Big Shot Contributor Year-End Chart: Sean-Michael Yoder
1. The Orb / The Dream (Six Degrees)
It was nice to see Alex Paterson and Youth team up again after such a long split. While they didn’t do anything earth-shattering on The Dream, it was still nice to hear the Orb doing it like they used to do back in the old days again.
2. I’m Not A Gun / Mirror (Palette)
This album from John Tejada and classical guitarist Takeshi Nishimoto was one of the year’s finest moments. Mirror is a techno slice of Tortoise if you will allow me the comparison. The only thing that kept this album out of the number one slot was the absence of any discernable pop hooks, which were aplenty (perhaps too aplenty) on the Orb album.
3. Catz N Dogz / Stars Of Zoo (Mothership)
The latest for Dirtybird offshoot Mothership comes from Poland’s Catz N Dogz who took their stiff Eastern European minimal leanings, albeit considerably toned down, and merged them with a more organic San Francisco house music groove for an album that can truly be described as tech-house.
4. Copyright / Voices & Visions (Defected)
These guys do the tough NYC urban house vibe so well that I was floored to discover that Copyright are a duo of white kids from the UK. These guys have the old King Street sound and mid ’90s Tribal America sound down so well it’s scary. Even beyond the obvious success of “He Is” Copyright seems absolutely loaded with dynamite house tracks spanning afro beat to hip-house.
5. Butch / Papillion (Great Stuff)
Great Stuff sounded a Bavarian warning shot off of Berlin’s bow in 2008 thanks mostly to the sterling Papillion album from Bulent Gurler (aka Butch). Don’t worry there won’t be brown shirts in Berchtesgaden again anytime soon but Papillion did bring more Swiss and Austrian deep house and melodic minimal vibe to the table than your average Cocoon or Bpitch Control release did marking a possible new era in German techno. That alone qualifies this album for the number five spot on this list. A second disk companion of Butch mixing together his growing roster of remixes for other artists not only sealed the deal on this one but was one of the better mixes to come out of an otherwise lackluster year.
6. J-Boogie’s Dubtronic Science / Soul Vibrations (Om Hip Hop)
J-Boogie is the DJ’s DJ and an inspiration for everyone who grew up back in the ’80s and started out as a mobile sound system jock. His second album for OM was a continuation of this mobile mentality with Boogie whipping together a strong elixir of hip-hop, disco, house, downtempo, funk and dub that somehow simultaneously made me feel like I was 12 again at the roller rink skating to my favorite jams and spending the night at some illegal party in the Bay.
7. Guy J / Esperanza (Bedrock)
John Digweed was an enigma to me in 2008, his Transitions 4 mix was absolutely the worst offender of the no trance doctrine I enacted in 2008, but his label’s ten-year anniversary compilation was nearly good enough to make the year-end list. And then there’s Guy J, whose Esperanza was critically panned by nearly everyone but me. To me this album was a throw back to those old Jedi Knights compilations with a focus on wrapping the listener in warm cotton as they float in deep space. There were only a couple of dance floor tracks on here and everything else was rich, luxurious melody heaped upon what can only be described as mutated Israeli psy-trance frameworks. No surprise since Guy J hails from Israel but it did allow him to make electronic music that didn’t fall victim to the typical Euro trappings that usually make albums like this virtual ear poison to me.
8. Lindstrøm / Where You Go I Go (Smalltown Supersound)
Lindstrøm is probably more of an indie rock darling these days than a dance floor maven but few indie rock bands noodle around on tracks that last for nearly thirty minutes while DJs like Ricardo Villalobos and Sven Väth took those Grateful Dead like hippie jam band aspirations to desperately new lows in 2008. So in that way Lindstrøm owes more to the dance music world than those other guys and man are the songs long on this one. Where You Go I Go sounds great after a few thousand bong loads but beyond that be prepared to sit through endless hours of arpeggiated synth lines. Whoopee!
9. Black Ghosts / Black Ghosts (Iamsound)
See my review of the Simian Mobile Disco Fabric mix for my feelings on this one. Not surprising considering former Simian vocalist Simon Lord makes-up one half of the Black Ghosts along with Theo Keating of the uber-irritating Wiseguys. This album was more infectious that SARS but thankfully far less painful.
10. Hercules & Love Affair / Hercules & Love Affair (DFA)
I definitely wanted to save this last spot for something a little more mainstream since I listen to so very little of it, but I think it is important to look back at something a little more commercially viable to help define 2008 as a whole in terms of what “we” were listening to. I just wasn’t feeling the Portishead or the Radiohead albums but I can’t say that I was ever a fan of either. Overall, I thought this album and also Los Angeles by Flying Lotus were the two strongest contenders. This album for me was just plain fun like an old B-52s album but managed to find moments of deep somberness nestled snug in all of that dance floor giddiness. Hercules & Love Affair was like listening to Patti Smith make an album with Nile Rodger and that’s gotta motherfuckin’ count for something!
Okay, I didn’t really think that What We Do Is Secret was a great film but the fact that someone finally made a movie about the Germs is cause enough for a celebration hence a special mention for a so-so film.
Top Mixes and Compilations
1. Luciano / Fabric 41 (Fabric)
I absolutely get the chills each time I hear Los Updates’ “It’s Getting Late” plus this mix had the best usage of Johnny D’s ubiquitous “Orbitalife.” There wasn’t a lot to be thankful for in 2008—musically or economically—so on that note the two aforementioned qualifiers alone will have to be enough this year to give Luciano my number one spot this year.
2. Justin Martin / Chaos Restored 2 (Buzzin’ Fly)
At this point I am totally over the farting bass sounds of Dirtybird, and while SF’s Justin Martin will be forever linked to that scene, he makes some impressive leaps here in creativity including his own “My Angelic Demons” that vault this one solidly into the second slot.
3. Mark Knight / Toolroom Knights (Toolroom)
Mark Knight’s Toolroom imprint was responsible for some of the year’s best commercial UK house tracks by hugging the line between cheesy progressive sounds and good old fashion house music. Here Knight reflects the dichotomy of his label so well with sounds that are sometimes bombastic and overblown while other times soulful and sublime.
4. Various Artists / Buzzin’ Fly-5 Golden Years In The Wilderness (Buzzin’ Fly)
It was nice to get a three disk collection from Ben Watt’s amazingly consistent imprint Buzzin’ Fly that culled together the label’s finest moments. The first disk scanned the parade of singles that have controlled dance floors around the world the previous five years while disk two checked in on the label’s downtempo and home listening leanings as a counterbalance. Disk three looked into the slew of singles that landed later in 2008, which all delivered great remixes. But on their own, I found the new material to be wrapped far too much up in their own elegance.
5. Behrouz / Pure Behrouz NYC (Nervous)
My wife is still arguing vehemently that this mix was far too trancy for any serious consideration in my year-end poll. Somehow I was able to look past those fluffy hands-in-the-air moments that litter both disks of this mix to find a wonderful tale of new and old from King Street Sounds to Joris Voorn being stitched together by a masterful Behrouz on this one.
6. Argy / Focus On (Poker Flat)
Poker Flat has to be another one of the more consistent imprints of 2008 (of which there were far too few), and Argy is certainly one of the label’s rising talents. This collection of remixes drag in spots by getting way too proggy, something even established talents did far too much of this year in some perverse hope that commercially appealing epic trance was going to burst once again upon the scene this summer I suppose. The good news is that when Argy hits especially on cuts like “Love Drops” or his remix of Ryo Murakami’s “Down The Sky” he’s among one of the best techno producers in the world.
7. Simian Mobile Disco / Fabriclive 41 (Fabric)
This mix was infectiously catchy like Hanson…or herpes. Either way, there’s no way I should have liked something this glaringly cheeky and yet I loved every second of it and couldn’t stop listening to it for months. I guess in retrospect that this was a great mix.
8. Ellen Allien / Boogybytes Vol. 4 (Bpitch Control)
Ellen Allien is way too inconsistent as a DJ for me to consider her one of the greats. I saw her live with Modeselektor on their US tour this year and felt like she had some great tracks in the box but a poor notion of how to read a crowd and play those tracks. I assumed the less than stellar programming was more a symptom of jet lag rather than a skills deficiency but this disk is actually more of the same so I am left wondering. Allien’s mix is thick with amazing tracks but they are mixed all wrong and in the wrong sequence, which means Boogybytes Vol. 4 could have been so much better than it was.
9. Robert Hood / Fabric 39 (Fabric)
I love Robert Hood, I love Underground Resistance, and I love real minimal techno from Detroit. This was a no-brainer for me. About the only thing wrong with this mix is that I am getting too old to listen to 135+ BPM techno on a regular basis. That’s not Hood’s fault, hell that guy is even older than me and works on an assembly line in Alabama. My life as a cloistered journalist pales in comparison so any complaints about Hood’s mix scoring higher in the poll should be directed to the reviewer and not the DJ.
10. Sasha / Invol2ver (Global Underground)
Again, way too many progressive moments for me to rank this any higher than number ten but Sasha and Charlie May of Spooky do an amazing job of remixing artists as far removed from dance music as I thought possible like Ray LaMontagne. Despite all of the complex layering, textures, and melody this is still a DJ mix and Sasha hammers that point home with no confusion by mixing Ladytron’s peak hour bomber “Destroy Everything You Touch” with the fragile subtlety of M83’s “Couleurs.” Not bad from a guy I consider the poster boy for crappy trance.
1. Kyaro / “Vortices” (Fade)
Chris Fortier provided me my first taste of the genius that is Auralism in 2008, and this one from his imprint featuring Auralism’s Jason Short and Hac Le was the darkest, techiest mofo yet and it came out of the US! “Vortices” almost saved this year from sucking.
2. Johnny D / “Orbitalife” (Oslo)
Other than the fact that everyone on the planet championed this one it is still a strong indicator that minimal might be on the decline with more of an emphasis on abstract mode house replacing those sparse techno rhythms. This track was all that and more and just simply lovely in a way that you just couldn’t ever get enough of.
3. Elon / “Snorting Pinky” (Justin Maxwell Remix) (Auralism)
I love Justin Maxwell and NYC’s Elon has become a new favorite now too. These two go together like peanut butter and crackers and helped to define Auralism as a new label worth trusting on this one.
4. Mark Knight & Funkagenda / “Shogun” (MK & Funkagenda’s Trusty Djembe Dub) (Toolroom Trax)
I’ll be the first to admit that the “Do you remember your first time?” vocal hook is about as lame as they come but every time I played this one the crowd went nuts no matter where and when I played it. The rolling djembe pops certainly do a lot of the work but this is a damn fine slice of house music from any perspective.
5. Justin Martin / “My Angelic Demons” (Buzzin’ Fly)
This one does have farting bass noises but it also has some minor key melodies and a slight break beat hitch to go with an otherwise funky house track by the numbers. I’ve begun to realize that Martin’s knack is making the seemingly mundane exciting again and that’s what this track is all about.
6. Spoon, Harris & Obernik / “Baditude” (Toolroom)
Sam Obernik of “It Just Won’t Do” fame returned again this year with a sassy vocal cut that was both fucking irresistible and annoying. The lyric itself reminded me of times that I’ve spent with real life publicists in this business. Add a nice pseudo-Balearic feel and this one of the more popular request tracks I played this year.
7. Rocha & Lewinger / “Down Seq” (Marc Ashken’s Back To The Booty Remix) (Great Stuff)
For some reason this track reminded me of something old by say Ron Trent or even Armando. Simple assembly line techno with a squiggly Wild Pitch bass line and yet it was totally German in every way. My new favorite remixer Marc Ashken takes this one to a whole new level with a dark and sinister anti-religious diatribe against the Church of Scientology making it the “R U OK” of 2008.
8. ADNY / “Under My Skin” (Ransom Note)
I am of the opinion that Adultnapper is a seriously pretentious artist cut from the cloth of Julian Schnabel and have found his work to be neither exciting nor imaginative despite the heaps of hype. I am sure many would disagree with me but I am also sure few of those folks would argue with the high quality of Alexi Delano’s work with Adultnapper. This one for his Ransom Note imprint is late night dark techno the way I like it with just an infinitesimal hint of melody with a minor chorded Moog line and tracky modes that recall a futuristic Sun Ra calling deep space.
9. Marshall Jefferson / “Mushrooms” (Justin Martin Remix) (Plastic City History)
The original version of this classic on Airtight has to be one of my favorite house tracks of all time. For me it’s something that the crowd at my residency instantly can get their groove on to on even the most off of nights. For Justin Martin to literally re-invent this anthem and make into something bigger and better seemed totally implausible to me but somehow he did and now I love this track even more than I ever did before.
10. Milton Jackson / “Never Be Wrong” (Dark Energy)
There are some of you who will surely roll your eyes at this obvious pick due to the now seeming overabundance of filter sweeps and deep house dubbiness in many of this year’s more popular tracks. The main culprit responsible for this trend was Milton Jackson with strong assists from both Spencer Parker and Jerome Sydenham. However, “Never Be Wrong” was certainly no imitator but rather an original chunk of house deliciousness.