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Best Of 2012: The Year's Dopest LAYERS

We picked apart a lot of sounds this year. Here are the best in the lot.

Every year, sound tools get more powerful, more versatile, and more ubiquitous, and 2012 was no exception. Not only did we see new ways to control sound, now possible without even touching anything, but we witnessed new ways of creating and manipulating recorded sounds that we never imagined could be processed into music.

Through the LAYERS column that we started earlier this year, we got to take a closer look at the sounds being created by producers from all over the world in all styles, utilizing the processing capabilities of new software technology like Ableton Live as well as classic synthesizers, making for some of the most interesting sounds to heard in electronic music to date. Of the 36 artists and over 200 sounds that we dug into over the course of 2012, these are our favorites.


For the last time in 2012, let’s dive in!


Beginning with a clarinet sound, Spills chopped and crushed until he arrived at this gloomy woodwind sound that sounds like it’s emanating from the spookiest back alley you’ve ever seen. Check out his phenomenal 2012 album Feel Free here. [LAYERS: Spills]

Sahy Uhns

Hailing from the synth-addicted Proximal Records crew, Sahy Uhns embedded this gem deep in the composition of “Ice Plant/Newly Destitute” off his 2012 debut An Intolerable Disdain Of Underlings. [LAYERS: Sahy Uhns]

Tomas Barfod

Brafod’s single “Broken Glass” has a whole lot of layers to it, and this sound mainly supports some of the others in the mix. However, on its own it has an awesome neo-Philip Glass vibe that’s just so charming. [LAYERS: Tomas Barfod]


Off one of my favorite thematic albums of the year, the space-tinged 20000 Years From Tomorrow, this sound is a perfect representative of the dark love song it was lifted from. [LAYERS: LooseScrewz]


Though in the actual track it contributes to a pure hip-hop composition, this slightly delayed glockenspiel sounds ostensibly holiday-themed, doesn’t it? That’s why it’s here. Happy [insert holiday or lack thereof here]. [LAYERS: Lushlife]


There’s been a lot of new jack swing out there in 2012, but none quite as dope as Benedek’s collaboration with the legendary Dam-Funk, and this little doodly-doo was the icing on that track. [LAYERS: Benedek]


Mike Gao

Mike Gao has shown us quite a bit of his self-invented arsenal, and while a lot of the theory behind it all is over the average head, hearing something like this gives us an idea of what he’s doing on the control panel of his spaceship. [LAYERS: Mike Gao]

Fancy Mike

Though he’s recently taken on a more more retro style with his latest, Mary B James Album, this track from Fancy Mike is one of my favorites and it was a true pleasure to hear this ambience in full form on its own. [LAYERS: Fancy Mike]

Supergalactic Expansive

No one does vocal processing quite like KiloWatts can manage with Amagine’s vocals. When you hear it with the beat, everything sort of melds together, but it’s really sweet to hear the vocal isolated along with all its effects. The future of hip-hop? Only if people don’t continue to get stupider. [LAYERS: Supergalactic Expansive]


Disasterpeace did an amazing thing on many levels when he remixed his own soundtrack for the game Fez, and this hell sound was a major highlight. He created it by reversing, bitcrushing, and gating a much more conventional sound. [LAYERS: Disasterpeace]

That’s it for 2012! See you next year with lots of awesome new artists breaking down their tracks in the LAYERS column!