"A piece of the continent, a part of the main": singles of the year, 2017

Welcome back to in love with these times, in spite of these times, the fanzine that earnestly wishes that Coldcut had recorded a song called “Through My Shirt Of Cotton Made”.

The graceful bust you see in our snap is somewhat overlooked by tourists, despite being slap-bang in the middle of the landscaped gardens where St Paul’s Cathedral fronts on to the westernmost end of Cannon Street. It’s not our favourite image of the renowned metaphysical poet – for that, visit the fascinating unattributed portrait in the National Portrait Gallery of a rakish, debonair young Donne that looks incredibly contemporary despite having been painted in 1595 – but it’s a reminder of his later calling, once ordained as a priest in the Church of England, as Dean of St. Paul's itself. The bust, by Nigel Boonman, has only been there for five years, and attempts to place its subject looking out towards Bread Street in the City (where he was born) whilst also being only a stones’ throw from his resting place in the great cathedral. I won't pretend that I didn’t struggle at school with JD’s sometimes tortured prose and laboured sexual metaphors, but at the end of the day he was a poet, scholar and gentleman, one who would compose his own (and the ultimate) epitaph, “No man is an island, entire of itself”. Timeless words, and all so true: if only someone had told the Brexiteers.

Um... a personal confession. You may find this hard to believe, but I do actually write for a living: I pen and ghost-pen articles, press releases, strictly dry corporate stuff. However, in that life I am constrained by style guides, company policy, joyless subject matter and word counts. This fanzine exists, as it has since the late 1990s, as a vehicle to defy all those constraints (er, especially the word counts). It's really not meant to be a ‘proper’ music blog and this was never meant to be grown-up music writing. It is just my best attempt, in rare downtime, to celebrate the wonderfulness of records like those listed below.

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1. Math & Physics Club “All The Mains Are Down” (Fika Recordings / Matinée Recordings)

Yes, Math & Physics are BACK, and they haven’t lost it either. The only thing that has finally fallen by the wayside is our patience with those who still think of the band as merely something nice to have, like a shiny ornament on the mantelpiece, and who won’t yet acknowledge MP&C as part of the canon, of indie-pop’s rich pageant. A dozen years they’ve been doing this now: how much more do they need to do than produce astounding singles and albums, over and over again?

And “All The Mains Are Down” is the latest single, preceding the next (presumably brill) long-player. Somehow, it heart-tuggingly combines the spirit and melody of a lost mid-80s compilation tape classic with the swing and smart production you'd want and expect from confident artistes modernes (intriguingly, this pristine production comes courtesy of grunge god Chris Hanzsek, but he doesn’t mess with any of the essential formulae). We don’t even mind when the piano strides a bit over-confidently into the mix and gets slightly plinky-plonky in its understandable excitement. The best bit of all though, every time we hit repeat, is the way the intro bounds so briskly into life when the drums come in, a sudden rush of indescribable pop joy that instantly chases away every single shadow in the vicinity.

There’s a reasonable argument for saying that the trilogy of this, recent “Matinée Idol” compilation cut “Shadows Longer” and last year’s sublime stunner “Coastal California, 1985” are their greatest songs yet: this band, somehow, is still subtly evolving and getting ever-finer, and “All The Mains” is such a perfect three minute pop song that - after a freewheeling, simply triumphant final instrumental break - they even take care to wind it up exactly on the magic 3-minute mark. And, as with so many of the best seemingly upbeat pop songs, there is a darkness and sadness underneath, a tale of space between once star-crossed lovers, of the failure of humans to communicate that now spans entire populaces and nations.

If you find yourself continually dismayed by what Morrissey has become, don’t fret. Just suffuse yourself in Math & Physics Club instead, and much of your faith in the healing powers of music may be restored.

2. Ryuji Takeuchi “Renaissance Artistique” (HueHelix)
3. Ryuji Takeuchi “Eclectic Limited 003” (er, Eclectic Limited)

Always the bridesmaid, we know. But, even so, wow. Not one but two excellent 12” singles from our man in Osaka, his best from another busy year of coolly confecting crucial-cum-challenging crossover classics. These came out hot on each others’ heels and both see the master craftsman follow up the somewhat full-on welter of his “I Think, Therefore I Am” LP with slightly more accessible dancefloor techno.

“Renaissance Artistique”, which reunites Ryuji with Tokyo’s evergreen HueHelix label, unites a quartet of club bruisers - on edgily retro black vinyl - for all our delight: “Factor A” and “Factor C” kick off each side as readily-deployable pure adrenalin floor-fillers, pleasingly filled out with increasingly manic handclap action, whilst “Factor B” and “Factor D” transition things into industrial textures, back towards the brutalist factory landscape which the album sought to paint.

And we hadn’t come across Eclectic Limited before, a label that manages to hail from both Rome and Utrecht, but the marbled white vinyl wonder of “003” sees their very special guest producer knock out another themed trilogy (“Nowhere”, “Elsewhere” and “Anywhere”) which plough a similar furrow to the driving uptempo rhythms of Factors A & C, the bpm counts hitting the 130s and even 140s. “Nowhere” is the pick, also taking it to the max on the manic handclaps front.

4. Don Cotti x Terror Danjah “Bun Dem” (Nice Up!)
5. Bukkha ft. Killa P “Death Chat” (Dub-Stuy)

A well-judged attack on crusader wars and the mass media who cheerlead for them, “Bun Dem” is a hotstepping UK dancehall belter that sees versatile London don Don lead the way over Terror Danjah’s cowbell-heavy but otherwise strictly more-fyah raggagrime stylings. It's about the politics of protest, too - a nice link back to Gayle Chong Kwan and the Fairlop Oak. And, being a spitfire dancehall/grime hybrid, you’ll find that “Bun Dem” sits oh-so prettily with “Death Chat”, a fairly blazing dub/grime meld – this time on 12” vinyl - on which Bukkha (once of Lafayette, Louisiana and now of Valladolid, Spain) teams up with Killa P (once and surely always of London) on a label based proudly in Brooklyn, New York. The precise dubstep stylings, accented by the echoing clangs of reggae skank, create the perfect platform for Killa P’s vocal charge, the intensity of which belies the song's relatively placid tempo.

6. Mønic “Deep Summer” / “Regret Was Never So Sure” (Osiris Music)

Two 12”s, released 2 weeks apart, that together comprised Osiris 50 (as originally bigged up here). The yin is “Deep Summer” (smooth and sultry Burial-plays-Trembling Blue Stars, although it’s also easy to imagine it nestling contentedly on the last Bracken or Kryptic Minds LPs). The yang is the sinister, unfurling anaconda of gloopy cavern-drop bass that is “Regret Was Never So Sure”: the original sounds not unlike a sister to Pessimist’s “Pagans”, on the same label, and the record comes more-than-correct with a frankly ace Regis remix, all strip-down and sirens, that reminds of Surgeon’s righteous JK Flesh re-work last year.

7. Sir Spyro ft Teddy Bruckshot, Lady Chann and Killa P “Topper Top” (Kahn & Neek Remix) (Deep Medi)

Headshot season. “LOOK WHO THE FUCK IS BACK”, leers Teddy, and well we might stare (and beg for the volume to be turned up until we find our ears pinned to the nearest wall) as all  involved in this mighty tune, now rebooted by in-demand dynamic duo Kahn & Neek, shine. Yes, this is even tuffer than the 2016 original. It initially sold out in about 23 seconds but luckily we garnered it courtesy of the repress, a one-sided, completely label-free 12”.

As an aside, and as you may be beginning to gather already, Killa P stepped right out into the light this year and had one hell of a bassline-shepherding 2017, starring on some seriously sensational tracks not just with Bukkha and Sir Spyro (et al) but with Last Japan, Scratcha DVA & Sinjin Hawke, the Bug & Irah, and FKD. So you may well find his name reappearing later on…

8. Even As We Speak “The Black Forest EP” (Emotional Response)

*Swoons*. If we had to list the ten most memorable gigs we’ve attended in the last 30 years, then EAWS in Oxford, when they took a cowed and too-sparse crowd and made us fall in love with them and with life, would be right up there. So it’s fantastic to see the gang back in the fray. And this 10” is gorgeous before you get to the record inside, its green/black full-sleeve picture of the Schwarzwalden ushering in the first Even As We Speak record for a cool quarter of a century. Just typing those words makes me glow.

And when you do get to that record inside, the first number immediately makes *everything* worthwhile. “Clouds” is surely the pick of this five-song crop, a perfectly weighted and dramatically, movingly mournful pop song that pivots on simple, crisp and pristine guitar and makes you want to hug basically everybody in sight. The whole record rolls back the years, though: their uptempo sweet-spot wiles are represented by “Such A Good Feeling”, their surreal and slightly unhinged side by “Slugman”, their sense of playful whimsy by the bite-sized cover of Horst Hankowski’s easy-listening classic “A Walk In The Black Forest” with which the band play the EP out.

This isn’t merely an exceptional 2017 release, but a reminder of just how fine this band always were, and of the privilege it was to see them play, and to hear them blare out of Radio One, and to try to rise above the whole “Drown” 'swimsuit video' fracas…

9. Micall Parknsun “Practicing Tag Team Moves” (Boot)

A boneshaking 12” EP on the terrific Boot, as defeated Judge Rinder defendant Micall Parknsun teams up with the indefatigable superstar production unit helmed by Jazz-T, Zygote & co. As you’d expect from the team behind UKHH titans Diversion Tactics, the Boot camp are probably this nation’s premier providers of the kind of sizzling beats that decent MCs salivate for, and it’s always good news (except, perhaps, for our wallet) when they team up with other artists from the UK stratosphere. The Cappo collabo was, you'll remember, a particular peach.

This time around, Jazz and Z mix it with Micall P over three originals and three insts: there are ace guest spots from Jehst and none other than Durrty Goodz (another of our longtime wish-they-were-uncles, who we never thought we’d get to see rhyming over Boot beats) but for us the killer tune here is “Practice”, which is actually a Parknsun self-production: pure ill flow over dusty beats as our favourite M.P. by far makes hay with a ridiculously tight brass-topped riddim, and cleverly makes virtue of its repetition. We’ve been spinning “Practice” all year, and it still never fails to make heads nod: one of the great British hip-hop tunes of recent times, no doubt.

10. JK Flesh “Exit Stance EP” (Downwards)

Top artist. Top label. Apt and topical title. So unsurprisingly, this is a hit with us, much more so than this year’s Godflesh album which felt oddly mid-to-underwhelming by comparison. Also, unlike 2016’s “Nothing Is For Free” EP under the JKF moniker, which perhaps grudginly embraced Mr Broadrick’s industrial influences, this 12” feels much more dance-oriented, and is all the better for it: though the ongoing omnishambling shenanigans of Brexit really do not deserve to be soundtracked by something that’s both so (a) competently executed and (b) uplifting.

The title track and highlight “Exit Stance” simply purrs, a clinical beat confection that makes a few lunges towards Takeuchi territory before eliding into the plainer wobbleboard-sequencer cha-cha of “Motivated By Jealousy”. Over on the other side, the striking “Bullied By Love” makes its mark with some plangent piano and then the stripped-down bare-bones bass of “Caveman”, a cover of the Orchids classic*, wraps up proceedings. *Obviously not actually a cover of the Orchids classic, though it proved excuse enough to dig out our dampened-by-leaking-roof “Lyceum” 10” and to remember the brilliance of the other “Caveman” one cold evening in Kilburn.

Made in the EU”, the small print on the label impassively notes.

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11. Scorzayzee “Illa Scorz” (self-released)

It’s not just Micall Parknsun who has been attempting to keep honest UKHH afloat this year, and of course Scorz (now aka Scorz Illa) is still golden too: apart perhaps from “Practice” this is as good as UKHH got in 2017, and to be honest still as good as when the Notts rhymer was banging out “Want What’s Yours” on the sevens, right back in the day.

There are six tunes on this cracking 12” EP, all produced by his own fair hand (with assistance from Jabba The Kut) and of them, either “Illa Mindstate” or especially “Illa Soul” would have been high class own-right singles in any year. You always know what’s coming from the Scorz: true lyrical clout on subjects like poverty, social policy, the environment, and Islamophobia; smooth, soulful and conscious rhymes; and beats and scratches that respect the ESSENCE. Massive props are due.

12. UV-TV “Go Away EP” (Emotional Response)

Brilliant and brief, “Go Away” is pop-punk paradise, kind of like Tracy Tracy fronting the Period Pains (yes, that good) as Florida’s UV-TV up things a notch from their clattering split with Shark Toys. And "It's Dead" is a gem too, this time approximating to the Rosehips vs. (sorry, "x") Free Loan Investments. Appropriately given their influences, the EP concludes with a cover of the Primitives’ seminal “Really Stupid” (a nice foil, incidentally, to their label bosses’ cover, as Boyracer, of the Prims’ “Nothing Left”). These are the sort of short, sharp songs that, quite rightly, leave you wanting more.

13. Last Japan ft. Killa P “Exhale” (Circadian Rhythms)

You don’t always get to cop this kind of stuff on 7” vinyl, which these days seems to be reserved for hardcore split singles, unrepentant veteran indie-poppers and disconcertingly expensive classic US hip-hop re-issues, but this is a neat, bite-sized slab of compelling grime-ridden dubstep that bucks the trend nicely.

It’s clear from their ongoing taste for mutual collaboration that both Last Japan and Killa P think their skills dovetail smartly, and they’re not wrong. With “Exhale” the verses are as focused, venomous and menacing as usual, but the chorus shows us another side to P as he switches to singing a little and lauds his love of music as a drug, as an alternative to daily skengman $trife life. Another 'made in London' belter, then, in a year which a handful of English cities (LDN, Birmingham and Bristol, we bow down) seem to have dominated our fancies rather.

14. DJ Cable ft. Scrufizzer “Do Some Work” (Slit Jockey)

It’s fair to say this bears quite a few similarities to Cable & Ghostly’s “In ‘Ere” (the best English single of 2016, you may remember). This time, it’s a different west London MC, W13’s Scrufizzer on the mic as Cable smacks out the hard-bouncing grime drops ten to the dozen. Props due to Philly’s Slit Jockey for once again taking time to dig out and promote underground UK music that still tends to get overlooked, both here and stateside, in favour of American flavas. Sorry, flavors.

15. Aleja Sanchez “Ether” (Nachstrom Schallplatten)
16. Relham “Kalte Menschen” (d!st!nct)

The marbled vinyl and the classical beauty of the label pic mean that “Ether” is still probably the most beautiful artefact from this year’s crop, just pipping Even As We Speak’s comeback: in contrast, “Kalte Menschen” didn’t even get a physical release. And yet these two gorgeous tunes from German labels complement each other really well where it matters – on the dancefloor (well, in our basement).

“Ether” is precision-engineered pulse dance music, with the merest hints of industrial and black techno, that keeps driving forward as insistent, nagging synth burrows deeper into the mix. It meets its match, though, in “Kalte Menschen”, an ice-cool, sonorous and sibilant jewel on Cortechs’ label - and the title track of Relham's absolutely terrific first long-player - that’s carved in the same mould as other recent minimalist classics (Michael Schwarz’s “She Doesn’t Ask For” or Jeff Rushin’s “Decline Into”). Really special stuff.

17. Pessimist “Pagans” (Osiris Music)

Sonically, this 12” from Bristolian bass-botherer Pessimist could be seen as a bridge between label-owner Mønic’s “Four Sides Of Truth” last year, and “Regret Was Never So Sure” this summer (for which it surely provided a certain inspiration). Lead and best track “Pagans” invokes the spirit of fellow Brizzle don Pinch as it rolls out brooding, metronomic darkstep menace of the finest kind, unfolding subtly yet brutally over seven beautifully edgy and suspenseful minutes.

18. Wu-Tang Clan ft. Redman “People Say” (36 Chambers)
19. The Lox “Break It Down” (from “#4NoReAsOn” EP) (D-Block Inc)
20. AZ ft. Raekwon & Prodigy “Save Them” (Quiet Money)

East Coast pearlers in the house, from a clutch of artists who remain eminently capable of rugged hip-hop genius, even if they only intermittently bother these days. These three tunes, however, are all pretty major and we would urge you to give just 12 precious minutes of your life to listen to them: if you do, you’ll be rewarded by hearing on-point consecutive verses from a cavalcade of all-great grizzly NY vets: Method Man, Raekwon (twice!), Redman, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Styles P, Sheek Louch, Jadakiss, AZ and the late, already much-missed Prodigy (with presumably one of his last ever rhymes). Bonus points, btw, if you can guess which MC from that list played my stag night in Islington a few years back.

Actually, while we’re here, it's worth pointing out that “People Say” (the only WTC joint we can think of with the same name as a Go-Betweens tune) is probably the best ditty on the latest Wu Tang comeback opus, “The Saga Continues”. The dope is laid down by Mathematics (again) and, like all the best Wu anthems, the Shaolin-sampling end of it sounds very like the start of “Kung Fu” by Ash. One of those fine seguing opportunities that DJs at weddings and bar mitzvahs unaccountably miss.

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21. The Jasmine Minks “Ten Thousand Tears” (Oatcake Records)

A sincere, artful and timeless 7” – birthed in Aberdeen, the first in this year’s list from north of Hadrian’s Wall - and from an absolutely seminal band. But even leaving aside the rich heritage of the Jasmines’ back catalogue, this would be worth copping from any band that had the talent to assemble it: imagine the Orchids in one of their more wistful & pastoral moods as heavenly plucked guitar breaks, a wonderful vocal and some slinky keyboard piano combine to wash away all the grime and grit of the day. And all for an important cause (Motor Neurone Disease Scotland) too.

On topic, if slightly too late for Christmas stockings this year, you might want to note that Slaughter Joe's Poppydisc have welcomely just shoved out a vinyl reissue of the Jasmines LP “Another Age”: it’s ripe for hunting down if you’re in the market for assured, ahead-of-its-time, pop music.

22. Memoriam “The Captive” (Nuclear Blast)

This 7” is one-sided, which always strikes us as a bit rum when you’re still being charged full whack, but we can just about forgive Nuclear Blast for the missing side because what *is* here – a more-than-tidy cover version tilt at Sacrilege’s “The Captive” - shows Memoriam in full voice and at full pelt: after a minute of raging crust riffs there is even the novelty of a female vocal (Tam from said HC legends Sacrilege), accompanied on occasion by Karl Willetts’ dulcet growl. As we were saying last night, Memoriam have proved to be far, far more than just a “post-Bolt Thrower” band, and this has the same addictive groove as the best cuts from their LP (yes, “War Rages On” springs to mind).

23. Jeff Rushin “Wondering” (Arts Collective Holland)

Icy Amsterdam techno - a dancefloor ready, gently mesmeric, cut-glass sequencer mesh, apparently - on an Arts 12” from ex-ON lynchpin Jeff Rushin that’s grown in stature with every repeat spin, as J.R. plays off modish, Moroderish repetition with playful, low-in-mix flourishes. We’re beginning to think it’s definitely worth setting up a branch of the Arts Collective here, if Theresa May’s handlers will let us.

24. Burial “Subtemple” (Hyperdub)
25. Burial “Pre Dawn” (Nonplus)
26. Burial “Rodent” (Hyperdub)

Burial had quite an active year, really: normally, he spends the first 11 months of the calendar cooped up in his room, munching on iced gems and catching up on all those novels that he never got round to finishing. Then, just as his mum puts the Advent calendar up on his wall, he phones up Kode9, says “usual Christmas present, mate?” and sets to work on unleashing an end-of-year monster on Hyperdub by way of guerrilla single. However, in 2017, Burial managed to churn out three own-right 45s, as well as popping up to execute a fair handful of remixes. Not only that, but he decided to take his production down a few, strikingly contrasting avenues… you’ll note we found it hard to choose between them.

The first of the man’s 2017 singles, “Subtemple”, was closest to the template of previous years’ pre-Yuletide treats, an a ambientastically subtle 10” on his alma mater that we reckon is – if only by a whisker - his grandest achievement of the year now drawing to a close. With its organic flavour and its ripples and whistles of wind it sounds a bit like a field recording of someone (Mick Harris?) going fishing, but having managed to bring with them not just a rod, line and baked-bean tin full of maggots but also a scratchy Dansette, a female friend who can interject a disembodied vocal at irregular intervals, and a Bontempi (to occasionally scratch out a ghostly three-note motif).

“Rodent” came next in time and, after he had finally scaled the rarified heights of ‘peak subtle’ with “Subtemple”, it saw Burial suddenly and unexpectedly relapse into discernible – gasp - dance music once more, on another of those anonymous-looking Hyperdub 10”s that was announced one day, in yr local neighbourhood distro the next, sold out the day after that. Less than half the length of the A-side that preceded it, “Rodent” felt innocuous at first – 1990s-style four to the floor, nifty if retro vocal sample, serviceable tempo – but Burial adds a glaze, a sheen, and a compelling single sax flourish at 2’27 that all somehow conspire to make it feel much more substantial, as much of an event as his other releases. On the other side, yer man Kode9 attacks the song mercilessly, speeding it up and filling it with kicks and repeats until you decide you probably prefer the original after all.

But those singles were only the half of it. Well, the 2/3 of it, technically. For later again in ’17 came the uber-unsubtle “Pre Dawn”, a real thudding delight. Nonplus was definitely the right label to release it on, because it would have non-plussed anyone who had just let “Subtemple” slide gorgeously over them, or got used to the cooler temperatures of Burial singles going back a few years now: buoyed by the effectiveness of his boisterous “Inner City Life” remix for Goldie and his similarly chaotic “Sweetz” collaboration with Zomby last year, he unveiled perhaps his most feral (“Pre Dawn”) and frivolous (“Indoors”) solo tracks to date on this strictly high-tensile 12”. It’s not often you can use adjectives like “pounding” to describe a Burial tune, but these two could pound for England.

Oh yes. As “Subtemple” came out, we speculated that Burial was almost there on his inevitable journey from “not dance music” to “not music at all”. In fact, as the successor singles neatly showed, it would turn out that he was about to hit the brakes and perform a screeching U-turn. Shows how much we know about music.

27. Crayola Summer “I Know Who We Are” (Emotional Response)

Finest flexi of the year, edging out even Napalm's Decibel magazine outing. This one really feels to us like one of those patronisingly-named “minor classics”, one that will swim round in our heads from time to time over the next 30 years until Cherry Red stick it on C17, no doubt at the same time as they put out the 68th Fall studio album, featuring some kind of cryogenically preserved vocal.

The irresistible psychedeliC86 burr of “I Know Who We Are” is fab on so many levels, from being a flexi-disc in the first place (on red, too) to sounding really quite like a dozen bears, plus two (all iced) as it joyfully piles its way through the nostalgic hinterlands of fuzzy indie-pop. Marvellous, as we may have mentioned before.

28. FuntCase ft. Merky Ace “4 Bars Of Fury” (Circus Records)

Straight off the Richter”, scowls capital-city grime heavy-hitter Merky Ace as this one begins to build up a head of steam, and he’s not kidding, because this is comfortably the most maniacal record of 2017. FuntCase – a man who’s surely done as much as Eddie Howe to put Bournemouth on the map - cuts and pastes Merky’s devilish rhymes into a veritable skyscraper of ‘90s-tinged peak dancefloor mentalism, peppered with brutal several-storey drops, and the result doesn’t just trouble the Richter, but every scientific scale yet invented (and a few that haven’t yet been). Perhaps the best thing of all is the way that after three minutes or so the whole thing flatlines for twenty seconds, making you worry that the madness is over: but don’t worry, they’re only taking a well-merited breather, and suddenly Bedlam spirals up once more.

(Played this to the brother-in-law and his wife, intending to gently rile them, but it turned out they quite liked it).

29. Despise You / Coke Bust split (Bones Brigade)

Combined at last on a single 7” – ours is on silvery, kind of mercury-shade vinyl - thanks to France’s Bones Brigade records, here are two of the greatest American bands of recent years, up there with Math & Physics Club or Sidetracked (both q.v). In a proper punk package with wraparound cardboard sleeve, black and white poster and obligatory stickers.

By their own amazing standards, Inglewood’s DY seem strangely distracted here. Their suite of five tracks doesn’t always show them at their brilliant best as they get distracted a little by flirting with instrumental dynamics (“Temples Of Grace On Hyde Park Blvd.”) and slowed-down passages - inamongst some lean Phobia-ish angercore - before setting off on the long, slow fade out of “Bluest Skies”. That said, the thrilling “Give This/Give That” – the centrifugal force right in the middle of their side of the vinyl, which brings to mind the short-lived and much-missed Boston outfit Scapegoat - is still fair liable to take your head off: if there’s been a better 26 seconds of music made this year, I’m not sure we’ve heard it.

And over in Washington DC, straightedge firebrands Coke Bust remain a frighteningly tight proposition, still defining the boundaries of both hardcore and powerviolence styles: all four tracks are chaotic stormers born to repel the fainthearted, not least the ragingly superb “Closing The Net”.

30. Aberdeen “Sink Or Float (David Newton 2017 Mix)” (Usedbinpop)

Right. In our humble view, “Sink Or Float”, which originally came out on Tremelo Arm Users Club back in 2001 (ah, when we were but a fledgling webzine cadging occasional freebies from unsuspecting record labels) is one of the greatest pop singles ever released by a band that recorded for Sarah. A grand statement we know, but you won’t persuade us to resile from it, however much you ply us with Czech pilsner (though feel free to try).

What’s more, we only discovered this year (thanks to Usedbinpop releasing both a sugar-sweet Aberdeen early demos catch-up collection thing called “It Was The Rain: Lost Recordings 1993-1995” *and* a mightly download called “Left Off The Reel: Cassette Demos 1992-1995”, both of which feature versions of the song) that “Sink or Float” was a composition that Aberdeen had in the locker right back in the day, back when they were shaping the songs that would appear on their two Sarah EPs. Though actually, knowing Clare & Matt's stubborn streak, they might well have vetoed it for reasons known only to themselves (we owe the two of them so much, but surely they got it wrong when nixing "If I Could See", "No Reason Why" and, for too long, "Thaumaturgy").

Add in the nicely feral rendition of "Sink Or Float" on the Aberdeen / 14 Iced Bears / June Brides Part Time Punks comp "Three Wishes", as well as - perhaps best of all - this powering remix by ex-Mighty Lemon Drop David Newton, briefly released as a download single but now I think corralled onto a reissue of the associated album, and we now have *five* different versions of this titan of pop songs to fawn over incessantly.

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31. Seafang “Solid Gold” (Emotional Response)

Last yr’s “Motorcycle Song” was promising enough, but “Solid Gold” steps up several rungs and positively shimmers. It was touted by the press corps as in the spirit of C86, although in reality the American accents and shoegaze leanings put this one elsewhere, perhaps more in the territory of Velocity Girl, or Lush when they went ‘pop’: only the fearless “ba-ba-ba’s” at the end really nod to any kind of anorak tradition, although to be fair they do rather squirt the icing atop what’s already a hella-tasty cake.

32. Sev Dah “Proletarijat 003” (Proletarijat)
33. Sev Dah “Proletarijat 004” (Proletarijat)

Friend of this fanzine (we hope) Sev Dah rarely disappoints, and this year we were lucky enough to snap up two further instalments of his somewhat essential Proletarijat series of 12” EPs (return to this time last year for fully justified eulogies to the first two).

“003”, themed around the Tito-era Pioneers, originally had us maddest for “Sloga”, but since then we find that the nine-minute “Pledge” has overhauled it in our unconstant affections, a superb slice of finely-honed Scando-Balkan techno. “004” returned the series to a more grown-up military theme, and after the haunting, not-techno dark rustic folk interlude of "Tovariš" ("Comrade") it peaks with a gently acidic, pumping swirl of beats called “Zastava M48”, named after a WW2-era machine gun (but for those of you who dimly remember imported Zastava cars in the UK in the 80s, yes that was the same company, who had seemingly moved on from munitions).

If you’re not sure where to start with this series, because you definitely should get a wriggle on, you could validly dip in to any one of the four fine EPs so far, but we’d suggest plucking a track from each one: if you take “Marija Bursać” from 001, “Fallen Comrades” from 002, “Pledge” from 003 and “Zastava M48” from 004 we think you’ll have the optimal Sev Dah sampler right there, one ranging right through from no-bpm ambient OMG heart-rend to high-tensile, peaktime acid techYES.

34. The Fireworks “Dream About You” (Shelflife / Opposite Number)

Meanwhile, the excitement engendered in us by the Fireworks having recruited the singer who sang the definitive song called “Fireworks” (clue: not Katy Perry) has still not entirely dissipated. And it was a song we always thought of when given the happy task of reviewing a new Fireworks record.

The balance on this 3-track EP is just right, we reckon: the A side plays pop (like Cheggers, heaven rest his soul), and the B side is then split between an ace post-J&MC / early Primitives shamble, “We’ve Been Wasting Time” and a 12-stringed up post-Razorcuts jewel called “Better Without You Now” which picks up loosely where last yr’s immeasurably good “Ghost Of You” left off.

35. Killa P + Last Japan “Dead ‘Em” (Floor Sixx)

Listening to this again as we type, there’s no earthly reason why this should be so much further down the rankings than “Exhale” – particularly given the entertaining bit two minutes in where the beat drops out and Killa has a lively argument with somebody about Crazy Titch – but perhaps the answer is that nobody saw fit to ship this one out on vinyl. Such a little thing can make such a big difference.

36. Mikael Jonasson “Dissonance” (Darknet)

New wave of techno from Gothenburg, designed to wear down the the carpet. The malign-sounding synth stabs of “Dissonance” and its Niereich repaint have real dancefloor presence, but for us the 12” peaks with the stinging acid flavours of “Dissidents”. We’d like to see the Strictly Come Dancing house band take that one on, perhaps for a polka.

37. Tuckz ft. Vision Crew “Headtop (Remix)” (Trapdoor Records)

From his “Beginners Luck“ EP, this remix of his “Headtop” single brings the whole Vision Crew in on the game, with verse outings not only from Tuckz himself ("old school flow, just like a Saxon") but his muckers Goldie, Pascall, WhackEye, Tyzz ("rudeboy, pls don't hype / cos' like a panda you'll get left with a black eye") and Ezro. Another exciting, energised platter of er, 'post-Donne' wordplay from the ever-burgeoning London grime scene.

38. Cortechs “Digestive System” (Darknet)
39. Virgil Enzinger “Vector Vortex” (i.cntrl)
40. Aleja Sanchez “Consequences” (Kindcrime)

“Techno, techno, techno, techno” in the wise and immortal words of 2 Unlimited, a band who were in fact to techno what Lordi were to “death metal”, i.e. nothing at all to do with it.

Right. Taking a break from curating his d!st!nct label project, Cortechs rolls up on Sydney’s Darknet with a humdinger of acid-tinged minimal techno that pootles around for a couple of minutes going nowhere at all fast, but then suddenly the acid line emerges and engages the slightly trebly bass kicks for a frantic fight to the finish.

Austrian titan Virgil Enzinger is still investing his razorsharp productions with spicy dollops of Eastern mysticism, and his latest (en)’zinger builds even on the excellent “Samgitaya” last year as it marries chanting with textured techno rhythms, as if Fun Da Mental were back and on a mid-European remix tip. Plus, it just edges ahead of Pop Threat’s “Semtex Vortex” to become officially the second best vortex-themed song ever, behind only Sportique’s legendary “Cerebral Vortex”. Obviously.

Meanwhile in Colombia, Aleja Sanchez unfurled a nicely contrasting two-track EP which paired “Life And Death”, a swooning clubland techno recipe loosely in the vein of “Ether”, with the beatless two-chord miasma of “Fear And Hate”, which swirls along gorgeously, if with a charming trepidation, like a cross between A New Line (Related)’s more ethereal work, and the opening bars of New Order’s “Procession”. The song titles confirm that she’s clearly not afraid to tackle big themes, either.

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41. The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy “Network EP” (Breaking Down)
42. Lamont ft. Slowie, Kwam “Ar Kid” / “Ships” (81)

Back to Bristol again for two more rewarding singles, displaying different sides of the city’s many and varied musical stripes.

The CTC’s train-themed EP, the final instalment of a trilogy, sees them continue to flit between light and shade, powering into view with the driving, horn-bled toe-tapper “Cross Country”, but the clincher for us remains the closing Ian Curtis tribute, a cover version of “Disorder” which takes the template Low used for “Transmission” (switch down the pace, ratchet up the tension) and does it absolutely beautifully, especially when one-man brass section “Iceman” Harry Furniss rolls up. It’s reminiscent of Tim R’s earlier work with underrated Bristol genii Kyoko, a slice of slo-fi heaven.

There’s no track or artist information on the record at #42 at all, just a picture of a puppet, but apparently the A-side is “Ar Kid” and it sees Bristol’s Slowie teaming up with local producer Lamont for some classic West Country hip-hop flavas, the former's warm, textured flow making it feel as if Freight Corporation had never gone away. There’s a stark contrast between the violence of much of the lyrical imagery and the clearly sincere references to Slowie having taken time out from the game to look after his kid. On the other side of the record, it’s all change as Kwam rolls in to deliver a low-key, thoughtful monologue somewhere between Lamont’s 12” co-venture with Nico Lindsay last year, and the way that Trim & James Blake cooked up “RPG” around the same time.

43. P Jam “Pepper Pot (Version Excursion)” (Hardrive)

The 12” vinyl stuck with the instrumentals, but this download version EP via Terror Danjah’s Hardrive set-up slews both local and global as P Jam recruits a fabulous cast to each take on his Pepper Pot riddim. For our money, Hitman Hyper’s sheer energy takes the prize, but Bruza is not far behind (good to see him still laying out proper London bars) and Riko Dan inevitably hits harder than most.

44. Nothing Clean / Art of Burning Water split (Repulsive Medias / Samidzat Records / Vleesklak Records)

A pretty clear pattern emerging now that we’ve had 4 fab multi-label split 7”s in a row featuring Leicester’s Nothing Clean (the previous three having yielded no less than 26 excellent powerviolencey NC tunes). This time around, there are another seven over the course of a frantic, frazzled five minutes (launched by “Chaos Everywhere”, which explodes into and out of life within ten seconds) and nothing to suggest their anger, poise or technical skill is being dampened down, though there are signs of a certain introspectiveness creeping into the lyrics, if not the music. As they sing (well, yell) on the standout “Rapid Eye”: “These days I tend to worry about nothing at all, sleeping is a struggle…” Put your arms around them.


45. Caesium “Raven” (d!st!nct)
46. Yan Cook “Arrival” (Cooked)

From the relatively unlikely (i.e. not in continental Europe) techno metropole of a warehouse somewhere near Bristol, smart cookie Caesium has been producing music with some distinction. Of all that he did in 2017, “Raven” was our pick, a perfectly-weighted piece of cutglass techno which keeps up the unswervingly high standards of Cologne’s d!st!nct, as well as making Caesium, as a successful export, the Tony Woodcock (ask your dad, or possibly grandad) of minimal tech. And from Ukraine, Yan Cook is not far behind as he own-labels “Arrival”, on woozy-coloured vinyl, a pristine knot of swiftly pulsing synth currents.

47. Last Leaves “The Hinterland” (Lost & Lonesome / Matinée Recordings)

Stunning pop delicacy on 7” from Australia’s emotionally ensnaring Last Leaves, a prelude to their cultured and charming “Other Towns Than Ours” long player. "The Hinterland" shines as it longingly and lovingly mixes an uptempo chorus with regretful lyrics about recovering from an accident, all charted by plucked lines and spirals of guitar. The dissonant atmospheres that the lyrics conjure up (“from an upstairs window / At your parent’s place”), combined with the convalescence theme, made us think of Mauriac’s Therese Desqueyroux, which – just like this – is a petit bijou treat. Over on the other side of the vinyl, non-album song “Nora Creina” is just as impressive: like “All The Mains Are Down”, or “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, it’s a song about the most heartrending subject at all, the space that lies between two people.

48. The Perfect English Weather “English Winter EP” (Matinée Recordings)

Perhaps suffering a smidgeon in our rankings from the lack of time we’ve had to acclimatise, as it were, this seasonal EP nevertheless had an immediate impact. Again, it takes us in a completely different direction from Wendy and Simon’s work with the Popguns: a little ironically, given that they’re joined here by former Wedding Present sticksman Shaun Charman, there are none of the powering Present-isms of side two of “Sugar Kisses”.

Instead, on the standouts, “Still” and “Cold Out”, we get a vibe that’s… maybe Aberdeen, maybe wonderful erstwhile Matinée outfit, Simpatico (especially the chorus on “Cold Out”), maybe even a soupcon of Harper Lee, or slower Azure Blue? A kind of older-school Matinée/Sarah thing that’s all about squeezing more longing out of voice, guitar and drum machine than anyone could reasonably expect. Which makes these tremblingly acute songs feel a gentle step forward from the (similarly-warming) acoustic fireside wiles of their “Isobar Blues” collection, especially when the package is delectably topped off by a sensuous stroll through the Go-Betweens' ever-evocative “Dusty In Here”.

49. The Bug ft. Flowdan, Irah “Bad” / “Get Out The Way” (Ninja Tune)

The Bug, or Kevin as his mother calls him, is back for another bass-heavy, foundation-threatening collaboration 12”. “Bad” is Flowdan as you don’t always hear him, with a masterfully martialled deadpan flow that gives us rare glimpses of domesticity (his school, his folks, his youth in E3 and E10) and despite the title, this comes across as having the conversational, sweetly didactic style of the much-missed Smiley Culture and his bredren from the Saxon Sound System, p’raps the finest sound system of them all. On the other side, dancehall alumnus and politician-baiter Irah (fresh from helming Terror Danjah’s “Lyrical Weapon”) joins the suddenly, and pleasingly, ubiquitous Killa P as they up the tempo for a grime-suffused late-night monster.

=50. Sidetracked “Ammunition” (Problems They Persist)
=50. Sidetracked “Impediment” (To Live A Lie)
=50. Sidetracked “Pillars” (Problems They Persist)

More outings this year from Tacoma’s Sidetracked, and for reasons that will hopefully become obvious it’s hard not to bracket them together. Sidetracked are the very definition of both immovable object and unstoppable force: if you’re them, recording songs that last about as long as a sneeze never gets old, and if you devote yourself to doing nothing else, you kind of become the market leader.

On “Ammunition”, a fiery little CD via Problems They Persist, the three of them rattle off 20 nihilistic tracks in under a minute (yes, that's a minute in total), supplementing their normal bursts of straight staccato noisecore mayhem with massive lo-fi echo effects that render attempts at resistance utterly futile.

Next, there’s “Impediment”, a cassette on the excellent TLAL label, who we’ve definitely done alright by over the years (Sidetracked, Beartrap, Magnum Force). This yields 15 merry melodies, arrayed over a fairly leisurely 80 seconds (the average track length of just over 5 whole seconds being fairly prog-rock by this band’s aggressively high standards). It’s hard to pick favourites, as they say, but “Plastic Smile” is a shoe-in for the mixtapes because you can pair it with both Bubblegum Splash! and Black Uhuru.

And “Pillars” was another CD from the gang, again on Problems They Persist. This time the bass looms high in the mix, every song has a terse single-syllable title, and there are just 11 tracks, clocking in at three or four seconds each. “Mid paced” tempo then, I think.

Ooh, and apparently, according to schoolyard gossip and the parents’ group WhatsApp, there’s a split 7” on the way with Violent Opposition, which is bound to be a scorcher. Plus, I bet you’ll get a sticker with it.

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53. Reeko Squeeze, Trapz, Figure Flows, Fee Gonzales, Tremz, Keedz, Mischief & Poundz “8 Bar Link Up” (Link Up TV)
54. Samuel Kerridge “The Silence Between Us” (Downwards)
55. Last Leaves “The World We Had” (Lost & Lonesome / Matinée Recordings)
56. Natterers “Toxic Care” (Emotional Response)
57. Sven Wittekind “Unchained” (ohn-cet)
58. Little Dee & P Money “Back 2 Back” (self-released)
59. Manga Saint Hilare & Ghstly XXVII “Back To Back” (Outsiders0085)
60. Icore “Substance From Shadow” (Osiris Music)

Quite a pot-pourri of styles here, starting with our weakness for a proper posse cut. Mega-collaboration “8 Bar Link Up” may not bring the A-list, but instead corrals together a young and hungry crew of next gen MCs, focusing on south-east London. If you’re looking for experience as well as hustle, then the back-to-back “Back to Back” outings work damn well together: there’s nothing like a little bit of healthy competition to up an emcee’s game, and both pairs of rhymers are well matched as they slipstream and then draw energy from each other.

Turning to instrumental music, we get the shuffling, moody Icore“peals of languid melody and shimmering synth swathes oozing from a muggy swirl of dustbowl percussion… on Lalique-green vinyl”; the sparky, high bpm suite of glitch and shuffling electronics that Kerridge uses to constantly develop themes and motifs; and the solid-as-a-rock minimal techno of Sven Wittekind, with his excellent, slightly clanking “Unchained” continuing his current taste for easy-as-you-go repetition.

And we shouldn’t forget the guitars - in this case represented on both sides of the hemisphere, first by the textbook power-pop melodies of Last Leaves and second by the pleasingly raw cassette-borne hardcore of Natterers, straight outta Leeds, whose reference points might include Violent Reaction squaring off with Sofahead. In particular, the excellent opener “Exist Or Live” rings with an exquisitely snarling, sneering vocal that feels halfway between Poly Styrene and Pauline Murray.

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61. Myrkur “Två Konungabarn” (Relapse)
62. The Flatmates "Come On, Santa!" (Local Underground)
63. Adam Winchester "Interferenza" (Osiris Music)
64. FKD ft. Killa P "Can't Dead On My Watch" (SAIKOUT)
65. DJ Cable ft. Snowy “Who You Talking To?” (Four40 Records) 
66. Electorites & Dolby D "Module" (HEX)
67. Drum Communicate “Construction” (Sick Weird Rough)
68. DJ Dbmassive “Dust” (Technodrome)
69. Pierre Deutschmann “Cold Rex” (XLR1507)
70. Sven Wittekind “Cuboid” (Naked Lunch)

Well then. Some sample titles of Killa P singles from 2017: “Dead ‘Em”, “Death Chat”, “Can't Dead On My Watch”. A bit like the Jam’s obsession with “world” in 1977/78, or Pete Astor’s near-consuming obsession with rain back in the days of the Weather Prophets (a band, incidentally who should never be confused with Weather Report, although our good friend d’Alma often managed to do this back in the day, WITH HILARIOUS CONSEQUENCES). This one comes as the lead tune on an EP by German three-producer combo FKD which also flaunts some other tasty collaborations with London artists, not least a fetchingly frenetic hook-up with grime young guns YGG.

Elsewhere in the grime camp, DJ Cable (should-be nickname: 'Cable - street') is probably phoning it in a bit on "Who You Talking To?", yet this is still undoubtedly high quality stuff that retains the signature *bounce* of the precursor singles with Scrufizzer, and t'artist formerly known as Ghostly. This time, the man on the mic is Notts MC Snowy, whose irrepressible, almost convivial flow gives this tune a touch of character.

More than 30 years on, we still await the long-promised first Flatmates album, but frankly at this stage we'll take anything. And "Come On, Santa!" is in fact one of the rare handful of tunes - from the plethora of Christmas tracks released every December - that should have a bit of staying power: with its classic Spector stylings, nicely-trotting reindeer pace, Lisa Bouvier's deep, rich voice and some lovely backing coos, this won't just be on 2017's Christmas playlist. (Best Xmas records ever remain "Christmas In Harlem", "Christmas In Hollis", "Christmas" by Brighter, Ella's "Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney" and Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rapping").

We should also pay tribute to the relentless, ongoing production line of continental European techno this year, represented here by France's Dolby D, Italy's Electorites, DJ Dbmassive and Drum Communicate (the latter of whom, we have belatedly realised, is the latest nom-de-plume of our former obsession Frenkie V), and German stalwarts Sven Wittekind and Pierre Deutschmann. Their contributions give us five more reasons to clutch the EU to our  hearts, even as we fight back the tears...

However, the most singular song in this eclectic batch has to be “Två Konungabarn” - acoustic Scandinavian folk music, on traditional instruments, from the angelic voice of the magical Myrkur, an artist we can’t shake off our soft spot for. It purposely eschews the melange of black metal, thrash and choral tendencies that marks out her usual oeuvre. Plus, it would make a cracking, haunting theme tune to our a classic Scando-noir serial (our preference would be a crime-fighting cross-Øresund supergroup of Beck, Wallander, Sarah Lund and Martin Rohde, perhaps roping in DI Mared Rhys from Hinterland and, ideally, working however improbably under the supervision of Inspector Barnaby).

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71. Ryuji Takeuchi “Revised Issues” (Local Sound Network)
72. Ryuji Takeuchi “From One To Another EP” (Format Recordings)
73. Fireburn “Don’t Stop The Youth” (Closed Casket Activities)
74. GHSTLY XXVII “Do What I Wanna” (Duppi Records)
75. Manga Saint Hilare ft. Durrty Goodz “Baga” (self-released)
76. Cortechs “Tzp” (d!st!nct)
77. Goldie “Inner City Life [2017 Rebuild]” (Metalheadz)
78.West Norwood Cassette Library “Hardcore Librarianism” (Sneaker Social Club)
79. Jetstream Pony “Like You Less” (Kleine Untergrund Schallplatten)
80. Nikki S & Nyke ft. Flirta D, Little Dee, PK, Novelist, Jammz, Yizzy, Scrufizzer, Bossman Birdie, Asher D & Kwam “Ska Riddim 2” (Salt Beef)

A few years ago, prolific Japanese superproducer Ryuji Takeuchi had “Multiple Issues”. Four of them, to be precise, drilling away on an LSN EP. Now, his Issues are back in remix form, and they’re actually brighter and more varied having been set about roughly by a quartet of notables: Frank Hunter (clanking, funky), Hiroaki Iizuka (clanking, acid), Peel favourite Martyn Hare (robo-chic) and Tomohiko Sage (industrial, but surprisingly restrained by his usual standards). Earlier in the year, Michael Kruck, Taigo Onez and Kompressor also got busy on the Takeuchi remix tip, turning up to adorn on his sleek "From One To Another" artist EP.

Fireburn's "Don't Stop The Youth" is another EP that was equal parts intriguing and rewarding: the band switch seamlessly from reggae to flaming American hardcore stylings, and that all starts to make sense when you discover that they feature ex-Bad Brains singer Israel Joseph I and various legends of the US noisecore scene including none less an ilwtt,isott favourite than Todd Jones from the outstanding Nails. As you'd expect, the record tumbles rather giddily from the classic hardcore feel of songs like "Suspect" into the rootsy bliss of "Jah Jah Children" and then a Scientist dub of the same: all the same, this is a rollercoaster you want to be on.

Plenty else going on here though. Cortechs eschews vowels for a dessert helping of minimal Cologne techno on his own, equally vowel-eschewing label. Manga Saint Hilare makes his second appearance in this list, and manages to grab Durrty Goodz for one of the latter's few outings of 2017. And Ghstly XXVII, who teamed up with Manga for "Back To Back", steps out on his own with the assured "Do What I Wanna" (spoiler alert: he does what he wants to).

What else? Jetstream Pony represent one of at least four different bands - all in this year's top 100 - which feature Beth Arzy in their ranks, and this time, fresh from the band's charming wowing of Dalston in October, the vibe is is pounding, visceral, 80s-90s indie. Then there's another vibrant posse cut: plenty of familiar names rolling up to Nikki S and Nyke's gaff to lace the Ska Riddim, redux ("from So Solid Crew to BBK / we've been doing this since TDK", natch). And finally, there's the cheeky cut-up d n'b antics of the West Norwood Cassette Library 12" that gave us a trip down memory lane this summer; as did Goldie's updated take on "Inner City Life", which served as an effective tribute to the late Diane Charlemagne.

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81. Marble Gods “Going Nowhere And Thrilled To Death About It” (Marry Me Records)
82. Therman Munsin & Roc Marciano “Carberator” (Hardtimes Records)
83. Raekwon ft. Ghostface Killah “This Is What It Comes Too” (Remix) (H20 / Empire)
84. The Luxembourg Signal “Laura Palmer” (Shelflife)
85. Keedz “Let Me Introduce Myself” (Keedy Records)
86. ASC “Internal Software” (Arts Collective Holland)
87. Bubblegum Lemonade “Laz Christmas” (Matinée Recordings)
88. Petrification “Summon Horrendous Destruction” (Sentient Ruin Laboratories)
89. Irah ft Terror Danjah “Lyrical Weapon” (Hardrive)
90. Real Numbers “Frank Infatuation” (Market Square Records)

Keedz caught our ear after we clocked #53 above: of all eight MCs, hers was the verse that really burst out of the speakers, its opening lines giving us one of those earworms that we had to make sure not to sing out loud, given its, um, profane nature. And that made us get hold of her first artist EP, which gave Keedz a chance to impress further - tracks like "Grimeonology" show the benefit of suddenly having acres of space on the wing, rather than being stuck in a crowded midfield.

For producer-led grime, on the other hand, one rarely needs to look beyond Terror Danjah, whose "Lyrical Weapon" was a choice outing for Irah to keep his MCing hand in. Over the pond, where despite the best efforts of Slit Jockey it still appears that grime just isn't a thing, one is forced to seek out the experience and gravitas of New York's finest. Your ears can only welcome, as old friends, the growling, lowdown piano-hook of "Carberator", and the grizzly retro stylings of the Chef and Ghostface.

For music from a different kitchen, you could do worse than get down and grubby with Petrification and their exhilarating if lo-fi death metal oeuvre, as raw yet as strangely compelling as "In Battle There Is No Law". Or turn in the opposite direction and revel in the swish electronic karma of British-born San Diegan ASC's addictive 12" for Arts.

"Indie"-wise, we fell for "Going Nowhere...", the effervescent, belting high point of a charming cassette EP called “Songs” from exceedingly fresh-faced Glaswegian trio Marble Gods; "Laz Christmas", a typically discerning and disarming selection of festive melodies from one of our favourite contemporary songwriters, Laz McCluskey; "Laura Palmer", a gently brooding semi-shoegaze epic single from ASC's near-neighbours, the Luxembourg Signal; and also from the States, Real Numbers' rumbustious, ricketily-ramshackle TVPs tribute "Frank Infatuation" (for the second year in a row, it seems, being that it got an overdue 7" release from Market Square Records).

Ilwtt,isott trivia corner: this section features the second appearance today of an artist who played my stag night in N1. And it's a different one from the star at #18-20. Sadly though, it wasn't Beth Arzy... :(

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91. Champion x Riko Dan "Landslide" (Lobster Boy)
92. Fabrizio Lapiana “Interdimensional Bug” (Arts)
93. Foreign Beggars ft Alix Perez, Izzie Gibbs, Dizmack & Sgt. Pokes “Toast” (Foreign Beggars Live)
94. Kristopher Mørder “State of Mind” (Android Muziq)
95. Hannes Matthiessen “Subversion / Zerkratzt” EP (Phat Dope Shit)
96. Hitman Tiga ft Grim Sickers “The Intercontinental Riddim” (self-released)
97. Double S ft Wiley “Get Paid” (We Are Defigo)
98. Isar Montana “Falling Down” (Sick Weird Rough)
99. D Double E ft Wiley “Better Than The Rest” (Bluku)
100. Ian Mason “Visions” (Sick Weird Rough)

Ook. We're now officially between Michael Jackson time ("it's close to midnight...") and Iron Maiden time ("two... minutes to MIID-niiiiight"), so gotta scamper now before we scarper. This onslaught of more club-ready tunes, including the usual sprinkling of new artists wouldn't make a bad New Year's Eve party in itself though, would it? Especially if you added in the sweet "Toast" remixes that sneaked out a few weeks ago. Particular shout-outs to Champion and Riko's Popguns tribute, "Landslide", which combines the latter's normal disdain for informers with a Don-Cotti echoing railabout the destruction caused by airstrikes.

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So... that is all. Thanks for reading and thank you most of all if you've checked out or supported any of these superb artists that have lit up our 2017, another year over which it seems that the likes of Brexit and Trump, and all the divisions which they've created and exploited, have created a darker shadow over the world than usual.

Have a terrific 2018, please carry on tipping us off if you hear (or release) great records and let's hope we can all get to cheer up and catch up next year.