, generally opting instead to enthrall audiences with the formidable Dog Blood remix.
Ridha has continued his “Midnight” fascination with the release of an EP containing three official remixes to the temporal track. While this release doesn’t include Dog Blood’s fabled return, it contains a series of exceptional revisions to the song. The collection also hosts a cast of contributors which may excite longtime Boys Noize fans more than a Skrillex reunion.
The “Midnight” remix EP commences on a high note, with a collaborative remix between Boys Noize and Mr. Oizo, continuing the Handbraekes reunion that began at the end of September with “Ruhe,” Ridha’s feature on Oizo’s All Wet album. The Handbraekes remix is equally bizarre and militaristic; a chaotic combination of acid house synth-work and thunderous percussion dominates the track, while the core vocal sample appears intermittently in its midst. Boys Noize has confirmed the forthcoming release of a third Handbraekes EP, and the closely-timed release of this remix with “Ruhe” may suggest that HB3 is imminent.
Audion‘s contribution to the EP is of equal eminence to the return of Handbraekes. The rarely-emerging techno alias of veteran producer Matthew Dear is a significant rarity, though the alter-ego has been quite present recently. On the heels of Alpha, Dear has provided an Essential Mix and toured under the Audion project. In April, Boys Noize provided a remix to Mouth to Mouth 10, an EP commemorating the ten-year anniversary of Audion’s seminal single, “Mouth to Mouth.” Audion’s reciprocation of Ridha’s favor is technically dazzling and experimentally discordant, providing the severely cerebral twist that one would expect in a remix from Dear’s elusive project. Ridha was wise to cash in on his favor in a timely fashion as well – Alpha marked Dear’s first album as Audion in a decade, so his alter-ego will likely return to hibernation for a very long time soon.
The “Midnight” remix EP concludes with a revision from Addison Groove, the ghetto house and Chicago juke-favoring alias of dubstep progenitor Headhunter (not to be confused with hardstyle producer Headhunterz). Addison Groove’s remix is arguably the EP’s most club-friendly cut, providing an aberration from the techno-driven style that pervades the rest of the release. With buoyant hints of breaks, the EP’s final remix is danceable, but certainly mysterious in its own right. In spaces between the its beats, eerie synthesis accompanies the signature vocal loop, allowing Addison Groove’s cut to stand out from other remixes while also remaining aligned with the EP’s core essence.
Overall, Boys Noize’s remix EP stands as strongly as an original release. In addition to hosting an exceptional array of “Midnight” variations, the EP entreats a number of elusive underground dance icons to emerge from the woodwork, and provides an essential recapitulation of Boys Noize’s inspirations over the past five years.
“Starchild,” the most melodic selection from Boys Noize‘s Mayday album, proved that Alex Ridha and Poliça make a uniquely mystifying combination. While their Mayday collaboration marked the first studio release between the German producer and Minnesotan synth-pop outfit, it stands out among both artists’ most enthralling works. Unsurprisingly, the two acts have shared a number of event bills since the release of “Starchild.”
Two months prior to the release of Mayday, Poliça released their own LP, the politically-driven United Crushers. The group has elected to release an EP of official remixes for “Kind,” one of their album’s more wistful cuts. Boys Noize is among the EP’s three remixers, which also include Fog and Taskforce. Subtly appearing a day prior to the EP’s release, Ridha’s reconfiguration of “Kind” almost plays less like a remix than a collaboration with Poliça.
Ridha’s thoughtfully-placed modifications of Channy Leaneagh’s vocals throughout a series of percussively driven dance loops adheres to the structural elements of a standard remix. However, Poliça’s influence is so fundamentally present in Boys Noize’s approach to the remix that it retains the essence of a collaboratively-formulated song. To complement – rather than overshadow – the original’s calmative nature, Ridha deviates from his signature aggressive stylings more dramatically than he has for any remixes since his revision of The Chemical Brothers’ “Swoon.”
Towing the line between Ridha’s characteristically high energy and Poliça’s opioid tendencies, the Boys Noize remix of “Kind” is elegant and deeply satisfying. Listen below, and support the remix EP for “Kind” here.