PRINT December 2006



1 Burial, “Distant Lights,” from Burial (Hyperdub) The track that made me realize that Burial was truly in the zone. A melancholy, washed-out, twilight tune—the smoldering, husky yearning of a woman alone in a submerged city. Razor-sharp percussion that slices and dices your heart, then soothes it with a tidal wave of bass.

2 SA-RA Creative Partners, “Hollywood” (Sony BMG/Epic) Someone once said that Detroit techno is Kraftwerk stuck in a lift with George Clinton, but the description better fits the oozing R & B of SA-RA. Spine-tingling cosmic soul. “Motherfuckin’ Hollywood,” indeed.

3 Skream, “Midnight Request Line” (Tempa) Dubstep’s key Technicolor track of 2006 (originally released in late ’05) and the tune that catapulted the sound onto minimal techno’s dance floors via DJ Ricardo Villalobos and into grime mosh pits via Roll Deep Crew. A fluttering, sub-bass-driven synth anthem that makes most dubstep, before and after, seem gray by comparison.

4 Mala, “Left Leg Out” (DMZ) With its driving Rhodes riff and fractured rhythms, this is a reminder of dubstep’s roots in upbeat, asymmetrical skank, a contrast with the low-frequency black hole it is more often said to inhabit.

5 The Bug featuring Flowdan, “Jah War” (Ninja Tune) The Bug (aka Kevin Martin), purveyor of the finest mashed-up dancehall, meets Flowdan of grime’s Roll Deep Crew in a clash of the titans.

6 Loefah, “Ruffage”/“Mud” (DMZ) Dubstep’s master of sparse half-step comes with his signature sound: bulldozer sub-bass and a snare like a smack to the face.

7 Ladybug featuring Warrior Queen, “Dem a Bom We” (Soul Jazz) An angry response to the July 2005 terrorist bombings in London. Warrior Queen takes no prisoners here, while Ladybug lays the foundation with an uncharacteristically delicate harp-laced dancehall rhythm.

8 D1, “Bamboo” (Tempa) If you held Ryuichi Sakamoto hostage in a South London studio for six months, this might be one of the outcomes, achieving a dub orientalism that avoids sounding contrived.

9 Flying Lotus, “Pet Monster Shotglass,” from 1983 (Plug Research) A mutant slice of squelchy synthetic hip-hop from the emerging Los Angeles producer’s first album. The beats chitter like insects, synths scream like mating calls, and the buzzing bass glistens and oozes like juicy, infectious love funk.

10 Junior Boys, “So This Is Goodbye,” from So This Is Goodbye (Domino Records) With its lush synths and arpeggios, the title track off the second album by this Canadian duo suggests Simple Minds circa New Gold Dream seen through a rain-streaked window.

Kode9, aka Steve Goodman, is a London-based DJ, producer, and head of the Hyperdub label. He runs the sonic culture masters program at the University of East London and is currently writing a book on sonic warfare.