At long last I get back to the blog to close out 2009.
Being backlogged as I am, I am including the last five months worth of full lengths in my possession. Year-ender lists to follow...
Here's what I rocked this summer/fall while on my numerous vacations trying to escape the nasty, hot sun:
Applescal-A Slaves Comittment (Traum)
Here's a tasty collection from young Dutch producer Applescal on the always out there Traum imprint. Thank god for Riley Reinhold is all I have to say. This album is a mature, full-figured look at the possibilities of techno in the electro-acoustic era. One of the top albums of the year in my book.
Nitin Sawhney-London Undersound (E1)
Sawhney has certainly progressed as a producer on his latest album London Undersound. No longer just confined to trip hop and drum & bass, the maestro stretches out here into the world of pop music with some surprising results. First off, Paul McCartney sounds credible-and that is no easy feat ladies and gentleman. But it's songs like "Last Train To Midnight" and "Charia Keshi Rain" that capture the essence of the album-the many facets of London life. Sawhney pays homage to A.R. Rahman, Massive Attack, and Goldie along the way with pleasing results.
Luciano-Children Of The Sun (Cadenza)
Superstar DJ/producer Luciano finally gets around to make a dancefloor collection album and it's a wait that has been well worth it. Children is a pop masterpiece with nods to classic Senegalese music, Philip Glass, Detroit techno and beyond. Luciano's mind seems as if it is filled with limitless amounts of imagination as this album goes off in every direction and still manages to hold together despite all of the opposing forces.
DJ Rupture/Matt Shadetek-Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture)
Finally a bass album worth getting excited about, but who'd expect any less from this illustrious pair? Technically a mix, these two twist and stretch these tracks into what could be considered entirely new material. Whatever your decision, the duo cover everything from skull crushing dubstep to aquacrunk, and even some deep Detroit influences as well. The results are refreshingly new and highly inspirational.
Radio Slave-Fabric 48 (Fabric)
It's nice to hear such a solid, no-nonsense DJ mix from Fabric and who better to turn to than Mr. Reliable-Matt Edward aka Radio Slave? There's a nice fusion of South American and Continental rhythms on here from cats like Spencer Parker, Remute, and Michel Cleis that have much in common with the Cadenza roster. Far from being a mere replay of last year's Luciano mix for Fabric, this one simmers at a low heat for a long time emitting copious amounts of deep, late night soul.
Dixon-Temporary Secretary (Innervisions)
No Radiohead this time from Dixon, thankfully. The Innervisions boss seemed so intent on making his 2007 Body Language mix for Get Physical so pop influenced that he forgot the groove in many parts. Not so on his follow-up Temporary Secretary. It's a shame that many of these talented producers think they need to go mainstream to get the market share they need/deserve but the reality is a strong focus on refining current processes seems to net better results both creatively and financially. Here Dixon regains the script, re-edits all of the material on here and creates a tasteful - albeit way too laidback - groove throughout. Ahhhh, consistency.
Rocktronica was definitely shown the exit in 2009 so I was surprised when I heard that Ralph Lawson of 2020Vision was unleashing a new album of band influenced electronic music - complete with real bass and drums. Unfortunately, some parts of this album rely way too heavily on dated rock references that only sound fresh to today's woefully unaware younger kids-think Jesus & Mary Chain, Chapterhouse, and/or the early 4AD label gliding over the same chunky beats that ushered out the indie dance era. However, on occasion things do get cooking on this album and that's when the Soundsystem begins to sound like Andy Weatherall's best work with Primal Scream- and in my book that's always a good place to be.
Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen-Inspiration Information (Strut)
Former WARP artist Jimi Tenor still remains an enigma to me, is this guy a straight up thief or skylarking genius? His latest collabo with Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen does little to answer that question but he manages to turn a bunch of long ass Seventies influenced instro jams (complete with flute solos) into the roiling chaos that marked Afrobeat's great contribution to the musical lexicon. Not too surprising considering Allen's commitment to rhythmic excellence over his long & winding career but quite a treat regardless.
Fool's Gold-S/T (Iamsound)
These guys have been an indie buzz band for most of the year, and usually I am suspicious of who these types had to blow to get that kind of attention-because buzz is generally NOT heaped upon the talented. However, for once the real deal got anointed because the LA-based Fool's Gold are the real effin thing. Imagine Kid Creole & The Coconuts having the career long vitality of the Talking Heads and then bashing that into the whole mid Eighties tribal thing ala Savage Republic-that's what these cats are all about. The songs are fun and for once eclectic is not a dirty word as they stretch out comfortably all about the great musical map.
Various-Get Physical 7th Anniversary mixed by M.A.N.D.Y. (Get Physical)
My wife and I have divided opinions on this one, she says she enjoyed the house grooves and found this to be one of the better dance music compilations of the year. I, however, found it to be a little tired and stale. The remixes of "Oh Superman" and "Take Five" are great for wowing your older relatives at Xmas time but are really effin cheesy otherwise. Let's just say I expected more from a label that also released an album by the Raz Ohara & the Odd Orchestra this year as well.
Various-Science Fiction Dance Party (B-Music)
For a lifelong crate digger such as myself, the idea of scoring a Don Bolles/Jello Biafra approved Beat Of The Traps style 45 from the Sixties is far more exciting than any hyped new release from DJ or band. And that is the precise reason why I've fallen in love with the newly launched B-Music label. The label pre-sifts all of those shitty Andy Williams albums and various other thrift store garbage to deliver me CD quality versions of its finds. The artwork is amazing and I've now realized that the Hammond B-3 organ was the proto-synthesizer of the era. The best part is that these finds came from Germany so bad English accents abound making the novelty factor priceless.
Harold Budd & Clive Wright-Candylion (Darla)
As an old school shoegazer fan I've always thought Darla was the business in terms of keeping the most authentic, droning portions of the genre alive. I became doubly stoked when I found out that ambient pioneer Harold Budd was releasing a new album on the label, his second with guitarist Clive Wright. The results were like a locked away late summer memory, too precious to be shared with others without wilting from the glare. Experience the tranquility of this masterpiece, yet another from the 76-year-old master Budd.
Danny Krivit-718 Sessions (Nervous)
One of the finest nights out I've experienced was with my wife's family a few years ago in San Francisco. The DJ of the night was Danny Krivit and his deep knowledge of records kept him in command of the crowd. Folks of all generations were getting down to his mix of disco, funk, soul, and house. I've never seen a DJ work such diverse crowd in such an authoritative manner and have had the deepest admiration for Krivit ever since. Here he collects a surprising amount of quality new cuts and strings a mix together that doesn't avoid the cliched trappings you'd expect from a Nervous comp but does have some decent footage for the highlight reel.
Brodinski-Bugged Out! presents Suck My Deck (New State)
French noob Louis Brodinski breaks from his fidgety leanings as a producer and drops a DJ mix of decent electro house and college boy minimal that held up to multiple plays without collapsing in like a house of cards. Part of that is due to decent cuts in the mix supplied by artists like Format: B, Lucio Aquilina, Paul Ritch, and especially Marco Bernardi's remix of Orlando Voorn's "The Beholder"-easily one of the year's better techno singles. Whatever shortcomings Brodinski has a producer certainly don't translate into the DJ booth.
Frankie Knuckles-Motivation Too (Nervous)
Granted, there's not much on this mix that totally blew me away but here's Frankie Knuckles- one of the inventors-over thirty years later still laying down credible mixes that have originality, depth and staying power. In comparison, few other genres of pop music (besides jazz) can present artists well in to their fifties who can still call themselves innovators. That, not the track selection, is what makes Motivation Too a classic.
Joakim-Milky Ways (!K7)
Heavy metal meets nu disco? As weird as it sounds, out there indie producer Joakim Bouaziz heads a few miles further into leftfield on Milky Ways. Like the ultimate in mash-ups he delves further into the rocktronica explorations he perfected on Monsters & Silly Songs. The techno and disco beats are still crisp which makes from some sincerely great dance music moments but the skronking Sonic Youth style guitars are just too much for me to handle.
Various-Six Degrees Ambient India (Six Degrees)
San Francisco world beat/electronica label Six Degrees has practically trademarked the global traveller series compilation making this trip to India a no-brainer. Slightly edgier than the similar Putamayo comps this one is still new-agey as hell but works in all the right places making for some top-notch downtempo cuts.
Miguel Migs-Get Salted Vol. 2 (Salted)
Usually this light San Francisco house stuff goes right in the discard pile. The Naked Music vibe is so played out I can barely stand it, but few DJs are in the same league as San Francisco's Miguel Migs. He's a musical guy and even when I think he's holding back, Migs is still able to lay down a convincing groove. That's the case here on his latest DJ mix for his own imprint Salted as he lays the cheese pretty thick-there's even some bad electro house to seal the deal. However, Get Salted Vol. 2 avails itself with energy, soul, and some insanely good vocal cuts. That's what I expect from Miguel Migs and that's a task he always seems up for as evidenced by this mix.
Deadmau5-For Lack Of A Better Name (Ultra)
Joel Zimmerman's debut album for US electronic music heavyweight Ultra Records is better than I imagined. But his costumed gimmickry and abundance of generic, riff happy ideas will prevent him from being the big breakthrough artist in North America that he so desires. I appreciate the fact that the Mau5er grew up listening to techno, here's hoping he makes some better tunes someday. There simply not enough good ideas so he chooses to make his zippy electro house sound just like everyone else's zippy electro house when the new ideas run out. Can anyone rescue this genre from the boredom coma?
There were some fun summertime old school jams that cannot be ignored very easily. I can imagine listening to parts of this album on a gorgeous early August afternoon car trip but there's also horrifying moments of cringing pain that range from Hall & Oates to the Eagles-and worse.... Aiyeee!