BEST ALBUMS OF 2004
AMMONCONTACT, One in an Infinity of Ways (Plug Research; plugresearch.com): Carlos Nino and Fabian Ammon make underground hiphop for heads who buy everything on Soul Jazz Records. These Cali bros alchemize big-afro'd funk and astral jazz into tight bundles of groove mysticism. Roll over, Pharoah Sanders, and tell Madlib the news.
BEANS, Shock City Maverick (Warp; warprecords.com): Beans is a phallocentric intellectual, getting complexly sexual on the mic. His delivery's more rhythmic than a lot of drummers; his drumbeats flow with more panache than a lot of MCs. The former Antipop MC/producer's third solo joint of minimal, electro-funk futurism scalds you with a burning urgency. Maverick is what's playing in the VIP room of the "next level."
BOREDOMS, Seadrum/House of Sun (Warner Japan; wmg.jp): "Seadrum" is a phantasmagorical percussion ritual replicating a mercilessly whipped Four Horses of the Apocalypse's hooves. Eventually some vertiginous piano runs swirl in as if from an MDMA'd Alice Coltrane. Drummer Yoshimi wondrously chants throughout. The buzzing tamboura drones, deep gong resonances, and "Eight Miles High" guitar of "House of Sun" will convince even godless SOBs that there is a Heaven.
DACM, Steréotypie (Asphodel; asphodel.com): Pita (Mego boss Peter Rehberg) and Tujiko Noriko sojourn to the furthest reaches of interstellar space (and the computer-music lab) on this surprising collab that sounds like neither artists' own output. Steréotypie is all quasar pulses, grinding dirges, and mischievous analog/digital frequency-goosing--in other words, planetarium musique extraordinaire. The two icy, Björk-like torch songs with Tujiko's coy cooing to the fore keep you nicely off-balance.
MATTHEW DEAR, Backstroke (Spectral Sound; spectralsound.com): Rising Detroit microhouse star Dear graced XLR8R's latest cover as one of its artists of the year and Backstroke played a large role in that honor. Taking Leave Luck to Heaven's poppier leanings to murkier, more tribal-inflected territory, Backstroke at its best recalls Porter Ricks' sea-of-molasses house, Surgeon's steroidal Latin-shuffle techno, and mutant disco. Dear's two pounding, saw-toothed 12s he released as Audion are essential, too.
KLIMEK, Milk & Honey (Kompakt; kompakt-net.de): Most of Milk & Honey sounds like slide-guitarist wiz Ry Cooder twanging poignantly on the moon's dark side while a team of microsound producers intently forges blissful drones behind him. This is unfathomably deep, beautiful ambient music, straddling past and present, inducing tranquility and portentousness. Milk & Honey is for listeners who want to luxuriate in languid, spectral guitar tones rippling into cyberspace's farthest reaches. It's the sound of a heart breaking in slow motion.
PAN SONIC, Kesto (234:48:4) (Mute; mute.com): This monumental four-disc box set presents all of this Finnish duo's compelling facets in under four hours. Kesto's first two discs abound with some of the most menacing, minimal, and mesmerizing techno and electro you'll ever hear. CD 3 indulges in patience-testing musique concrete and isolationist ambience, while the fourth disc offers 61 minutes of transcendent, celestial drones à la Henry Flynt and Pauline Oliveros. This is how the Italian Futurists would've made techno if they grew up in a frigid, isolated place and had access to sine-wave generators and analog synths. Stunning.
BRUNO PRONSATO, Silver Cities (Orac; orac.vu): I'll keep saying it until you beaters start believing: Bruno Pronsato is making some of the most challenging techno in the world. Intellectually stimulating while still able to move small children and wild beasts on the dance floor, Silver Cities is a fecund conjugation of microhouse legerdemain and 12-tone sonarchitecture. Keep 'em peeped for a Bruno EP on Akufen's Musique Risquée.
SUPERPITCHER, Here Comes Love (Kompakt; kompakt-net.de): Tech-house doesn't come any sweeter or more aorta-twistingly romantic than this. On his debut album, Superpitcher (Aksel Schaufler) often deploys the stompin' neo-glam rhythm known as "schaffel" (shuffle), while whisper-crooning romantic somethings amid heart-inflating strings, impressionist synth daubs, and glistening vibes. Here Comes Love should be the tech-house catalyst that converts tune-loving rockers to this genre.
TERRESTRE, Secondary Inspection (Static Discos; staticdiscos.com): Venturing outside his neo-classical-ambient guise Murcof, Mexico's foremost electronic-music producer Fernando Corona flexes his 4/4 muscles, inhabiting equatorial regions techno rarely frequents. If you dig Portable's trance-inducing, tribal-glitch forays, Secondary Inspection will also get all of your chakras glowing neon purple. With one sterling album, Terrestre makes us hereby forgive all cases of Montezuma's Revenge.
RICARDO VILLALOBOS, Thé Au Harem D'Archiméde (Perlon; perlon.net): For an hombre whose partying habits are legendary, Villalobos sure makes some intensely dark, cerebral, and fucked-up music. On D'Archimede, the Chilean mutates vestigial Latin-music traits and subliminal tech-house rhythms into alien soundtracks that are as mystifying as they are fascinating. This is the music playing after the disco's burned down and the survivors are smoking the club's ashes in a vain attempt to stay high. Villalobos raises the techno-production bar yet again.