The Top 10 EPs of 2017
Here are the top 10 EPs of 2017, according to Crack Magazine.
Visit 2017.crackmagazine.net for more end of year coverage over the coming weeks.
Campo the Champ
Capo Lee enjoyed another dominant year on mic, peppering the grime landscape with a slew of releases and features including link-ups with Safone and long-time vibe supplier, Sir Spyro. His second EP of the year, Capo the Champ, landed as an end-of-year toast to said progression, hoovering up instrumentals from some of his favourite OG producers; J Beatz, Spyro, Silencer, and taking them to the cleaners. His relaxed, on-but-off beat flow is still a calling card, although Capo the Champ sees him bring more gloss to his hook-writing game and more depth to his lyricism. While there’s a palpable anger and grit in certain tracks (Dream, Frontin, D Double E collab Ching Bang Wallah), this is the North London MC’s most reflective record yet. One of the year’s essential grime releases.
Powder’s H was born of a dancefloor revelation. Swept up in Berlin’s Cocktail D’Amour party, the rising Japanese producer paid the carnal atmosphere of Discodromo’s night forward into her best release yet. If the cover art doesn’t sell you, the elastic and durable cuts on offer should. The four H tracks make up a set of subtle, slinky, springy groovers; a reduction of house music to its pleasure-centre core.
For those outside of Brooklyn, it seemed like Yaeji came out of nowhere this year. EP2‘s Drink I’m Sippin On swept through the internet, racking up 3.5 million YouTube views and hurtling the DJ and producer out of obscurity. Its success might be due to the strangely addictive chorus, where Yaeji repeats the phrase ‘it’s not that’ in Korean – hinting at identity, mystery, and self-absurdity, qualities explored from different angles across EP2. As the EP’s themes run from introspection at the club to life-giving bangers, what propels Yaeji miles ahead of other producers of smokey, hip-hop influenced house music is her deployment of vocals across a subtly disaffected sound, switching from clubfloor call-outs to angular Korean sung in whispers, all with a voice that’s softly defiant.
If Dave’s Question Time – containing some of the most eloquent political raps ever aired via mainstream radio – demonstrated his remarkable wisdom as a teenager, then the Game Over EP which followed it proved his fast-developing skill and versatility as a musician. Attitude and the effervescent MoStack collaboration No Words both showcase his Drake-like ear for earworm hooks and serene melodies. Then Question Time and How I Met My Ex show just how accomplished a lyricist he’s becoming and how assured he sounds of his own perspective. The latter might come across a tad cheesy to cynical listeners, but hearing a 19-year-old tell such an honest story of relationships in the age of subtweets against a piano part which he played himself is something that we should celebrate. A confident warm-up from perhaps the country’s most promising young rapper.
Fatima Al Qadiri
There’s often a politically-loaded conceptual arc to Fatima Al Qadiri’s projects. With Shaneera, Al Qadiri assumed the role of her self-prescribed “evil extreme femme alter-ego;” – who appears heavily made up on the cover art. The EP’s title refers to an English mispronunciation of ‘shanee’a’ – the Arabic word meaning ‘nefarious’, ‘foul’ and other such poisonous terms which has been reappropriated by queer communities in Al Qadiri’s native Kuwait to describe a powerful, gender-defying queen. Over five tracks, Al Qadiri aligns leftfield grime with traditional aspects of Khaleeji music to create an intense and original sound caked in theatrics and pomp. Shaneera was a release which generated intrigue with its daring concept, and inspired adrenaline with its relentless force.
Carla dal Forno
Blackest Ever Black
For The Garden, Blackest Ever Black patron Carla dal Forno expanded on the core traits of her 2016 LP You Know What It’s Like. Steeped in lo-fi synth arrangements and propelled by prowling bass, here dal Forno broods over tautening relationships and human interactions with her ghostly vocals. Many artists channel a similar sense of melancholic dread, but few can match dal Forno’s astute understanding of nocturnal moods. And while The Garden EP is a fleeting experience, dal Forno’s lush gothic environs provide infinite moments of explicit ecstasy.
Among the UK’s Afrobeats wave is Peckham-based artist Omo Frenchie, who’d racked up considerable YouTube numbers on tracks like Cele (with Naira Marley) and Makelele before dropping the accomplished D.I.T.D. EP this year via new label Cotch International.
Frenchie was born in Congo but moved to London as a baby. Having learnt French and Lingala as a means to connect with the country of his birth, he’s known to drop bars in those languages, and on D.I.T.D. he flexed his musical versatility: fluctuating between glowing dancehall on Chosen, four-to-the-floor beats on Bêtis and Telema, and sunset trap on the excellent Sauce featuring Suspect, whose yappy flow helped make the track an EP standout. Records blending styles from the UK and the African continent soundtracked London this summer, and while D.I.T.D. wasn’t the most commercial to do so, it was potentially among the best.
Whites 11 was a serious shot across the bow from young Glaswegian Calum McRae. In typical Whities fashion, the release came with standout artwork from Alex McCullough, this time a fully realised comic book saga about storm chasers. Which made sense twice over: the towering grandeur of Touch Absence swept through the summer, rinsed by everyone from Aphex Twin and Björk-sized stars to underground heroes like Objekt and Vladimir Ivkovic. But the EP had more to offer than its lead single. With two twin dancefloor tornadoes bookended by cinematic and finely-textured beatless pieces, McRae created his own world in 18 minutes.
Call Super + Beatrice Dillon
Fluo / Inkjet
For its 31st release, the ever intrepid Hessle Audio tapped two of today’s most adventurous figures in techno for a collaboration. Unsurprisingly, the results were sublime. Beat-driven Inkjet’s percussion had a deep, aquatic quality which gave it the feel of a recording made in a diving bell, outside of which we could hear alien textures and otherworldly sounds arriving from far away. On the B-side is Fluo, which began in a more ruminative mood with a mournful organ rumbling beneath wispy hi-hats. Over the course of eight minutes it slowly builds momentum, strained blasts of woodwind emerging, and elements of the piece near collapsing beneath their own weight as if they were caught up in gorgeous dub delay.
Harmony of Difference
Originally premiered as part of the Whitney Museum of American Art 2017 Biennial, Harmony of Difference is a six-part suite of startlingly suggestive music that explores counterpoint not just as a musical concept, but as ‘the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony’. You shouldn’t need prodding to realise the deeper significances Kamasi Washington is aiming to draw out of the counterpoint idea – politically and socially, this music feels needed right now. At no point however does Harmony of Difference sound hectoring or preachy – it’s a sublimely seductive, instantaneous delight from start to finish. The EP’s highlight Truth takes all the melodic ideas expressed in the other five tracks and melds them into 13 minutes of wonder. So confident does Kamasi’s band sound with the music they’re creating and, crucially, the ideas they’re coalescing, that this EP emerges not just as a coherent statement but a necessary statement of healing, beauty and honesty for an America in dire need of all three. Celebratory, compassionate and arguably Kamasi Washington’s best work yet.