Jaw-dropping. Probably the most fitting way to describe the wealth of quality electronic music Glasgow has produced in 2016. And when you listen to the tracks featured below, it’s hard to believe that they all originate from one city. It made the job of selecting just 20 frustratingly difficult, with many more which certainly deserve recognition. But, ultimately, we felt that these were the tracks which best represented Glasgow’s respective sounds – from the instrumental grime of Inkke to the futuristic soundscapes of Konx-om-Pax and the fizzing electro-pop of Bossy Love, here are 20 reasons this city is on fire:
20/ HAUSFRAU – DANCEHALL DAYS (Huntleys + Palmers)
The instantly intriguing opener from Huntleys + Palmers’ ‘Clyde Built 2.0’ compilation, which is an essential snapshot of Glasgow’s emerging talent, ‘Dancehall Days’ from relatively unknown producer, Hausfrau, has an undeniably nostaligic quality. From the simple yet highly effective synth chords to the wistful pads and Hausfrau’s enveloping vocal, this is throwback and future-facing in equal measure.
19/ SLAM FT/ MR V – TAKE YOU THERE (Soma Track Series)
Celebrating 25 years of their ever-enduring label, Soma Records, Slam also decided to launch a subsidiary imprint, Soma Track Series, to host a series of face-melting bangers in 2016. Uncompromising and unashamedly booming, ‘Take You There’ features a hypnotising vocal loop from Mr V and a seriously heavy kick-drum. The creeping top-line induces a sense of paranoia as the track gathers pace, unleashing an unrelenting dancefloor assault.
18/ THE BURRELL CONNECTION – XIV (Craigie Knowes)
The Burrell Connection has had a busy year with a string of notable gigs and releases, including a track on the inaugural Stereotone EP and a collaboration as Highfield Casuals on Craigie Knowes. It’s his latest addition to the Craigie Knowes’ War Child fundraiser series that caps off his year, however. Its lush pads float over sharp percussion and a hazy acid line to create something satisfyingly dreamy, perfect for both club and mind.
17/ INKKE – TALES FROM THE QUICK (LuckyMe)
Whether it was in a basement club on Sauchiehall St or via a live ‘Team Stream’ from DJ Double Nugget’s bedroom, Inkke caused it in 2016, and his debut release for LuckyMe was set to detonate. With a penchant for instrumental grime and Memphis rap, the ‘Secret Palace’ EP welded snappy melodies to booming beats with devastating effect – no more so than on ‘Tales From The Quick’.
16/ MACHINES IN HEAVEN – RUIX CON (Hot Gem)
Capturing a moment of sobering reflection, this sombre cut from Machines In Heaven’s wonderfully realised ‘Phenomenology’ album is both beautiful and haunting, with emotively-charged lyrics floating over subtle sub-bass and a pensive melody. Best listened to with the intensity of headphones (or even better, live), ‘Ruix Con’ will send shivers down your spine.
15/ EDWIN ORGAN – CHARLIE’S HOUSE CUT (XLR8R)
If there’s one track that reminds us of summer '16, it’s this woozy pop gem from Edwin Organ. Inspired by an “unfulfilling night out”, ‘Charlie’s House Cut’ wiggles its way onto the dancefloor with fizzing synths and stuttered drums, buzzing with optimism and an irresistibly catchy hook. It lit up your favourite blog back in May, while Organ’s gig schedule included shows at King Tuts and T in the Park in the months that followed. 2017 next-hype.
14/ SHOGUN - VULCAN (M.F.T.M)
The track that changed Shogun’s life? Time will tell, but with over a million views on Youtube and counting, the incendiary ‘Vulcan’ attracted attention from major music sites all keen to get in on ground level. In the video for ‘Vulcan’ Shogun is joined by the M.F.T.M crew for a Stormzy-style straight-to-camera performance, exuding unshakable confidence with every reality-checking rhyme.
13/ ILLYUS & BARRIENTOS – STRINGS (Glasgow Underground)
Arriving just in time for summer, Illyus & Barrientos dropped this sizzling slice of grooving disco house on Glasgow Underground back in June, introducing a new feel-good flavour to their productions. With soaring strings and a soulfully seductive diva vocal, it was impossible not to feel uplifted when this dropped. Hideout liked it so much that they used it for their 2016 highlights video before inviting the duo to play at next year’s festival.
12/ HUDSON MOHAWKE – SHANGHAIED (Warp)
Following his triumphant 2015 album, ‘Lantern’, Hudson Mohawke sent the blogosphere into a state of frenzy again this year when he dropped a surprise soundtrack to dystopian video game ‘Watch Dogs 2’. The first teaser was ‘Shanghaied’, a widescreen epic which took us directly into the world of Watch Dogs. Juxtaposing his trademark brass bass with sparkling chords and scintillating strings, it’s both crushing and crystallising.
11/ SPARKY – BLACK SWAN (Optimo Trax)
Glaswegian stalwart Dave Clark aka Sparky delivered an electrifying EP on Twitch’s Optimo Trax earlier this year. Featuring four tracks of sharp electro, the whole release is on fire, but it’s the cinematic ‘Black Swan’ which really goes above and beyond. With a rising synth-line which takes you higher and higher, this track will make you want to punch a whole in the Subby’s ceiling.
10/ KONX-OM-PAX – CARAMEL (Planet Mu)
The title track from his mind-expanding album of the same name, ‘Caramel’ finds Tom Scholefield aka Konx-om-Pax setting off for new dimensions. Like stepping foot in a rocket bound for another galaxy, this track gives you a feeling of overwhelming anticipation, with spine-tingling synths and stirring atmospherics making it a wide-eyed reflection of the future.
9/ LANARK ARTEFAX – REMAINDER I (UIQ)
The most original electronic music of 2016 arguably came from the studio of Lanark Artefax. Designing twisted machine beats, the 22 year-old producer challenged us with his ‘Glasz E.P’ on Lee Gamble’s UIQ label, unleashing a maelstrom of razor-sharp synths and brooding, industrial bass. Our favourite track? ‘Remainder I’, a pulverising, chrome juggernaut which glimmers in the sun as it thunders towards you.
8/ HI & SABERHAGEN – WC122 (Yume Records)
Following their 2015 debut on Huntley + Palmers, it was obvious that mysterious production duo, Hi & Saberhägen, were going to inject some much-needed weirdness into the electronics spectrum. We could have picked any one of their tracks this year, but ‘WC122’ from their recent ‘KEL’ EP perhaps best highlights their ability to write something completely unique. With its haunting vocal and absorbing atmospherics ‘WC122’ makes you stop and listen, before pressing play all over again.
Exploding on stage with bouncy bass, instant hooks and a fistful of attitude, Bossy Love are one of the most exciting live acts Glasgow has to offer – support slots for Kelis and a coveted slot at Glastonbury provide proof of that. Dropping on Nightwave’s super-cool Heka Trax label, ‘Want Some’ drips with confidence as lead singer Amandah Wilkinson struts all over a slick and simple bassline with sassy finger snaps. With Nightwave on remix duties, this release is straight fire.
6/ HIGHFIELD CASUALS – HIGHFIELD DAZE (Craigie Knowes)
Still in its relative infancy, new Glasgow label Craigie Knowes has been responsible for some exceptional quality this year, and this introspective electro jam from Highfield Casuals aka The Burrell Connection and Craig Johnston is right up there. Drifting pads, sun-setting synths and a deep, warbling bassline all combine to create something gorgeously serene.
A set staple for Dixon over the summer, ‘Waiting For A Woman’, one of the standout tracks from Auntie Flo’s essential album ‘Theory Of Flo’, was given a dancefloor workout by The Revenge this year. With those distinctive and instinctive vocals from Anbuley seducing anyone in earshot, the addition of a simple drum pattern made the ambient original into an unforgettable dancefloor moment.
4/ SEI A – EXIT (Aus Music)
Sei A’s stunning third album, ‘Space In Your Mind’, allowed the Glaswegian producer room to breathe. Distancing himself from the pressure of club production, its 11 tracks are steeped in texture and emotion, perhaps best exemplified on ‘Exit’, which features the angelic vocals of Daudi Matsiko. Ambient and pure, it captures the crushing, but achingly sweet sensation of heartbreak, wrapped in emotive swells and atmospherics.
3/ SAD CITY – STEADY JAM (Meda Fury)
Best heard as part of his mesmerising debut album ‘Shapes In Formation’ (which we’ve crowned as our album of the year), ‘Steady Jam’ is the perfect example of Gary Caruth aka Sad City locking into us into a loop and refusing to let us go. On the surface ‘Steady Jam’ may seem sparse and simplistic, but with a soothing vocal sample swirling around plucked bass and scattered piano chords, it’s simplicity is central to its allure. Twelve minutes pass like a distant daydream.
2/ BMFBMF – NEWLUV (Bandcamp)
Sometimes the best music comes out of the blue, and that was certainly how we felt when unknown Glasgow producer, bmfbmf reached out to us with his self-titled EP. The whole release invites you to melt into a state of pensive reflection, and we still get that feeling listening to it 9 months on; but what track to choose? We are extremely fond of the heart-rending ‘You Were Mine’, but it’s the shuffling drums and soulful vocal cut of ‘NewLuv’ that provides the perfect soundtrack to inner-city living.
1/ DENIS SULTA – MSNJ (!K7 Records)
Denis Sulta’s feet have barely touched the ground in 2016, but in between sets at Space Ibiza and Sub Club, he found time to knock out some absolute weapons. Produced specifically for Jackmaster’s DJ Kicks mix, ‘MSNJ’ is 8 minutes of pure bliss, with rumbling 808s, emphatic chords and an eye-watering vocal sample. We have no doubt that it was the tune of choice for countless sunrises over the summer, from Balearic beaches to Croatian campsites.
All tracks produced by Glaswegian or Glasgow-based artists. The list was compiled by SynthGlasgow contributors. Words by Colin Brownbill & Chester Cornford.