Hyponik: 2020 Highlights…Selected by Artists

At last! We’re on the homeward sprint. The end of 2020, the year of all years. Like always, this closing of the annum brings us round to our End of Year List. It’s been a tough time for many this year. Artists lost a huge source of income in performing live, from the DJ through to the popstar releasing the album of their career. As ravers, we lost our space to zone out and feel free, instead finding solace in the four walls of our living rooms, livestreams as the soundtrack. This now huge industry that we call dance music fell at the mercy of Covid-19.

Yet, despite the evident and colossal losses, music has formed a welcome constant throughout all the panic, anxiety and outright confusion. Bandcamp Fridays formed a glimmering point to look forward to at the start of every month. Those Fridays alone spurred some of the most exciting new music and unexpected drops that we have seen in a good while. Aside of the music, we also can’t ignore the powerful social reckoning and protest that took place in 2020. The Black Lives Matter movement, dance music’s #MeToo moment, the calling out of industry structures… the list goes on. For sure, 2020 threw up suggestions to us all on how we can be better.

With all of this in mind, it really got us thinking about how we run as a publication. How can we change? How can we be better? How can we have more empathy in everything that we do? Particularly in our End of Year List, we asked ourselves… Does it feel right in the current moment, to rank artists and their music in a nummerical chart, pitting them against eachother? Or would our list feel much better as a simple celebration of music that highlighted 2020?

The answer is the latter. In any case, surely any ‘Music of The Year’ in 2020… is music that made this one even a little better? With that, we’ve handed this one over to a bunch of artists and labels that we love, asking them to select their album, EP and/or mix of the year, in line with this very simple brief. So here you have it, the Hyponik EOY list in a new format; 2020 Highlights… Selected by Artists. It’s a chunky one! Enjoy!

Xyla – ‘Ways’ (Leaving Records)

Selected by Loraine James “Only just recently found out about this album but has easily made its way to being my favourite album of the year! In a short space of time, its really inspired me with its footwork, idm and many more sounds that I love – highly recommend!”

Off The Meds – ‘Off The Meds’ (Studio Barnhaus)

Selected by Control Freak Recordings “Off the Meds have been firmly on our radar since I picked up a copy of Belter early last year – the Joy O remix blew us both away and became a staple at our Cabin Fever parties. We’ve been looking forward to the album for a while and it hasn’t disappointed – its a really fun, playful record, and just about far enough removed from the club to make the perfect soundtrack for those Friday nights stuck inside at home.”

The Colours That Rise – ‘Grey Doubt’ (Rhythm Section)

Selected by FYI Chris “Grey Doubt will always be worth your time, just as in their first EP 2020 [Breaker Breaker]. A melting pot of influence, one that can’t be pried apart through anything other than repeat visits. And repeat you will. We feel privileged to call TCTR good friends. To have seen this thing grow from a hazy idea into one of the best live bands in London right now, with Grey Doubt the modern British Classic we think it will come to be known as.”

BC Camplight – Shortly After Takeoff (Bella Union)Selected by Desert Sound Colony “I just totally and utterly adore this album. I had briefly heard of BC a couple of years before but for some reason I failed to actually get down and listen to his work. What a mistake that was. ‘Shortly After Takeoff’ lyrically is so fascinating because of its juxtaposition between outright witty comedy and incredibly heavy topics of addiction and death. Like a lot of great art it straddles the dark with the light and ends up somewhere completely enthralling. To be totally honest I am not usually one for lyrics. I tend to not focus on them much outside of their rhythmic and melodic function. Yet, with this album I couldn’t get away from them and found myself for the first time in years looking up the lyrics for each song and reading them along whilst I listened.”

Decent Damage – ‘Energy Connector’ (Off Me Nut Records)

 Selected by Yazzus “One of my fav releases comes from the Off Me Nut Records team in Sheffield, with “Energy Collector” by Decent Damage. This album is full of crazy electro cuts and colourful synths, top track for me personally is “Put It Down” very ravey, can easily replace the Blade blood rave opening with this one ;)”

Ase Manual – ‘Black Liquid Electronics’ (Like That Records) 

Selected by Tony G from Sorry Records “Jersey Club isn’t historically known as an album-oriented genre, but Ase Manual and his Like That Records crew are doing their part to change that. Dropped into the middle of a hot, sticky summer lockdown, Black Liquid Electronics builds a lush sonic world of throbbing beats and mumbled mantras that perfectly matched the NYC tri-state area’s energy this year. It’s an accessible yet deeply weird record; deep house sound design splays out over murky club rhythms, rap verses and warped vocal samples dissolve in and out of the ether.  There’s something incredibly powerful about the exhausted yet persistent delivery of the refrain “Yeah we alive” as the relentless year chugs on. It’s an incredible record.”

Al Wooton – ‘Witness’ (TRULE) 

Selected by Sneaker Social Club “I’ve been a big fan of Al’s productions since his earlier Deadboy stuff, you can clearly hear he is a disciple of UK rave in general. He’s always been a buy on sight artist for me, even more so since he’s been putting out stuff under his own name. He covers all my essential bases, Dub, UKG, Jungle and just has a knack for turning in stripped back, bass heavy bangers but also works at home for deeper listens. I’ve played this album at home during this pandemic (in my joggers of course) over and over and on that note, the track ‘Over’ – it’s KILLLEEEERRRR. Whole thing is well worth your ears though.”

DJ K-SHiZ – ‘The Legacy Continues’ (Public Warfare)

Selected by Moveltraxx “We’ve dedicated the last 13 years to this music so you know we love Juke/Footwork, Jersey Club, Ghetto House & Baltimore Club more than anything else but even if there’s countless of classic tracks, the amount of classic full lenght projects is more rare. Every now and then, though, a record like that appears and it makes us very happy. This year it def was DJ K-SHIZ’ Jersey Club album “The Legacy Continues” a record paying respect to the genre’s roots but also moving things forward while inviting heavyweights like DJ Jayhood or Uniiqu3.”

Caroline Rose – ‘Superstar’ (New West Records)

Selected by E.M.M.A. “It’s hard to explain what I look for in an album but I know when I hear it. Firstly it has to be worth playing more than once in a row and provoke reflection. I discovered Caroline Rose this year and I really love that she incorporates fun into her work but with serious undertones – light and shade. In this album she has created a character based on herself who pursues their dreams at all costs – I guess thematically it gives off Americana vibes. It’s a dreamy synth pop vibe but also has a bit of 90s grungey edge.”

Vladimir Gnatenko -‘Recordings from Mambarium’ (Self-Released)

Selected by Banoffee Pies “I’ve revisited this album constantly this year and found it the perfect balance between club nostalgia, ambient, and a dose of the really low slung minimal sound I like with plenty of effects and distortion visiting constant acid lines and mad synths to bang your head to throughout. This years been a mind melter and i’ve really enjoyed these longer selections of music that jump all over the place, especially with the live jam feel. There’s nineteen tracks in this and they all totally bang.”

Patricia – ‘Maxyboy’ (Ghostly International)

 Selected by Pixelord “At first, I didn’t want to listen to this album because I had a bias against what I thought business techno music was. I randomly played this and it turned out to be cool. Then I realized it is better to just listen to music without labels. The album sounds seemingly quite simple, like idm, electro and acid from the 2000s, but it gets somewhere and triggers nostalgic feelings through several genres at once. In short, this is my jam, the perfect sound of 2020 with a bit of sadness.”

Various Artists – ‘Verão Dark Hope’ (Príncipe)

Selected by Ahadadream “Sometimes when you see a compilation of 40 tracks it makes you think “wow, I’m never gonna get a chance to properly listen to all of this” but with this Príncipe one I had it on repeat all summer. Over this tough and panicked period I veered towards more melodic club music, as in the absence of playing out I was thinking less about functional bassy rollers. This sound seems to have a bottomless well of inventiveness and limitless sonic experimation, it leaves me inspired to no end. My pick of the bunch is Solidão by DJ Perigoso (BNM) which featured heavily in my radio sets from this year. ”

Dream_E – ‘Dreams on 22’ (Pace Yourself)

Selected by Max from Craigie Knowes “Dream_e sent me the album soon after he finished writing it. I was on my way to Berlin to visit him pre-COVID on the sunrise flight out of Edinburgh. I played the album through my headphones as we taxied, sped up and left the runway. Breaking through the clouds, banking into the rising sun while listening to these ethereal beats meant I couldn’t think straight: was the music fantastic or was it the situation that made it so incredible? Or maybe the combination of both… It turns out it was the music, and anyone who has listened will tell you the same. A beautiful piece of art by an outstanding artist and a top-quality label.”

Reeko – ‘Hidden Exercises’ (Self-Released)

Selected by Kareem El Morr “I recently bought a new pair of speakers and listened to a lot of music in my collection. Some releases really stood out and revealed how much knowledge and musicality the artist put into it. Hidden Exercises is definitely one of them. It sounds unbelievably good on the Geithains. It has that kind of perfectionism in the sound design that I love about techno music and at the same time being somehow imperfect because all the tracks are just loops or tools. I certainly love how this release works for DJs to use as tools, but also to just listen to reduced, rhythmic soundscapes by themselves. They draw an image in my head, which is very organic and warm yet controlled by machines. It’s a wonderful combination.”

Jessy Lanza – All The Time (Hyperdub)

Selected by Yazz Ahmed “Jessy Lanza is a relatively new discovery for me. In collaboration with her creative partner, Jeremy Greenspan, this electro-pop/techno/experimental R&B album explores loneliness, social isolation, and having difficult conversations with oneself. All of which feels very relevant today. Even though it was recorded before lockdown, the album was created remotely, as if pre-empting the isolation we’ve all been experiencing this year. I really love her musical inventiveness, the use of synths, programmed drums, and vocal manipulation. It’s a mixture of half woman, half machine – very cool!

Sansibar – ‘Game Over’ (Avoidance)

Selected by Adam Pits “Sansibars’ ‘Game Over’ ep is just next level. Its come at a time when no clubs are open, but with such epic composition comes a feeling of being in a club again. Each track will destroy any dance floor that is blessed with the sounds.”

Doctor Jeep – ‘Abyss’ (SPE:C)

 Selected by Ma Sha from Kindergarten Records “One of the releases that made me dance by myself during self isolation in Belarus. My phone flashlight on strobe mode, I imagined dancing in a forest rave.”

Kush Jones -‘Strictly 4 My CDJZ 7’ (Self-Released)

Selected by Nick from Sorry Records “The sharp exhilarating juxtaposition as “Doppler” ends and “Fuck Off” begins is all you really need to hear. This is Kush Jones magic at work; one of countless magical moments in the Bronx producer’s massive 2020 output. “Doppler” is techno perfection personified; an incredibly self assured take on the genre that blows most other current techno producers out of the water (and those kids can’t even make juke, footwork, jungle, house, any other of the countless genres Kush excels at). The seventh of a projected forty volume, Strictly 4 My CDJz 7 is a stand out entry albeit a piece of a much greater whole; an ongoing, living breathing one that’s been a joy to behold.”

OK EG – ‘Anther’ (Steeplejack)

Selected by Lisene “While it was almost impossible to narrow it down to one highlight, the record I’ve rinsed the most has to be OK EG – Anther. Highlighting exactly why the musical renaissance occuring in Melbourne right now is so exciting, this ticks all the boxes for me – deep, punchy and driving, it strikes a perfect balance between psychedelic synth exploration and functional club sensibility. A classic for years to come.”

Young Queenz – 神隱 Spirited Away


Selected by Eastern Margins “神隱 Spirited Away strips away the bravado to reveal another layer to YoungQueenz’ enigmatic persona. For us it’s the perfect antidote to 2020 – a diamond carved from the turbulence of this year. The album weaves together mythology, cantonese lyrics on fatalistic love and a production palette equidistant between boom-bap and Anime OSTs. It’s provided us hope for the year ahead – a rare moment of beauty in an otherwise pretty grim time. Just like the Miyazaki film the album shares its title with, YoungQueenz finds poignancy in the limbo between fantasy and reality.” Check YoungQueenz on Bandcamp here.

India Jordan – ‘For You’ (Local Action)

Selected by Bklava “This is almost impossible to choose. I’ve needed dance music more than ever this year to connect to that world and the community without being able to experience it in person. For me, India Jordan’s EP “For You” did just that. It came out during the first lockdown and it’s carried me throughout all of 2020. I’ve been supporting their tracks in all my radio shows and performances since seeing them play a wicked set at a Boiler Room last year. They are not to be missed and neither is this EP!”

Priori – ‘SCN’ (Dustworld)

Selected by Wormhole Wisdom “One of my favourite releases this year has to be Priori’s SCN EP on DustWORLD. Every track compliments each other so flawlessly throughout the record, something I think can be quite rare to come by. There are these incredibly deep soundscapes within the tracks, which owe as much to dub as they do to ambient and minimal. I find this record perfect for those dark late night drives through the winter but I can’t wait to hear them in the club too!”

Anunaku & DJ Plead – ‘032’ (AD 93)

 Selected by Madam X “Unfortunately, we were well into COVID lockdown by the time this came out, but I know it would’ve been making waves in all the club and festival circuits. Paying homage to old Jungle and UK Rave records, heavy on the claps and breaks, with Egyptian Mahraganat influences, it’s a real unique and electrifying release!”

Black Cadmium – ‘Chemistry’ (Naive)

Selected by Posthuman “Starting off with “Chemistry” and “Chain Reaction” bringing the early afternoon low-slung breakbeat house vibes, awash with dubbed out vocals – building up to “Everything” which is the call to the dancefloor, and rounding things off with “Sexy Acid” proper 3am acid rave fuel. If you could soundtrack a whole night from start to finish with one EP, this is it. Makes me long for the clubs to re-open.”

Mxshi Mo – ‘Phara’ (Self-Released)

Selected by Ahadadream “South African producer Mxshi Mo has released four wicked EPs this year to coincide with Bandcamp day. This one the first of the year, co-signed by the likes of Skream and Scratchclart. His work rate is insane and he has so much music in the pipeline including some really exciting collaborations which I can’t wait to see come out into the world.”

Alex T – Live at The Lion and Lamb (Pleasure Club)

Selected by Bobby “2020 has been a strangely eventful year and will be remembered for a lot of things. For me it will always be remembering the late, great Alex T. Alex had played for us at The Lion & Lamb in October ’19 and it was probably the best night we’ve had there. So much so that we booked him for our birthday celebrations at Fabric which would have been his first time at the club. After his passing we uploaded the live recording of that blistering set at The Lion & Lamb. It starts at full pace and doesn’t let up for one second. He was a phenomenal DJ with such a bright future ahead of him, as this mix will testify. RIP Alex T. A wonderful man and a shining star in our scene. You will live on in the music forever ❤.”

Daniel Rincon – Cowboys And The Sound Of Trains (Editorial Magazine)

Selected by CCL “In the absence of live club and music experiences in 2020, I’ve listened to more mixes than ever. There have been some very special, unique mixes this year—ones that have reaffirmed the importance of mixes/mixtapes as a medium for me. Of all of them, there is one that I have listened to more than any other, one that I have listened to frankly hundreds of times. This mix is so special, I have listened in every season, every situation imaginable, and somehow each time it ushers me to a new corner of the human experience.

Though I knew very few of the tracks when I first listened to it, I now know all the words of every song—a comfort beyond words. Daniel Rincon brings to life the cosmic, longing, and enduring nature of country and folk music, the ideal sound-track for a heartbroken drive (or ride for that matter) through your most intimate thoughts. I have cried to this mix countless times, it somehow feels perfect for the enduring longing, hope, sadness, and heartbreak we have been floating through this year.”

OK Williams – 21st May 2020 (NTS Radio)

Selected by Moxie “I’ve returned to this particular episode so many times this year, whether it be during the summer when enjoying the London sunshine, hanging out at the park, making dinner at home, or it soundtracking my journeys around the city. It really highlights the breadth of knowledge Ok Williams has when it comes to selecting music and knowing where to place each track. Even though this year has been a bit of a cluster fuck, this mix certainly isn’t & it’s one i’ll be returning to for years to come.”

RE:NI – ITPS057 (Ilian Tape)

Selected by Sicaria Sound Every mix re:ni puts together is incredible; she’s one of the deepest diggers we know. There’s dark undertones to this mix in particular whilst keeping it bouncy and moving along really nicely.”

LNS – Trushmix 153 (TRUSHMIX)

Selected by Mitch from Craigie Knowes “This year has been saturated in terms of mixes which has been welcomed given the global situation. I’ve gone with a trusted regular source of high-quality mixes. They were a staple in my weekly listening prior to this year and they will continue to be for as long as they keep putting them out. This Trushmix was put out at the start of the year and it got me so excited to play out and see other DJs play throughout 2020. This obviously didn’t happen but the mix warped into a large glimmer of light for me as a constant reminder we will get back to listening to amazing music, dancing with like-minded people in the near future. This mix is a perfect club infused mix that will get you excited for that next time you enter the dark energetic environments we all love so much. Finished with a lovely spaced out ambient jam to soothe your mind in what has no doubt been a chaotic year. Top!”

Mr Assister – Animix Seventeen (Animalia)

Selected by Adam Pits “Mr Assisters’ mix is full of amazing psy-orientated tracks which I have never heard before, and for a contemporary mix thats pretty rare for me. The mix is full of classy transitions and i’ve found myself listening to it almost every day.”

Nightwave – Live at Riverside Festival (Clyde Built Radio)

Selected by E.M.M.A. “Nightwave is an incredible DJ. She has done numerous mixes this year, any of which I could have picked, but this one from back in May was particularly memorable! Much needed relentless optimism beamed into my ears. I’d stopped going clubbing before the pandemic but this has convinced me to get back out there once we’re allowed to! Thank you Maya for keeping us going! Also s/o the festival for raising money for good causes in the process :)”

GiGi FM – Virgo Super Full Moon Ritual (Self-Released)

Selected by Anna Wall “I actually only discovered this recently but I’m so grateful I did. GiGi has delivered a beautiful, stunning and thoughtful expedition through ambient soundscapes that truly takes you to another dimension. I love that it’s inspired by the moon and the planets in relation to our journey, astrology interests me a lot and I like the idea of developing deep inspiring sounds that coexist with their movements. This is the ideal soundtrack for ceremony, meditation, manifestation and daydreaming, and listening to this on repeat has provided some momentary relief to the intensity of the year that we’re leaving behind.”

Darwin – ITPS051 (Ilian Tape) 

Selected by Madam X “Darwin’s Iliantape mix for me, has to be one of my favourites this year! The soundscape, progression, composition, arrangement etc – everything about it is so spot on, she takes you on a real journey. You can tell a lot of planning and crafting went into the mix.Hints of classic 140 taking you back to the golden days of ‘FWD’, with a load of bass-driven 130 techno stompers in the middle & some frenetic 160 to round off, it’s a real headsy, hoods-down affair – just what the Dr ordered in times like these. If you’re missing the clubs, this is the mix for you!”

A very, very special thanks to all the artists and labels who took time out to contribute: 

Adam Pits, Ahadadream, Anna Wall, Banoffee Pies, Bklava, Bobby, CCL, Control Freak Recordings, Craigie Knowes, Desert Sound Colony, Eastern Margins, E.M.M.A., FYI Chris, Hyperboloid Records, Kareem El Morr, Lisene, Loraine James, Madam X, Moveltraxx, Moxie, Pixelord, Posthuman, Sicaria Sound, Sneaker Social Club, Sorry Records, Wormhole Wisdom, Yazzus, Yazz Ahmed.

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