December 28, 2004

The wrap-up

Not to sound too negative – because if most readers got inside my head right now, they'd probably think, "Why in the hell should I read this depressive curmudgeon?" – but I could really give a fuck about a year-end wrap-up right now. I keep starting and re-starting this thing, in between extended bouts of cable TV and long, pointless periods spent sitting in suburban traffic. And, yeah, actually quite importantly, periods spent with my family.

In case you didn't pick it up from my last post – something I debated not putting up, but in the end, well, this blog is as much about my life as it is about its soundtrack (so, sorry, you've been LiveJournaled) – things are a little heavy right now. I'm spending more time reading pamphlets on the dying process, measuring out narcotics that would be highly illegal if they were in my sole possession, and googling things like "coping with dementia" than I am staying up to date on I Love Music. (I know, you'd think the latter two were almost synonymous.) I wish I could say that music were keeping me sane, but that's just not the truth. My records are at home in SF, I don't have any means of hooking up my laptop or iPod to stereo speakers, and in any case, it's somehow more soothing to just sit and gaze blankly at the TV, deep into the night. (I, Robot? Hell yeah. The title just about sums up my state of mind, anyway.)

Also, weirdly, the longer I go on writing about music, or perhaps just the older I get, the less I seem to forge emotional relationships with particular recordings. Or maybe that's just because we're going through a moment when the album isn't really the be-all and end-all, and that emotional state I'm thinking about – the 40-minute bond that you replay over and over, sinking into a repeated trance state, emotions a kind of accessory you don with the aid of a particular soundtrack – doesn't apply to singles. So few albums did I care about this year; and many of them were things for which I particularly admired (and often played out) a surprising number of individual tracks, as opposed to being in thrall to the album qua album. I think März was the only act to make me swoon this year, to make me flutter the way, say, Elliott Smith once did (and with only a fraction of his original impact, at that). I immersed myself with surprising frequency in Circle Square, but that's in part because it went down so well with, uh, herbal supplements. Their Pre-Earthquake Anthem precisely satisfied my need for aural wallpaper (and shag carpeting and lava lamps), and ain't a damn thing wrong with that kind of mood-oriented efficacy.

Still, I heard more good music this year than anybody deserves, even if at the same time I found myself – somewhat to my chagrin – gravitating almost exclusively toward techno and house (two genres that, incidentally, I'm caring less and less about bothering to divide, micro- and minimal fusions be damned – though hell if you'll catch me saying "tech-house"). Owing to availability and my own hermetic habits, grime and dancehall largely fell off my chart (and like Matos, I only got around to listening to the new Dizzee once I could download it from, since the copy-protected promo wouldn't play in my computer, and like many other people, I don't own a CD player that's not connected to a computer. (If you heard a "duh" at the end of that, it was purely your imagination. Really. Though I might have thought it.) I spent very little time listening to so-called "experimental" electronic music this year, or in fact, anything without a drum machine behind it. Rock? Aside from the Liars, I can't think of a new rock album I listened to more than maybe twice (ok, ok, maybe !!!, but aside from Maurice Fulton's production work, I didn't find much to love there). Hip-hop? Well, yeah, I enjoyed me some crunk, and the Kanye record was indeed purty fun. But for whatever it's worth, my heart beats at 128 BPM, and I'm comfortable with that, especially as good as it was this year.

While most of the discussion seemed to gravitate towards disco-inflected electro-house (a la Get Physical), nu-trance (Paul Kalkbrenner, Speicher, Mathew Jonson's "Decompression), or the resurgence of acid (which occasionally provided the common denominator between the two otherwise quite disparate tendencies), the development that thrilled me most was the opening up of a new wormhole I hadn't heard before – a deeply psychedelic, sprawlingly horizontal energy that achieves a trance state through subtle repetition and variations. Examples? Well, pretty much anything that Luciano or Villalobos put their hands to; Steve Barnes' masterful "Cosmic Sandwich" (on the otherwise solidly electro-house label MBF), the occasional Robag Wruhme/Wighnomy Bros track. I should say more about this stuff – in part because I think we're going to hear a lot more of it in 2005, and I should try to get myself ahead of the curve now (since I never did actually write anything substantial about schaffel, which seems to have enjoyed its swinging 15 minutes already – some careerist I make!), but that's going to have to wait for another time.

Anyway, without further ado: a very subjective guide to 2004. Predictable? Probably. Occasionally surprising? Just perhaps. Dependable? You bet!

Albums and compilations, in a vague sort of order of preference
Ricardo Villalobos, Thé Au Harem D'Archimedes (Perlon)
März, Wir Sind Hier (Karaoke Kalk)
Junior Boys, Last Exit (Kin/Domino)
Robag Wruhme, Wuzzlebud "KK" (Musik Krause)
Ada, Blondie (Areal)
Le Dust Sucker, Le Dust Sucker (Plong!)
Alter Ego, Transphormer (Klang)
Brooks, Red Tape (Soundslike)
Liars, They Were Wrong So We Drowned (Mute)
Bruno Pronsato, Silver Cities (Orac)
Superpitcher, Here Comes Love (Kompakt)
Circle Square, Pre-Earthquake Anthem (Output)
James Cotton, The Dancing Box (Spectral)
Melchior Productions, The Meaning of Love (Playhouse)
Various, Kompakt 100 (Kompakt)
Misc., Crunch Time (Sender)
Matthew Dear, Backstroke (Spectral)
Mouse on Mars, Radical Connector (Thrill Jockey)
Smash TV, Bits for Breakfast (Bpitch Control)

Singles/tracks/EPs in no particular order
Steve Barnes, Cosmic Sandwich (MBF Ltd)
Recloose, Cardiology – Isolee Remix (Playhouse)
Abe Duque & Blake Baxter, What Happened (Abe Duque Records)
Donnacha Costello, Colour Series (Minimise)
Mathew Jonson, Decompression (M_nus)
Tim Wright, The Ride – Luciano mix (NovaMute)
Alter Ego, Rocker (Klang)
Apparat, Can't Computerize It (Bpitch Control)
Luciano & Serafin, Funk Excursion (Cadenza)
Beckett & Taylor, Work (Hand on the Plow)
Tomas Andersson, Numb (Bpitch Control)
Caro, Super Contact Danse (Orac)
Tim Paris w/ Mike Ladd, Architexture (Virgo)
Rex the Dog, Prototype (Kompakt)
Closer Musik, 1 2 3 No Gravity (Ewan Pearson remixes) (Out of the Loop)
Kelis/St Plomb, You Got Lead In My Shake (no label) *"Milkshake" mashed up with St Plomb's "Mister Magic Evil" (Mental Groove)
Phonique, The Red Dress, Tiefschwarz remix (Dessous)
Roman Flügel, Gehts Noch? (Cocoon)
Das Bierbeben, Staub, Robag Wruhme's Im-Brokklio-Staub-Wisch-Remix (Shitkatapult)
Feist, Mushaboom
März, The River (Karaoke Kalk)
Hot Chip, Playboy (Moshi Moshi)
Justus Köhncke, Timecode (Kompakt)
Dorau/Köhncke, Durch Die Nacht (Kompakt Pop)
Mocky, How Will I Know You? (Fine)
Kiki, The End of the World (Bpitch Control) *1-sided single version
Kylie, Chocolate (Tom Middleton remix) (Parlaphone)
Kylie, Slow (Chemical Brothers remix) (no label)
Kylie, Slow (anonymous Swiss remix) (Sun)
Martina Topley-Bird, I Still Feel (Jori Hulkkonen Aura Mix) (Independiente)
Phoenix, Everything Is Everything (Astralwerks)
Alan Braxe & Fred Falke, Rubicon
Swayzak, Another Way (!K7)
Mr. Oizo, Stunt (F-Communications)
Decomposed Subsonic, Atlantic View (Ware)
Broker/Dealer, After Hours (Spectral)
Audion, Kisses (Spectral)
Misc., Rocket Kontrol (Sender)
Misc., Rocket Skating + Rocket Skating Remixed (Sender)
Minimal Man, Chicken Store (Perlon)
Kalabrese, Chicken Fried Rice (Perlon)

Labels that killed it consistently, even though I can't single out individual releases
Get Physical
Trapez LTD

Labels, in addition to the above, with a good chance of owning 2005
Musik Krause

Live & DJ sets that bruised my jaw
Luciano @ Watergate, Berlin, October
Wighnomy Bros @ ???, Berlin, October
Liars @ SonarSound São Paulo, September
Jamie Lidell @ Mutek, May
Jan Jelinek @ Oceanclub/Maria, Berlin, October
Ricardo Villalobos @ Beat Street, Berlin, October
Sense Club w/ Akufen @ Mutek Chile, January

That's all the list-making I have the energy for today. Stay tuned for potential punditry to come, and maybe even a new mix or two, should I ever get back to the turntables. We could all probably use a little immersive horizontalism right now – I sure as hell know I could. What I'd give to be back at Beat Street, Sunday raving from noon to midnight, without a care in the world. Then again, just knowing such things are possible offers some kind of solace. In the words of März: "If we return we will live here forever…"

Posted by philip at December 28, 2004 12:24 AM

Best wishes Philip for the stuff you're going through...and what a great list!

Posted by: Angus at December 28, 2004 04:01 AM

we'll drop a word into the celestial void for you. all the best.

and FWIW, you just put into words what i'd been thinking but unable to express with respect to the LP recording. i'm off to track down that Circle Square cd and a mess of 12"s.

looking forward, as always, to reading more next year.

Posted by: jon at December 28, 2004 04:36 AM

uh.... i don't really understand that, but that's ok. so i already had a livejournal? maybe i've been sleepblogging.

Posted by: at December 28, 2004 05:42 PM

it's just rss. no sleep disorders, so sorry.

Posted by: unknown8bit at December 28, 2004 11:43 PM

any idea were i can get a digitized version of the le dust sucker? i bought it on vinyl which sounds wonderful and all, but portability is an issue.

Posted by: jon kapper at December 29, 2004 04:24 AM

Since you already own the Le Dust Sucker album, I think its ok to download the album without feeling guilty.

Any specific recommendations for Musik Kruase and/or Orac?

Posted by: John Edmond at December 30, 2004 06:54 AM

Musik Krause: mmmm, probably everything. I don't think I've been disappointed yet by any of their releases (and what do you know, I'm wearing their t-shirt right now - predictable!). Priority:

Robag Wruhme/Metaboman, Zwei Maenner Im Split (MK03)
Metaboman, Im Gelegenheitscamp (MK05)
Robag Wruhme, Kopfnikker (MK06)
Robag Wruhme, Polytikk EP (MK08)
Metaboman, Rausgeflogen EP (MK09)
Robag Wruhme, Wuzzlebud "KK" (MK LP/CD 001)

Orac priorities:
Caro, Cittá Alla Notte/How Much I Feel (ORAC04)
Bruno Pronsato, Read Me/Silver City (ORAC05)
Strategy, Marathon Heights/Drumsolo's Revenge (ORAC06)
Caro, Super Contact Danse/See You Shining (ORAC07)
Bruno Pronsato, Silver Cities (ORAC09)
Strategy, Super Vamp (ORAC10)

Posted by: philip at December 30, 2004 05:45 PM

Thanks for info - now to track them down.

Posted by: John Edmond at December 30, 2004 10:25 PM

looks like a(n enticing) parallel universe to me phil!


happy new year mate. if you have a physical location these days hit me with it and i'll pass on some stuff.

Posted by: matt woebot at January 1, 2005 08:57 AM

Nice one Philip! i dont feel any album this year has grabbed me in the way i've grown accustomed to things doing year after year but i'm definatley going to track down Circlesquare and (Finally) Marz . Good Luck with everything.

Posted by: jed at January 1, 2005 08:43 PM

On new years day at about 9am I was lying on my back on a beach in thailand surrounded by mashed people and wearing a musik krause t shirt and a blissed out expression. This utterly mangled looking girl came up to me and said "I've just done some liquid acid and I really want to know what you're listening to on those headphones that's making you smile like that". I said sure, passed them over - it was Marz's "The River" just starting up at the time - she put em on and literally swooned.

Ergo: validation.

Posted by: Laces at January 5, 2005 12:42 AM
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