The 100 Greatest Australian Dance Tracks Of All Time
At the beginning of the year, the inthemix editorial team had a crazy idea. Why not pull together a list of the 100 greatest Australian dance tracks of all time? The logic seemed sound: It would be the perfect way to reflect on the history of our local scene. We’d get to shine a light on the DJs, producers and labels who’ve shaped genres and kept us dancing for the last few decades. Best of all, we’d get to celebrate and rediscover some seriously solid tunes. So for the last few months, we’ve been busy slowly bringing that idea to fruition. Now, we’re finally ready to share it with you in partnership with Rdio.
We knew we couldn’t put this list together alone, so we asked over 100 representatives of the local industry to send us their picks of the greatest Australian dance tracks. Participants included labels (Future Classic, Onelove, Ministry of Sound, Inertia and Vicious), cool crews (Astral People, Purple Sneakers and Starfuckers), agents and promoters (BBE, Vamp, Lucky Ent and Maker), industry bodies (ARIA), radio stations (triple j) and clubs (Spice Cellar and Elsewhere).
From there, we painstakingly whittled it down to the last 100 tracks, and let us assure you, finalising that list was no easy task. It meant sifting through thirty years of music, from the ‘80s songs that laid the foundations to the rave relics of the ‘90s, the breakbeat that was big at the turn of the century, mid-noughties indie-dance, D&B from Perth and more recent evolutions like the “Australian sound”. We’ve spent more time on Discogs this year than we have speaking to our families and we’ve had at least one raging office argument about what track should take #1. (It’s worth noting that international collaborations and remixes weren’t considered for this list. To make it in, each song had to be wholly Australian, meaning you won’t find the likes of Flume’s Disclosure edit anywhere here.)
In the end, we came out with a list that spans global radio hits, Berlin anthems, trance stadium-fillers and underground classics of all shades. The versatility of the final 100 is a testament to the enormity of Australia’s contribution to dance music: in the incubator of our isolation, we’ve been responsible for some remarkable touchstones in the history of electronic music. We’ve also produced some tremendous talents. It’s no coincidence that you’ll see some names pop up over and over on this list; we’re a small enough country that those with studio skills can expect to be called up again and again by their peers for new collaborations. That sense of tight-knit community is one of the Australian dance scene’s greatest strengths.
Will you agree with every song on the list? Almost certainly not. Did we miss a local track that deserves to be recognised? Probably. But we hope that no matter where your taste lies, you’ll come out of this feeling proud, patriotic and assured of just how great Australian dance music is. Because it really is a wonderful thing we’ve got going.
#100 TV Rock – Flaunt It [Bimbo Rock, 2005]
We know, we know: in 2015, you probably won’t catch DJs dropping Flaunt It in their sets. A noughties relic from the awkward era of Juicy Couture tracksuits and trucker hats, TV Rock’s chart-topper hasn’t quite re-emerged from the chrysalis of time as “cool”. We’ll also concede that between the sleazy lyrics and that truly unforgivable video clip – featuring the awkward dancing of a former Big Brother contestant, no less – the song isn’t without its cringeworthy moments. And yet its charm is undeniable, summoning the sort of wistful nostalgia only the best guilty pleasures do. Not to mention the fact that in 2006, the single went double platinum and took Ivan Gough and Grant Smillie to #1 on the ARIA charts. Give her another couple of years and we’d wager Flaunt It will be in vogue once again. [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#99 Nick Coleman – Faces of Meth [Suck Music, 2007]
Long-time Melbourne man-on-the-scene Nick Coleman produces for acts on Onelove and Sweat It Out, but this 2008 club smash on his own label Suck Music is probably his crowning achievement thus far, spending almost a year in the ARIA club chart and earning the appreciation of Carl Cox, who championed it internationally. Recently the track has had a renaissance of Melbourne bounce remixes, but the original is a super dark, top-shelf electro grinder custom-made for strobe-lit 4am dancefloors where it’s better to just keep your eyes closed and keep dancing than risk seeing the rough heads around you. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#98 Bexta – Make It Phunkee [Dance Pool, 1999]
Thanks to perennial Aussie soap Neighbours – where it’s been played six times – Make It Phunkee has had more mainstream exposure than most. Not that Bec Poulsen, aka Bexta, was overly thrilled the first time she saw it used. “It was so embarrassing what they’d done with it!” she told inthemix in 2014. “The funny special effects, the visual effects, making the lights flash because [Tad, then a DJ, had] taken a pill or something.”
The track itself was Bexta’s response to the ‘hoover’ sound dominating the rave scene at the time courtesy of tracks like Commander Tom’s Are Am Eye. The Make It Phunkee vocal was dropped in as a joke but it was the hook that lured Sony in, signing the track as one of the feature pieces on Bexta’s Skirmish Live EP release in 1999. It became not just a staple of her sets, including a national Big Day Our tour, but also provided her with an out-of-body-experience when Jumping Jack dropped it at one of the early Utopia parties. “As soon as the crowd heard the vocal they started shouting it,” Poulsen recalls. “I ran into the middle of the crowd and cried while a few thousand people went off to the track. I must have looked like an idiot!” [Kris Swales] Listen now on Rdio.
#97 The Aston Shuffle – For Everyone [Hussle Black, 2008]
Before The Aston Shuffle had a weekly show on triple j and two albums under their belt, they were a fresh signing to Ministry of Sound just itching to reach beyond their home in Canberra. For Everyone captured the energy of Australia’s then-thriving electro scene, connecting so strongly with the nation’s clubbers that the duo found themselves ranking sixth in 2008’s inthemix Awards after not even placing the previous year. The Aston Shuffle eventually topped our list in 2010 thanks to a bunch of other big tracks, and they continue to be relevant and fluid in 2015 thanks to an ethos outlined in our Headliner feature with them last year: “the second that you put out something that cynically jumps on some bandwagon, you lose anything special about you.” [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#96 Euphoria – Love You Right [EMI, 1991]
Euphoria’s piano house anthem Love You Right wasn’t the first Australian house track to trouble the top end of the mainstream charts – that honour goes to the Filthy Lucre remix of Yothu Yindi’s Treaty – but when it finally climbed to No.1 for a fortnight in February 1992 it was dancing in rarefied air. (We’re dismissing Melissa’s 1991 chart-topper Read My Lips as pop fodder for the purposes of this exercise.)
It came together when songwriter Andrew Klippel brought his love of Babyface and Jam & Lewis into the studio with DJ Ean Sugarman, himself neck deep in the sounds of Inner City and Snap. Sugarman’s DJ sensibilities dictated the 909 drum grooves, Klippel applied R&B-style chord changes, and a screaming diva topline to rival Black Box’s Ride On Time had Euphoria on a one-way ride to Hitsville.
They topped the charts again with subsequent single One In A Million but gradually faded from view, their last public outing a 1993 Hey Hey It’s Saturday performance featuring Jodhi Meares on vocals before Klippel “flew to England never to be in Euphoria again”. He’s gone on to work with artists from Human Nature to The Veronicas, while we’re contractually obliged to tell you that The Mentalist himself, Simon Baker, is cavorting topless in the Love You Right clip. [Kris Swales] Listen now on Rdio.
#95 Nervo – This Kind Of Love [Loaded Records, 2010]
Before they were mainstage regulars, Mim and Liv Nervo were songwriters-for-hire to pop’s biggest names. They earned a living penning hits for the likes of Kesha, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue, even crafting the topline that won David Guetta and Kelly Rowland a Grammy for When Love Takes Over. But in 2010 the Melbourne sisters took their first steps toward a solo career with This Kind of Love, a club chart hit so divorced from their current shade of EDM it’s almost hard to believe the song is theirs. The style might have changed, but those classic Nervo hallmarks – that build, the melody’s undeniable appeal – are still there, and the pair’s reputation as the most skilled ears in the game lives on. [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#94 Icehouse – Don’t Believe Anymore (Ivan Gough & Colin Snape remix) [Silver Star, 2005]
Eighteen years after Icehouse released their much-adored synth ballad Don’t Believe Anymore, Melbourne producers Ivan Gough and Colin Snape got their hands on the track’s stems thanks to a remix album called Meltdown. With the likes of Infusion, Sonic Animation and Peewee Ferris all contributing to the album, it was of unsurprisingly high calibre; but the understated details of Gough and Snape’s version made it the pick of the bunch. It might have been a very different song had only one of these producers taken to the remix, but luckily the hands-in-the-air energy of Ivan Gough’s progressive house style was simmered down by Snape, and what resulted was an unexpected and undoubtedly classic track. [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#93 Paul Mac ft. Peta Morris – Just The Thing [Eleven: A Music Company, 2001]
From the gospel intro to the tribal conga drums, driving bassline and diva vocals exploring themes of “love on the dancefloor”, Just The Thing takes a swathe of deep house and disco tropes and turns them into an indelible hands-in-the-air jam. What a hook, and what a voice; Paul Mac’s most commercially successful single is an all-time funky house belter that’s probably still getting thrashed on pub jukeboxes in regional towns (and how about those oversized early ‘00s sunglasses in the film clip?). [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#92 Ta-ku – We Were In Love [HW&W Recordings, 2013]
Ta-ku’s back catalogue is of such broad palette and depth that it’s hard to pick just one track to represent him on this list; but with his profile ever on the rise it seems right to select a highlight from the Perth producer’s most recent major release, Songs To Break Up To. In his own words, Ta-ku aimed for “low-slung emotional anthem vibes” with the EP, and We Were In Love perfectly captures that mood in a way that’s both intimate and theatrical. The track has undoubtedly helped many a lonely soul through a break-up and is just one of the iterations of Ta-ku that we’ve heard over the last seven or so years; from beat battles to re-twerks, Drive Slow tapes and Days For Dilla, Ta-ku has come a long way and we can’t wait to see what happens next. [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#91 Canyons – When I See You Again [Modular, 2011]
It’s not even close to being the oldest song on this list, but Canyons’ When I See You Again brings an air of wistful nostalgia that’s rare in such a dancefloor-friendly tune. That’s no surprise, however, when you look at the liner notes; Paul Roberts of 70s-era British band Sniff ‘n’ the Tears sung the main vocal on the song, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker laid down backing vocals on the bridge around the same time as the sessions for Lonerism. All of this was weaved beautifully into the studio work from Canyons themselves – let’s hope they make a return soon. [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#90 Elizabeth Rose – The Good Life [Inertia, 2013]
Lots of producers sing on their tracks, but few pull it off as well as Elizabeth Rose. Sydney’s true double threat married her two talents perfectly on The Good Life, her bright, shimmering, synth-y masterpiece about spreading the proverbial wings (did we mention she also writes the lyrics?). It’s a beauty of a tune and with her career still in its early days, you can count on Rose continuing to prick ears for years to come. [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#89 Anthony Pappa – Outback [Progrezo Records, 2008]
Anthony Pappa – Melbourne icon and progressive house legend – has become better known for his marathon sets and his talents as a mixer and selector of compilation albums than for his studio output. Within his epic vinyl collection there’s only a handful of tracks with Pappa’s name printed on the sleeve, but that’s because he’s always erred on the side of quality rather than quantity – and this 2008 trance-influenced slab of prog-house is one of those few highlights from Pappa’s erratic studio career. A pulsing peak-time weapon, Outback proves that Pappa is as potent in the studio as his oft-compared peer (and fellow sporadic producer) Sasha. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#88 Anna Lunoe & Touch Sensitive – Real Talk [Future Classic, 2012]
Anna Lunoe’s Real Talk EP saw a pre- Pizza Guy Touch Sensitive and an albumless Flume jamming in the studio with Lunoe before she embarked on her mission to conquer the States, crystallising a special moment in time for the now-legendary Future Classic label.
The release’s title track has proved the most enduring, still lighting up dancefloors in 2015 after it spent a month at the top of Beatport’s Indie Dance / Nu Disco chart three years ago, but for Lunoe it’s only been onwards and upwards since then. In between massive slots at US festivals and collaborations with the likes of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Treasure Fingers, the Sydney producer has had her tunes released on Ultra Music as well as Skrillex’s Nest HQ label. Regardless of how big things get for Anna, Real Talk will always live on as a classic. [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#87 Midnight Juggernauts – Into the Galaxy [Siberia, 2007]
Some time in the mid-00s, I recall seeing a very early incarnation of Midnight Juggernauts playing a tiny Melbourne venue to half a dozen people – just Vincent Vendetta and Andrew Szekeres thrashing out some heavy post-rock vibes. A few years later, joined by Lost Valentinos alumni Daniel Stricker on drums, they’d brought the funk to their indie-dance, dropped their debut album Dystopia and were playing a sold-out album launch at Sydney’s Metro Theatre for a moshpit of adoring indie fan-bros.
The 2006 track Shadows may have brought the band international attention from the likes of Kitsune, DJ Kicks and Fabriclive (as well as earning them a spot touring the world with Justice), but it was Into The Galaxy that was the real breakout hit from 2007’s Dystopia. With its hypnotic drums and synth groove, Vincent Vendetta channelling Bowie on the vocals and that sing-along chorus, it’s a feat of psych-dance greatness. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#86 Knife Party – Internet Friends [Earstorm, 2011]
After releasing a series of high-profile remixes throughout 2011, hype was high for this new Pendulum side project called Knife Party. The band would soon split, but Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen managed to push their self-proclaimed ‘seizure music’ to similar heights in very little time, and it all started with Internet Friends.
The track’s abrasive synths and absurd hook (“you blocked me on Facebook and now you’re going to die”) were the perfect combination amongst a sea of mainstage dance music that took itself a little too seriously. It’s a formula that the duo have stuck to ever since, with tracks like EDM Trend Machine and Micropenis keeping egos on the low and fun out front; despite their constantly scowling faces, the boys from Perth know how to throw a party. [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#85 Smart N Pocket – Kickflip Manual [EQ Recordings, 2002]
Smart N Pocket was a turn-of-the-millennium collaboration between two veterans of the Sydney electronic scene: Phil Smart, one of Australia’s most respected techno and progressive DJs; and Pocket, a.k.a. Sameer Sengupta, producer and engineer extraordinaire and the unsung sound genius behind the bass boom at many of Sydney’s most cherished parties, including Mad Racket.
It’s safe to say there’s no other track like Kickflip Manual: a punchy progressive-breaks banger, shading towards big beat, combining Smart’s trippy atmospherics, Pocket’s analogue wizardry, and spooky live guitar. It would be brilliant enough on its own, but it’s taken to another level with a raucous tribute to one of Smart’s other passions, skateboarding. The noise of the crashing boards, which are actual field recordings of Smart skating, and the sampled crowd noise and skating video commentator’s roll call of tricks give it a tough but hilarious edge. It was one of the gnarliest Australian tracks of the era – and as its release was limited, one of the most sought-after. [Jim Poe] Listen now on Rdio.
#84 Chable & Bonnici – Ride [Alternative Route Recordings, 2003]
Call it cheesy, call it dumb, call it overplayed…the fact is Ride was an absolute banger and it still is. Not the only time that Luke Chable and NuBreed worked together in the studio, but certainly the most well-known, Ride was the uplifting, fun, balls-out alternative to both collaborators’ usually dark, rolling and hypnotic releases. Instantly recognisable in the mix thanks to its unique percussion, it was almost impossible for a DJ to play this track without just about everyone in the room knowing it was coming, and the sense of anticipation this created only made that first breakdown sound even sweeter when it arrived. And then when it finally kicked into full swing with its ice-cream truck lead synth, overdriven saw bass and just generally party-starting vibe, it was game over. If that hasn’t sold you on it and you still need convincing, hunt down Sasha’s Essential Mix from Creamfields 2004 where he opens with Ride, and listen to the crowd reaction. [Andrew Wowk] Listen now on Rdio.
#83 Empire of the Sun – Walking On A Dream [Capitol Music, 2008]
In 2008, Australian dance music didn’t get much bigger than Pnau (save for a little record that The Presets knocked together), so when one half of the duo – Nick Littlemore – announced a collaborative album with The Sleepy Jackson’s Luke Steele, people were excited. Thankfully, the hype was justified, and soon the duo were touring the world with an elaborate stage show including some seriously shiny swordfish costumes. The album was called Walking On A Dream, and its shimmering title track became a staple on the dancefloor and the radio. With a music video that brought traditional Chinese costumes and architecture into the strange world of Steele and Littlemore, the song was always going to be memorable, but it’s turned out to be a classic. [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#82 MaRLo – Boom [A State Of Trance, 2013]
Melbourne producer MaRLo had already stepped up to join his trance brethren on the international stage by the time Boom was released in 2013, with a string of tunes out on Dutch powerhouse Armada and its A State Of Trance sublabel. Marlo Hoogstraten told inthemix he’d actually been preparing Boom – a record that packs no shortage of emotional punch – as a contender for the anthem at Armin’s ASOT600 tour that year.
While van Buuren ended up producing The Expedition with Markus Schulz as that year’s anthem, MaRLo had begun playing Boom in his own sets and it quickly took on a life of its own. With a breakdown that was pretty much born with a bloodline to feature in one of Armin’s sets, it was dropped by the Armada head himself on the Mexico leg of ASOT600, where it inspired its own variation of the “Mexican Wave” naturally christened the “Boomdance”. Trance history was forged, with a nice Australian touch. [Angus Paterson] Listen now on Rdio.
#81 Friendly – Some Kind of Love Song [1999, Silvertone Records]
Andrew Kornweibel wasn’t a debutant when Some Kind of Love Song crept onto the triple j airwaves in 1999 – he already had the 1998 Hello Bellybutton LP under his belt – but it was this dark, sinewy slice of downtempo electronica which brought the Friendly moniker to public attention. That ghostly vocal, sounding like it’s been sucked into the studio via some sort of hyper-compressed PVC piping, comes courtesy of Sia, then barely known beyond the fringes of Adelaide for her work fronting acid-jazz combo Crisp. It was something of a red herring for what was to come from both artists – none of the fun and frivolity of My Mother Was A DJ or Clap Your Hands here, folks – but set Friendly on course for a residency at esteemed London breaks night Chew The Fat, and Sia on a long, long journey to the music industry’s most unlikely superstardom. [Kris Swales] Listen now on Rdio.
#80 B(if)tek – Machines Work [Murmur, 2000]
Part art-project and part club-jams duo, Canberrans B(if)tek were one of the biggest forces in Australian dance for most of the late-90s, making the sort of clever experimental electro that scores Arts Council grants (their 2003 album Frequencies Will Move Together was written to research “the effect of low hertz frequencies on listeners”). These days Kate Crawford is a prominent researcher and lecturer in new media, while Nicole Skeltys has moved into making films and writing psych-folk music, but this Kraftwerk-inspired synth-jam Machines Work will stand forever as a tribute to ‘90s Australian dance ingenuity. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#79 Endorphin – Blue Moon [Columbia, 1999]
For me, it was Looking for Alibrandi that etched Endorphin into dance music history for all time. Blue Moon played as John Barton and co danced away the night at their year 12 formal, before Josie hitched a ride home to Sydney’s western suburbs on the back of a motorbike to debate class politics with her future boyfriend. Does it get any more iconically Australian? As it turns out, Endorphin – the one man project of Eric Chapus – originally hails from France, but with his roots long since in Cairns soil, we’re happy to claim him as our own. (Fun fact: Chapus first found fame as one of triple j’s Unearthed acts for 1996.) [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#78 Van She – Kelly [Modular, 2005]
Together with The Presets, Cut Copy, Lost Valentinos, Midnight Juggernauts and a swathe of their (now largely forgotten) descendants, Van She helped to usher in the Australian Renaissance of live-indie-dance that dominated the mid-00s. Kelly was the band’s first – and best – single, and a perfect pop gem; the simple bass line, the sunny earworm of a vocal hook, the pure ‘80s synths. These days keys and synth man Michael Di Francesco is killing it as Touch Sensitive, and he’s just teamed back up with former Van She frontman Matt Van Schie to do great things as Tear Council, but we’ll never forget Kelly. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#77 Dope & Dusted – Are U Jealous (Toby Neal Club Mix) [Hussle Records, 2003]
Are U Jealous began as a cornerstone track in the live sets of Brisbane’s Dope & Dusted, a funky house trio comprising Reekay Garcia, sax man Sharif and Patrick Brown (who later relocated to Los Angeles with metal band Devolved). First aired in 2003 at Gold Coast Sunday session Sobar – hosted by breaks outfit Vinyl Slingers and a very young Stafford Brothers – a demo found its way to the Hussle Recordings offices where it was promptly snapped up.
The 12-inch release led with Sydney gun Toby Neal’s Club Mix, which took the Rhodes keyboard melody and cheeky vocal sample and upped the jack factor. Neal road-tested the remix to perfection at his Tank residency, until he learned “there are only two types of people in this world; those who have lost their entire Hard Drive suddenly and those who haven’t”. His remix went with it, a deadline loomed, and so the version that tore up clubland was rebuilt from top to tail in a marathon 12-hour studio session. John Course featured it on his disc of Ministry of Sound’s Sessions One compilation, and Dope & Dusted got their golden ticket onto the national circuit. [Kris Swales] Listen now on Rdio.
#76 Flight Facilities – Clair De Lune [Future Classic, 2012]
Clair De Lune wasn’t the track Flight Facilities thought would go big. “We had no idea that it would be a single or something that would work on radio,” the pair told inthemix last year. “We thought triple j would be like ‘okay, we’ll play it once and then you’ll never hear it again’. But then it kept getting played.” It sure did – Clair De Lune reached Gold certification and climbed as high as #38 on the ARIA charts, the highest any Flight Facilities single has charted to date.
“I mean, we make pop songs, but that track was not meant to be one of them,” the pair’s Hugo Gruzman told us. “We make a whole lot of three and four minute vocal tracks and people are like ‘yeah this is fun’. Then you make one self-indulgent, eight minute almost entirely instrumental tune and that’s the one that hits the charts.” They shouldn’t have been so surprised: Clair De Lune is a beautiful song, especially when taken together with that bone-chilling video clip. [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#75 Mark Dynamix & Jaytech – Identify Me [Hussle Black, 2006]
Circa 2005 Mark Dynamix was one of Australia’s most successful DJs, and almost certainly Sydney’s hardest working. James Cayzer was an underage progressive house prodigy from Canberra on the cusp of greatness as Jaytech when he slipped Dynamix a demo CD with a Hotmail address on it at a gig in his hometown. “He emailed me and said ‘come up to Sydney and hang out for a few days and we’ll jump in my studio’,” Cayzer recalled to inthemix. The studio sessions were particularly prolific, producing the tech crunch of Destructor and Identify Me, which rolled out of clubs and across the triple j airwaves for much of 2006.
While the drum programming is straight out of the Jaytech production playbook, his proggier tendencies are reeled in by Dynamix here in favour of a tougher, more electro-flavoured aesthetic. “I wanted to write a track that fit somewhere between Alter Ego’s Rocker and Infusion’s Natural (aka Love and Imitation),” Dynamix recalls. Mission accomplished. Rumoured remixes to celebrate a decade since the track’s release are sure to get fans frothing. [Kris Swales] Listen now on Rdio.
#74 Evermore – It’s Too Late (Dirty South remix) [Vicious Grooves, 2006]
If there’s one track to define the electro house phenomenon that swept through Australian clubs and festival stages like a tsunami a decade ago, then this is probably it. Then-Melbourne dweller Dragan RoganoviÄ‡ AKA Dirty South had been toiling away throughout the ‘90s on bootlegs and mashups, but his remix of Evermore’s anthemic hit It’s Too Late was one of the first times those fledgling skills were put to professional use. Appearing on his self-titled EP for the Vicious label in 2006, it drew heavily on the melancholy guitar licks of the original but flipped its energy with that unmistakable slamming electro bassline.
It was an approach that eventually earned him the attention of the Swedish House Mafia abroad, and helped solidify the template for mainroom house that was so utterly defining for mass-appeal dance music. It actually sounds remarkably familiar to the template employed by David Guetta when he exploded in mainstream popularity five years later, and it’s a sound that just hasn’t gone away.
Dirty South went onto huge domestic and international success, but not before It’s Too Late wreaked a path of fist-pumping dancefloor destruction across the world. It earned the producer an ARIA nomination, Pete Tong nominated it as one of his ‘Essential New Tunes’ (the first time an Aussie record had earned the accolade since 1999 with Madison Avenue’s Don’t Call Me Baby), and it was licensed to over 30 compilations worldwide. [Angus Paterson] Listen now on Rdio.
#73 Frontside – Dammerung [Abducted Records, 1996]
Half a dozen tracks into the slowly-building first disc of Sasha and Digweed’s iconic 1997 progressive mix Northern Exposure 2, you’ll come across this prog-breaks classic by Australian duo Frontside, AKA Scott Simon and Chris Arkley-Smith (who later became a member of industrial antagonists Snog).
DÃ¤mmerung comes creeping in just after the pulsating Goa trance-influenced ambience of The Acoustic Hoods’ Cycles of Time, with its spine-chilling melody gradually taking hold and building in layers until the scattered breakbeats burst out and the track ebbs and flows beatifically into the apocalyptic Blue, by The Experiment.
For any track made in that era and genre – where late night progressive house met experimental breakbeat IDM and ambient – the highest possible accolade was earning a place on one of the Northern Exposure mixes; and Sasha and Digweed let DÃ¤mmerung play through for almost all of its seven-minute run time. DÃ¤mmerung – named after the German word for “twilight” – couldn’t be better titled, for the way it brings together a slightly spooky melancholia with hard industrial edges, and captures the sound of an era. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#72 The Presets – Girl And The Sea [Modular, 2004]
It could easily be argued that The Presets are the most powerful force in Australian dance music, ever. Three classic albums, at least 12 huge singles that even the most casual dance fan can sing along to, the first dance act to ever win an Album of the Year ARIA, and the first Australian dance act to tackle the main stage of mainstream Australian festivals like 2009’s Sound Relief: their influence can never be understated.
But back in the early ‘00s Julian Moyes and Kim Hamilton were just two talented Sydney Conservatorium students undertaking “cutting edge excursions into soundscapes of Post-Rave dub” as part of five-piece Prop. Then they disappeared for a little while before returning with a studio full of synths, some angular new haircuts, and this exquisite slice of melancholy electro-pop that got flogged by community stations like FBi and signalled the coming of 2005’s game-changing LP Beams.
The album helped resurrect Modular Records and – together with label mates Cut Copy, Van She, etc. – establish the “Modular sound” of ‘80s-flavoured electro played by live indie bands that ruled the mid- to late-00s. Hell, the track even got played on the decade’s definitive cultural touchstone The OC – to call The Girl and the Sea pivotal is an understatement: it was the birthplace of Australian indie dance. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#71 Late Nite Tuff Guy – I’m Going Outta My Head [House of Disco Records, 2012]
With so much house and techno production history as DJ HMC, Cam Bianchetti was never going to limit himself to standard edits in his incarnation as Late Nite Tuff Guy. Instead, his prolific output is marked by muscular reinterpretations of classics that blur the lines between disco and house while incorporating sneaky reminders of Cam’s techno past. 2012’s I’m Going Outta My Head is one of LNTG’s best tracks – a masterclass in nu-disco. It’s built around the 1986 proto-house classic Trapped by Colonel Abrams, the pleading vocal refrain providing a launching point for a dramatic workout featuring soaring strings and tasty 303 lines. [Jim Poe] Listen now on Rdio.
#70 Nubreed – Welcome [Zero Tolerance Recordings, 2000]
When the nu-skool and progressive breaks sounds were at their zenith, Melbourne trio Nubreed were one of a handful of acts internationally to successfully cross the streams. Welcome served as a statement of intent for the group, their first release doubling as driving force Mykel’s and longtime collaborator Jason’s official step out of the hip hop and funk they were raised on and into the world of breakbeat. They arrived there via electro and drum’n’bass and found a kindred spirit in Danny Bonnici, whose vocal dominates a dark, spacious musical backing on Welcome.
“Putting male vocals on a breaks dancefloor track in those days was kind of risky,” Mykel admits now, “but the fat bass drops and Danny’s soaring vocals welcoming you were undeniable.” Dropped on seminal Melbourne progressive/breaks/tribal label Zero Tolerance in 2000, the track quickly found favour with international heavy hitters of a similar musical bent – think Hybrid, Stanton Warriors and The Crystal Method – and duly got a re-run when their debut LP The Original arrived in late 2003. [Kris Swales] Listen now on Rdio.
#69 Groove Terminator – You Can’t See [Virgin, 2000]
GT struck gold twice on his 2000 debut album Roadkill with tracks using late-60s classic rock samples: the Let The Sunshine In-sampling One More Time and You Can’t See, which uses the bassline from Sympathy For The Devil – that Primal Scream also slowed down for Loaded – to build an insanely catchy beat over which to layer the best verses that spaced-out horrorcore rapper Kool Keith ever wrote (from his 1997 tune Plastic World).
Those opening bars – “Yo, I’m tired of looking at everybody. Same boots, skully hats in 90 degree weather, looking to get into clubs for free” – will be forever burned in the memory of fans around Australia; and then there’s the immortal film clip, a perfect tongue-in-cheek rebuttal to the (then) ubiquitous clip for Jason Nevins vs. Run-D.M.C’s It’s Like That.
GT’s 2002 follow-up Electrifyin’ Mojo yielded hits like Kid Dynamite but abandoned his hit-making template of sampling classic tracks in favour of recording all original material. As he said in an interview at the time, “It’s basically because I can’t afford to sample. It’s expensive… I don’t have three quarters of a million to throw at copyright fees.” At least we’ll always have You Can’t See, one of the all-time greatest fusions of rap bars, a classic rock sample and dance production. [Nick Jarvis] Listen now on Rdio.
#68 Vision Four 5 – Everything You Need [Volition, 1992]
From the duelling Adrenalin and NASA raves held at rival venues across Brunswick Street to the near-mythical Strawberry Fields outdoor parties, the mid-’90s Brisbane rave scene was heaving. Vision Four 5 – which at various stages featured Noel Burgess, Ben Suthers (who later took the reins of Big Day Out’s Boiler Room bookings), Tim Gruchy, Gavin Sade, vision mixer Al Ferguson and vocalist Lollie – were right there in the thick of it from 1990. Everything You Need had already been aired on the group’s 1992 EP Cyberphobia and 1993 album drop Texture on Volition before Burgess and Suthers added the acid-tinged hardcore sound that typified their side project AapogeE.
“One Sunday morning fresh from a night out, Ben tinkered with the mix and I joined in to do a ‘no holes barred – straight to the dancefloor’ version,” Burgess explains. “Twelve hours later it was there.” The Tragic Rave Mix became the signature version and by mid-1994 it was a rave-scene staple, taking the act across the country with the Big Day Out in 1995. When Burgess and Gruchy rebuilt their live rig in September 2014 to help launch the BNE retrospective compilation in Brisbane, a storming closing take on Everything You Need showed two decades have done little to dull its potency. [Kris Swales] Listen now on Rdio.
#67 Infusion – Spike (Morse mix) [Thunk, 2000]
One of the earliest releases in Infusion’s back catalogue, Spike was a strong statement of intent from the unassuming, Wollongong-bred trio of Jamie Stevens, Manuel Sharrad and Frank Xavier. Although they had previously released a couple of big, uplifting acid trance tunes that were well-received by ravers, Spike was the turning point in their career. One of local label Thunk’s biggest releases ever, the track perfectly encapsulated the group’s reinvention of their sound into an unstoppable behemoth of dark, throbbing, techy filth, which came as a fresh, subtle alternative to the over-saturation of floaty, uplifting progressive house of the time.
Underground dancefloors – especially those in Melbourne – were ready for something more hypnotic, twisted and gritty, and Infusion delivered. However, there was still an accessible, playful edge to the tune (mostly thanks to their previous success as a rave act), which made it a perfect gateway track for punters wanting to explore the murkier, darker side of tech and progressive house without diving head first into its most monotonous depths. With its pulsating, wobbly bassline, chopped-up, funky chords, mechanical percussion, quirky acid stabs and memorable horn samples, Spike balanced serious, heads-down groove with catchy, likeable hooks to excellent effect. [Andrew Wowk] Listen now on Rdio.
#66 Phil Smart – Squirt [Dance Pool, 1995]
Phil Smart was one of the top DJs on Sydney’s rave scene for much of the hazy crazy daze of the ‘90s. Known for his unique talent for crafting a musical journey and his ceaseless quest for the next level of visionary dance music, he commanded a passionate following in Sydney, toured the world and was named in DJ Mag ’s Top 100 twice. When, in the mid-’90s, he turned his impeccable ear to production, sure enough he unleashed some wicked progressive house and acid. He’s still rocking parties to this day, and still turning kids on to new sounds 25 years after he started.
Squirt, released in 1995, is early-period Smart at the height of his progressive powers, in a mode influenced by the likes of Leftfield and the Future Sound of London, not to mention his frequent treks across the Pacific to his birthplace in California to play and vibe with the West Coast massive. It’s just the kind of track that would have been big at outdoor parties from Sydney to San Francisco in that era, a swirling analogue anthem coloured by feral acid lines, chunky organ riffs, cinematic strings and funky percussion. [Jim Poe] Listen now on Rdio.
#65 What So Not – Touched [Sweat It Out, 2013]
Sydney’s Flume and Emoh Instead collaborated as What So Not for four years before being brought to a turning point in February 2015, leaving Emoh to push forward with the project solo. But they left a bunch of big tunes in their wake, of which Touched is the most noteworthy.
The track first started coming together years before its release, during the duo’s very first session together in Flume’s bedroom studio. When it did finally find its way to SoundCloud, Touched came with a message of perspective from Emoh Instead: “We reflect on how much has changed and how much is still the same. From my 9-5 desk job to now writing music and DJing around the globe. From his bedroom ambitions to being at the forefront of dance music subculture. We’re still two young dudes that love the ocean, hanging with our friends in the city we’ve grown up in, and hunting for things that inspire us.” It’s a nice sentiment and a really whopping track. [Sandro Dallarmi] Listen now on Rdio.
#64 ShockOne – Polygon [Viper Recordings, 2009]
Perth reigns as Australia’s undisputed bass capital, so it makes sense that one of our best ever D&B tracks comes out of WA. Because while Karl Thomas has given us plenty of production worth remembering over his ten year career, it’s Polygon that still burns the brightest. “That song was a real breakthrough for me,” Thomas told us in 2013. “For some reason it connected with people and I’m forever thankful for that.” All the better that Thomas’s story dates back to “Xygen”, the high school metal band he formed with two guys called Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, AKA the superstars behind Pendulum and Knife Party. What’s in your water, Perth? [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#63 Motez – Ride Roof Back [Food Music, 2013]
In his now famous Facebook post about the homegrown producers killing it on the world stage – the same one that spawned the term “the Australian sound” – Flume singled out Motez as one of our names-to-watch. Two years later, Iraqi-born, Adelaide-based Motez Obaidi has more than delivered on that promise. Not that he’s a Harley Streten wannabe; rather, Motez has carved out his own signature blend of house and bass and rightfully won international love from cool crews Dirtybird and HARD along the way. Ride Roof Back was the track Flume shared with the globe and it sticks out as one song from Australia’s new wave of electronic stars that will, undoubtedly, stand the test of time. [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#62 Will Sparks – Ah Yeah [House of Fun, 2012]
Whatever Melbourne bounce became after this, there’s no denying the cultural impact of Ah Yeah. It was the track that gave rise to a new genre – one that would put Australia on the world stage, thanks to love from internationals as big as Laidback Luke and Steve Aoki – and perform the rare feat of bringing music born out of and made for the clubs onto the charts. Heck, bounce even became a fixture on commercial radio.
It’s telling that one of the first places you’ll find Will Sparks’ breakthrough track is on a YouTube channel called “Melbourne Underground”, because hard as it is to believe now, bounce was once far from the popular sound in a city known for its indier-than-thou cool. Then Ah Yeah shot to #3 on the Beatport overall charts, Calvin Harris and A-Trak started playing it and Will went from “hardly getting gigs in Melbourne” to getting booked every weekend for shows around Australia and, soon, the world. The rest, as they say, is history. [Katie Cunningham] Listen now on Rdio.
#61 Tornado Wallace – Circadia [ESP Institute, 2014]
Melbourne’s Tornado Wallace is one of a growing number of DJs and producers from Australia’s house underground to turn heads on the world scene, with releases on labels like Delusions of Grandeur and Instruments of Rapture, remixes of the likes of Recloose and Matthew Dear, and the nod from tastemaking jocks like Andrew Weatherall and Tim Sweeney. He’s famed as one of Australia’s rulers of the slow and low, early-morning midtempo vibe with his narcotic fusion of house, disco, techno and progressive.
Circadia was only released six months ago, but this organ-drenched tribal-deep stomper belongs on this list next to the all-timers for a couple of reasons. First of all, we’re entering a golden age for house in Australia and this is the cream of the crop: so much more melodic, unpredictable and thrillingly creative than most product in that bastard genre known as “deep house” gets. Secondly it just sounds like a classic: with its unabashedly progressive vibe and expansive, multicultural sonic palette, it’s a reminder of those days when dance music was continually opening a world of possibilities – it’s something you can imagine Phil Smart playing at a rave in 1994. For Wallace and his generation, these are the days. [Jim Poe] Listen now on Rdio.