2005's recorded highlights
Attempts to summarize years in music are necessarily incomplete and flawed, so I usually avoid doing so. To think anyone’s sonic experiences are universal is sheer hubris. Instead, I’ll spotlight the discrete fragments of a musaic that brought consistent joy to me this year. All of which are worth way more than the critical bloviating you’ll read about 2005 in the next few weeks.
[a]pendics.shuffle, Helicopter Hearts (Orac; orac.vu). L.A. laptop manipulator Ken Gibson combines insane productivity with equally bananas quality. Helicopter Hearts ranks as one of his most accomplished works in a busy eight-year career. Master of quirky glitch techno, Gibson’s been growing as a melodicist even as he finds ever-stranger textures with which to embellish his pumping 4/4 rhythms. He makes the unlikely sound utterly plausible.
AUDION, Suckfish (Spectral Sound; ghostly.com). Under his Audion moniker, Detroit tech-house star Matthew Dear comes on like a PowerBook John C. Holmes. Nobody who hears Suckfish can deny its seminal potency. If quality porn is still being made next decade, Suckfish should be the template for its soundtracks. Never has the phrase “banging techno” been more apt—or sounded this libidinal. Suckfish’s percussion seems to consist of colliding pubic bones, its textures redolent of sex juices. And the disc’s gaudy, spiraling op-art cover perfectly reflects the tracks’ overwhelmingly mesmeric effect.
BLACK DICE, Broken Ear Record (DFA; dfarecords.com). For those times when you really wanna flip the script on reality, play Broken Ear Record. Abounding with jagged rhythms and atmospheric grotesqueries, this disc puts the human voice to nefariously disorienting use, turns guitars and keyboards into virtual bestiaries, finds alienating new modes for Burundi-style drumming, and infuses delirium into your equilibrium. And the DEA can’t do a damned thing about it.
CARO, The Return of Caro (Orac; orac.vu). A glistening jewel in Seattle’s dazzling tech-house crown, aglitter with memorable grooves, tunes, acidic squelches… and ponies.
DAFT PUNK, Human After All (Virgin). Some people dismiss this as Daft Punk’s Metal Machine Music, a petulant contract-breaker/fuck you to label and fans, all Donald Duck–voxed synths, crunching guitars, numbingly repetitive rhythms and riffs. To which I say, “More, please!” The most emotionless song here is titled “Emotion”; it’s heartbreaking. Genius.
DÄLEK, Absence (Ipecac; ipecac.com). The heaviest, noisiest, most harrowing hiphop album since… er, Dälek’s 2002 opus From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griots. These New Jerseyites lay down elephantine funk grooves, while filtering warped, Chrome/MBV-like guitar tones through Techno Animal’s apocalyptic atmospheres. MC Dälek spits verbal bullets of truth and vengeance, and makes scowling an act of poetic grace.
EDAN, Beauty and the Beat (Lewis; lewisrecordings.com). One of 2005’s best hiphop albums was cut by a Jew with a Nuggets fixation. Beauty and the Beat is both golden-age homage and Shadow/RJD2-esque tomfoolery (garage, prog, and psych rock are hiphoppers’ latest happy hunting ground for samples). If you think I’m trippin’, well, I am. And it’s because of this brain-boinkin’ disc.
JASON FORREST, Shamelessly Exciting (Sonig; sonig.com). This portly PowerBook abuser proffers decadent Plunderphonic debris mined from music history’s cheesy and sublime crevices—and then makes it sound like the most amped, fun shit ever. The album’s about miraculous makeovers, merging stadium prog, poodle-castration rock, punk, new wave, ’60s psych, and smooth jazz with swift jungle beats and twitchy DSP abuse. Shamelessly Exciting is truth in titling, not empty braggadocio.
FOUR TET, Everything Ecstatic; CARIBOU, The Milk of Human Kindness (both Domino; dominorecordco.com). G4 wizards Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) and Dan Snaith (Caribou) recontextualize transcendent, rhythmically mesmerizing, soulful rock made by Germans in the early ’70s. Old is the new new. Again.
JAY HAZE, Love for a Strange World (Kitty-Yo; kitty-yo.com). Lazily drawled vocals over creaky-jointed tech-house = sick masterpiece. Decidedly odd and in its own murkily glamorous world, this is like hearing The Return of Caro while blitzed on sizzurp.
JACKSON AND HIS COMPUTER BAND, Smash (Warp; warprecords.com). France’s Jackson Fourgeaud (there’s no band, per se) applies gobs of glitter and grit to his rhythmically bold yet melodically engrossing IDM. Thus, he rejuvenates a stagnant genre. (I speak as a jilted IDM lover.)
JAN JELINEK, Kosmischer Pitch (~scape; scape-music.de). I already blabbed at length about this album’s greatness in a previous column. Hit the archives, and revel in Jelinek’s glorious interpretations of Kraut-rock blissitude.
JAMIE LIDELL, Multiply (Warp; warprecords.com). The neo-soul/funk/R&B joint of the decade, yet about half as amazing as Lidell’s alpha/omega-male live show, which is as addictive as crack and a million times better for you.
REUBER, Kintopp (Staubgold; staubgold.com). Half of sadly defunct Terry Riley-esque dronemeisters Klangwart, Reuber has now released his third astonishing solo album of kosmische art song and gorgeous, abstract tone poetry. He is Germany’s best unknown producer. Now you know.
STUNT ROCK, This Is Stunt Rock Volume Three (Cock Rock Disco; cockrockdisco.com). William Flegal stitches foul-mouthed, cynical, and snide movie/TV dialogue into samples of the vinyl offal found in 50-cent bins and somehow emerges with some caustic comedy sampladelia that’ll rock your ironic-hipster party like a motherfucker. You need exactly one record like this in your collection. Make it This Is Stunt Rock.
ALEX UNDER, Dispositivos de Mi Granja (Trapez; traumschallplatten.de). This debut by Spain’s Under possesses some of this decade’s most mesmerizing, charmingly quirky minimal techno, elegant melodies coast on relentless rhythms of sensual, hypnotic grace. Imagine John Tejada if he were raised on Chain Reaction’s back catalog.
More essentials: BOARDS OF CANADA, The Campfire Headphase (Warp); Maetrik, Casi Profundo (Treibstoff); Noze, Craft Sounds and Voices (Circus Company); Bruno Pronsato, Ape Masquerade (Musique Risquée) and Open Your Eyes (Philpot); Genders, There’s Something in the Treats (Tigerbeat6); Dandy Jack, Los Siete Castigos (Perlon); Magic Arrows, Sweet Heavenly Angel of Death (Wobblyhead). DAVE SEGAL
If you think something’s been overlooked, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll run your picks and scathing comments in a future column or on Slog.