This year I’ve listened, again, to quite a bit of music – something like 23000 individual tracks, and although I’ve been DJing far fewer gigs than previous years, I’ve probably rekindled a bit more of an interest in dancefloor music. This year, too, I invested in a Squeezebox which has liberated a whole lot of digital sounds from the tyranny of the iPod in the lounge room.
So here’s a tiny smattering of my picks of 2008.
There’s been too much to list and too little time to do the listing – and if I don’t hit ‘publish’ now then it will be 2009 before this gets out the door!
Born Ruffians – I Need A Life (Four Tet remix) (RCRD LBL)
What a lovely stripped back remix much in the vein of Four Tet’s Ringer EP which takes the originals’ vocals and turns them into a swelling multitracked chorus before the guitar fuzz gloriously arrives.
Zomby – Test Me For A Reason (Hyperdub)
8-bit dubstep/wonky producer Zomby released so many tracks this year (including a full album homage to 1992 ‘ardkore rave) but none better than this short 2 minute mournful tribute to UKG – much like Burial.
Raz O’Hara and the Odd Orchestra – Where He At (Apparat remix) (Get Physical)
I heard the remix before the original and in fact both were on high rotation. A very mournful, introspective track that pretty much soundtracked my April and May.
Children of the Wave – Carapace (Sensory Projects)
Yes, it is made by one of my friends (and Cyclic writer) Bob Baker Fish, but Carapace is a lovely odd album that is equal parts Eno and Animal Collective. In fact I’ve been shorthanding it as an ‘ambient Animal Collective’ and I featured it in the Cyclic Music Club shortly after its release.
High Places – Self-titled and High Places – 03/07 – 09/07 (Thrill Jockey/Mistletone)
Quirky Brooklyn duo High Places make joyous pop music on clattering clanking junk-fi instrumentation. I’d really like to catch this band live.
Stag Hare – Black Medicine Music (A Star)
Weird droning lo-fi avant-folk from Salt Lake City’s Stag Hare takes the spot that Paavorharju, had their latest album lived up to its promise, would have rightfully taken. Field recordings, loops, drones, strange instruments.
Mikkel Metal – Peaks and Troughs (Echospace) / Deadbeat – Roots and Wires (Wagon Repair)
Two albums that fill the gap left behind by the lack of anything really new from Rhythm and Sound. Both featuring Paul St Hillaire/Tikiman on guest vocals, Mikkel Metal and Deadbeat continued to plough the ever fertile field of dub influenced Detroit techno.
Tiago La is Losing the Plot – s/t (Lex)
A simple lo-fi concept pop EP but full of earworm melody and lyrics. Pretty much an unknown artist and standing more than a little out of place on the Lex imprint, this nearly skipped me by on its way to a reviewer, but since interception it has been on high rotation.
Errors – It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever (Rock Action)
Mogwai’s label put out this great debut album from Errors which sounds a little like Four Tet doing ‘indie dance’. Now that probably makes it sound far worse than it actually is – because the results are pretty fantastic. Bouncy, riffing, squelching – and nothing like The Klaxxons and their ilk.
Portishead – Third (Island)
A long overdue follow up album and one that was almost doomed to be disappointing. Nevertheless, Third was the kind of comeback album that pretty much threw away all the mainstream goodwill Portishead had accumulated as their previous albums became co-opted into the soundtrack of dinner parties and shopping malls. The result was a dark, taut, driving album.
LindstrÃ¸m – Where You Go I Go Too (Rune Grammofon)
Wow this was like a flashback to early high school when I got obsessed with Jean Michel Jarre. Reduced to just three long tracks, Where You go I Go Too was the soundtrack to many ‘in-between film’ moments on the long haul flights this year.
Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing (ATP)
Another great album for travelling – probably the only time a parent like me gets to listen to an album as a whole without interruptions. Fuck Buttons manage to combine oppressive wall of noise with the loveliest melodies and electronics.
Various Artists – Sleepwalk (mixed by Optimo) (Domino)
Optimo still are amongst my favourite mix compilers. Their stupendously large record collections and diverse tastes (they’ve jyst done a 10″ of Crass-related anarcho-punk edits!) mean that every mix they put out is like a series of gateways to new worlds of music waiting to be explored. Sleepwalk, their second commercially released DJ mix of the year, is a mix of two halves, the first weaving together a warm soundscape from Coil, Tuxedomoon, 60s psychedelic voyager Eden Ahbez, Cluster and Arthur Russell. The second half moves upbeat with a lovely Bollywood tribute from Future Pilot AKA (ex-Soup Dragons!), Mulatu Astatke and Wall of Voodoo covering Ring of Fire!
Onra – Chinoiseries (self-released)
French DJ/producer Onra dropped this mix made up of chopped up snippets of market sold Vietnamese and South-East Asian cassettes. Although it gets predictable, as a whole the mix is a great example of the clever use of limited source material and outdid Madlib’s efforts all this year.