2012 was a year of fusion. Genre lines were blended more than ever as the UK influence pervaded house and techno scenes. Early ’90s garage made a comeback, lo-fi became sound du jour, and bass music further challenged the notion of a traditional DJ set. Check out LessThan3’s fifteen best garage, techno, and UK-inspired sounds of 2012.
Jon Convex – Fade (Original Mix)
Jon Convex - Fade (Original Mix) [Convex Industries]
Bass music underwent quite a transformation in 2012, and Damon Kirkham transformed with it. He shed his Kid Drama moniker in favor of Jon Convex and launched his first solo effort in the form of the Idoru LP. The Basement Jaxx-inspired Fade was as intriguing as its cover art, pretty glass showers and stomping low-end masking a tale of longing and regret.
Burial & Four Tet – Nova (Original Mix)
Burial & Four Tet - Nova (Original Mix) [Text]
When Burial and Four Tet come together, it’s no simple reunion of former classmates. The pair had collaborated in the past, and this time they came together to drop Nova one dreary Monday morning, in the form of an unassuming Four Tet tweet. And what more can be said about two of the most celebrated producers of the past few years? Nova rides to a destination unknown, with a heavy heart and hope for the future. It reminds us that life is not about where we’re going, but about the journey we take to get there.
Four Tet – 128 Harps (Original Mix)
Four Tet - 128 Harps (Original Mix) [Text]
Four Tet was a busy man in 2012. He unveiled single after single that would eventually go into his sixth full-length album, became a festival staple, and even had some fun with certain silly rumors. 128 Harps showed why Kieran Hebden’s sound is so desired; his massive sample crate and intelligent take on contemporary dance music make him truly unique in a burgeoning scene.
Sawlin – Datamen Working (Original Mix)
Sawlin - Datamen Working (Original Mix) [Cocoon]
Techno underwent quite a few radical changes in 2012. The genre got more lo-fi, more industrial, and more left-field than ever before. Delsin Records was a major outlet for this new sound, and Sawlin’s Datamen Working was one of the reasons why the label received so much acclaim. It was bruising yet intelligent, with subtleties that really moved the dancefloor. The treat here was the short, winding melody about halfway through; that tiny portion alone warranted tons of playback on this stomper.
Bicep – $tripper (Original Mix)
Bicep - $tripper (Original Mix) [Love Fever]
The marriage of blog and party has become a ubiquitous trend in dance music, and none was more successful this year than the one between Bicep and Love Fever. $tripper made the old-school new again and led the charge for garage-influenced house to push its way into clubs worldwide. The best part was it never needed much explanation; just simple and fun, pure magic appropriate for any dancefloor.
Citizen – You Give Me That Something (Original Mix)
Citizen - You Give Me That Something (Original Mix) [Love Fever]
If you were looking for a bassline to really ride, Citizen had you covered. Love Fever’s second release didn’t hold back on the garage vibes, giving club-goers that something they’d been clamoring for: heaps and heaps of soul. Just watch the video for this one and you’ll understand.
Jacques Greene – Dakou (Original Mix)
Jacques Greene - Dakou (Original Mix) 
No end-of-year list would be complete without an appearance from Jacques Greene. He’s one of the major influencers in the bass music scene, ironic given that he’s the only producer on this chart from North America. Greene’s skeletal take on R&B has brought him to the edges of garage and house, and his style really shone through on Dakou. Stuttering 4/4 and a clever peppering of acid made this one a real weapon in the heart of the underground.
Disclosure feat. Sam Smith – Latch (Original Mix)
Disclosure feat Sam Smith - Latch (Original Mix) [PMR]
The fact that two young brothers from Surrey catapulted from obscurity to the forefront of garage in less than a year is shocking enough on its own. Then to create something so stylistically different than anything they’d made before and still have it sound so good is a sure sign of enormous talent. Latch was a pop smash from the very beginning, but that didn’t mean Guy and Howard Lawrence were selling out. Experimentation is the enemy of stagnation, and this risk-taking led to some incredible results. Oh, and did we mention the accompanying video? Try watching it without a smile on your face.
Burial – Loner (Original Mix)
Burial - Loner (Original Mix) [Hyperdub]
Last year’s Street Halo saw Burial take his pensive sound to the dancefloor, and this was the year that the enigmatic producer perfected it. Loner’s dub techno beat and distant claps lurched it forward, all while ethereal vocals and cracks threatened to split it into pieces. If there was ever a soundtrack to our fragility, spending night after night in dark, anonymous clubs, this was it.
Koreless – Lost In Tokyo (Jacques Greene Remix)
Koreless - Lost In Tokyo (Jacques Greene Remix) [Vase]
Jacques Greene’s second appearance on this list is also the only remix of the bunch. Koreless’ enchanting vocal sample was transformed into a dizzying bit of dub techno by Greene, wide open and driven with purpose. It was hard not to close your eyes and let loose when this track hit the speakers. With Jacques Greene it’s all about quality, not quantity, so we’re not worried that the Vase head honcho hasn’t released in quite some time. The Montreal native is incredibly talented as both a DJ and producer, and we can’t wait to hear the evolution of his sound.
Disclosure – Flow (Original Mix)
Disclosure - Flow (Original Mix) [Make Mine]
2012 was a monster year for Disclosure, and the brothers started it in brilliant fashion with the aptly titled Flow. Garage-house bass and bubbly pop vibes set the tone for all future releases and pushed their sound into the mainstream, from a performance at Radio 1 Live in Ibiza to a well-received North American tour. With a full-length album scheduled for release in March of next year, we’re pretty sure Disclosure is going to have an even bigger 2013.
Burial – Kindred (Original Mix)
Burial - Kindred (Original Mix) [Hyperdub]
How does one describe the music of Burial? There is truly no one like him, and he drove that point home this year with the mesmerizing Kindred. His unique garage-dubstep sound was further advanced on this release–simultaneously distant and warm, like ancient memories slipping away. If Burial’s place as one of the greatest producers of our generation was questioned before, then Kindred answered all the doubters.
Blawan – Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage? (Original Mix)
Blawan - Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage? (Original Mix) [Hinge Finger]
It was only a matter of time before Blawan’s brutalist take on techno led to this. If Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage weren’t such an effective dance tune, it would have been right at home in a horror movie. Fading screams and throaty vocals swept conspicuously over a beat so metallic, so driving, that it was impossible not to get up and freak out. By the time the track was finished you’d feel like you’d gone through quite an ordeal, and then you would just want to hear it over again.
Bicep – Vision Of Love (Original Mix)
Bicep - Vision Of Love (Original Mix) [Feel My Bicep]
VISION! VISION OF LOVE. We couldn’t get those words out of our heads after hearing this fantastic nod to old Chicago house, and dancefloors tended to agree. Bicep launched their Feel My Bicep label with this release and furthered the old-school house renaissance they started with $tripper. Open hi-hats, shuffling garage bassline, cheeky pianos, and addicting vocals all added up to make a compelling product that no one in dance music could ignore.
Joy Orbison – Ellipsis (Original Mix)
Joy Orbison - Ellipsis (Original Mix) [Hinge Finger]
No discussion about the UK’s influence on garage and dub techno is complete without mention of Joy Orbison. Joy O redefined bass music with Hyph Mngo in 2009, and with Ellipsis this year brought the sounds of bass music and house together. The heavy bassline is enough to force anyone to the dancefloor, and then the piano hits. It’s all raise your hands in the air, get crazy, and love the moment you’re in. Oh, and did we mention that infectious sample? “We just used to like…do our own thing, we just used to like…well that sorta thing…" Ellipsis is Joy Orbison doing his own thing, and it’s no wonder his thing has made him one of the most respected figures in dance music today.