In a year of great UK funky/post-dubstep/etc. bass anthems, London producer Ben Westbeech's new alias goes for the jugular. The track takes a while to get going, the long intro first pleasant and then creeping into something more sinister. The payoff: skipping congas, razor-sharp snare, undulating bass, and a darting Indian flute loop that seems to whip around the heady rhythm like a bird navigating city antennas and telephone wiring. The 12-inch and/or single download has two superb bonus tracks—UK funky main man Doc Daneeka's rich remix and a strong Latin-flavored B-side, "Man Up"—but there's no question what the star is here.
by Girl Unit
This really is turning out to be Girl Unit's year. The 24-year-old Londoner, born Phil Gamble, has contributed impressive DJ mixes to podcasts from Numbers, XLR8R, the Fader, FACT magazine, Palms Out Sounds, and Mary Anne Hobbs's BBC Radio 1 show, and both of his 12-inches on the Night Slugs label are among the year's best—particularly "Wut," which claim-jacked track-of-the-moment status from "Fatherless" within two months. (Things move fast these days.) Rather than the hard, austere feel of his previous "I.R.L.," "Wut" is a wide-screen Technicolor peak-hour track: organ chords like a cloud covering, punctured by rolling snares (reminiscent of early jungle classics such as Omni Trio's 1993 "Mystic Stepper") and a couple of vocal shards played with a stutter and providing the hook. There's something smeary about its euphoria, like it took too much E and is going to pay hell for it during the week. But for right now, it's I love you, maaaaan until the lights come on.
by the Foreign Exchange
From transatlantic R&B duo Phonte and Nicolay, with featured vocalist YahZarah, an upright and very neat and proper ballad. The closest it gets to physical overdrive is when the snare taps grow a little louder during the chorus, and the second closest is a string arrangement that swells during the final refrain but lays out rather than coming to a head. The recording takes its power in little gradations—a chorus as insistently hypnotic as the Velvet Underground, its very flatness lending it allure and giving YahZarah's plaintive second verse something to work against. Meanwhile, those snare taps cut across the song's smooth surface in a way that says as much about thwarted expectations as do the lyrics.