Saturday, February 20, 2010

Revelations from the RA top 100 of the 00's

Track-by-track, with my iPod on the commute to and from work, I made my way through Resident Advisor's Top 100 tracks of the 00's (nearly 13 hours of music!). I can't remember ever having so much fun while commuting -- I literally couldn't wait to get on the train! It's a tremendous collection of music, including these tracks that I'd never heard before and made particularly strong impressions on me. Thanks to Hypnotic Breaks (RIP) for the tracks ...

#35: Larry Heard presents Mr. White, "The Sun Can't Compare". It's pretty cool that Larry Heard has been making music for 25 years, but virtually everything he's done could have been recorded between 1986-1988. Talk about sticking to a "classic" sound ... this minimal acid track keeps it simple both musically and lyrically. I'm not looking for philosophy in my house music, I'm looking for mantras that could have been written by a ten-year old.

#47: Radio Slave, "Grindhouse Tool (Dubfire Planet Terror remix)". I have no idea how I missed out on this one in '08 (or maybe I did, I should really review those podcast playlists from the past two years because there are a bunch of Radio Slave tracks there) because if dubbed out, spooked out, slamming horror techno isn't my ideal subgenre of techno, I don't know what is. Having now heard the other remixes of this track, I can safely say that this version belonged in my discussion of the best remixes of the 00's, and would have fit beautifully on the my mix after Marcel Dettmann's "Go" remix.

#80: Cobblestone Jazz, "India In Me". This gently flowing, proggy track reminds me of a lot of mid-90's techno that R&S used to liscence -- the excellent "Apollo 2" compilation (one of my favourite techno compilations of the 90's) certainly comes to mind, particularly the LA Synthesis track.

#90: Junkie XL feat. Saffron, "Beauty Never Fades". Dutch prog-rave goes goth -- brilliant! The gold standard for collaborations of this sort is still probably Leftfield's "Original" featuring Toni Halladay. Saffron, Shirley Manson, and all the other 90's goth electronica wannabes can't touch Toni Halladay when it comes to sultry electronic doom, and hearing a track like "Beauty Never Fades" makes me think that Leftfield probably didn't know what they had in Ms. Halladay. After all, they put her on one of the album's more downtempo tracks -- perhaps they didn't trust her to carry a full-on banger? Or maybe at the time, Halladay didn't trust herself on a proper dancefloor track (that would change a few years later, when Curve released "Come Clean"). Brilliant stuff from Junkie XL, and even at eleven minutes long, "Beauty Never Fades" almost feels too short.

#26: St Germain, "Rose Rouge". OK, I'm cheating here, I've heard this track many, many times before, but not at all in the past several years. I was shocked to see this track on the list, not because it isn't great, but because St. Germain's heyday already feels like a lifetime ago. I had completely forgotten that this track was released in the 00's.

Suddenly I recalled St. Germain's astounding crossover success, something I hadn't thought about at all for ages. "Time Tourist" could be heard everywhere: in college dorms, coffee shops, music shops, house parties after most of the guests had gone home, it was the leftfield chillout album of choice for a boatload of people who had probably never bought a house album before in their lives. Remember, this wasn't a phenomenon based on a track showing up on a TV show, followed by people flocking to Youtube to hear the song one time. It was a word of mouth phenomenon in which people who never went to clubs were actually walking into a music stores and buying this stuff. So naturally, I was totally sick of St. Germain by around 2001. When "Time Tourist" was released, I borrowed it from a friend, but never got around to buying it, and I heard it so often when out and about that there never seemed to be a need to buy it.

With the benefit of a nine-year break from hearing "Rose Rouge", I was floored at how fresh and energetic it sounds today. Jazzy French house -- still a good idea in practice, and there's no faulting the taste of the masses as far as St. Germain's music is concerned.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Musicblogocide 2010

In a bit of a shocker, Google went on a deletion spree and erased a number of mp3 blogs without warning last week. Last week I tried to connect to Hypnotic Breaks and got the "blog not located" page, and I hadn't given it too much thought, even when the same page turned up when I checked on a couple of other blogs. These blogs have been down before, and of course it's not unusual for them to change addresses to throw lawyers off their scent. Still though, I didn't put two and two together until I saw this story in the Guardian.

I guess what shocked me is that they blogs were deleted without any warning. Not just deactivated, but deleted, all their content lost forever. To be fair, these blogs have received past warnings about their content in the past. Personally, I've never been worried about writing something stupid or incorrect, the only thing that really scares me is the idea that all my writing could be one day lost. I could post another self-made mix, and my blog could get improperly flagged and deleted because of it. Improbable? Yes. Still a scary thought.

I'm no expert on the legal logistics behind mp3 blogs, but I don't understand why they deleted entire blogs, rather than just the individual files. Links are taken down for movies and TV shows all the time, and the files themselves are deleted. All the serious work is in locating these links and files and deleting them, sending out warnings, etc. Taking the extra step and deleting the blogs themselves is unnecessary, isn't it? On the other hand, one could argue that the quality of the writing is a non-factor in the appeal of these blogs, that anything beyond the most rudimentary original criticism of the music is of little interest to their target audiences. If the non-downloadable content of the blog is largely immaterial, then there isn't much difference between deleting just the files and deleting the entire blog.

I'll miss Hypnotic Breaks, even though it's been obviously living on borrowed time for a while now. As much as I enjoyed being able to hear advance copies of complete albums, when you post entire albums (rather than individual tracks) then you're asking for it. Deleted links and requests from artists/labels to have their work removed from the blog had become increasingly common. That's not a condemnation of anyone who uploads albums to their blogs, rather, an acknowledgment of the rules of the so-called game.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Resident Advisor's Best of the 00's

These lists are great -- there's an embarrassment of riches here. So much I haven't heard, so much I really need to hear ...

RA's Top 50 mixes

How many I've heard: only about 11! There are a number of cases in which I've heard plenty of the artist, but never that exact mix, i.e. Surgeon's "This is For You Shits"

Most shockingly high entry: #9: Dave Clarke's "World Service Volume 1". Really? I never really got into it, partly because his "X Mix - Electro Boogie" mix is sooooo much better.

What a nice surprise
: #11: Henrik Schwarz, Âme & Dixon, "The Grandfather Paradox". A really unique mix, undoubtedly one of the very best of 2009, and one that will stand the test of time better than almost any mix on this list.

Virtually every "Best of 00's" list, in every publication in virtually all genres, is heavily skewed toward 2000-4, especially '00 and '01, and this list is no exception. Also notice that there's virtually nothing on here from 2005-2007? It's almost as if they tried to overcompensate and include more from '08 and '09 to balance out the large number of picks from the start of the decade.

I'm not a huge fan of Michael Mayer's mixes, but I can't argue with the choice of "Immer" at #1, it was a hugely influential mix.

RA's Top 100 Albums

How many I've heard: 49. And I don't think I'd characterize a single one of them as "bad". The worst of that lot is probably Justice's "Cross", but even that had a bunch of fun moments.

Most shockingly high entry: I've never understood the love for "Discovery" (it's a strong EP plus a bunch of filler) but seeing it at #4 is hardly a surprise. Otherwise, maybe Booka Shade ... at #8?? For me, that album is up there with the Knife's "Silent Shout" and Isolee's "Wearemonster" as the go-to critical techno hits of their years -- once the buzz wore off, I hardly ever found myself wanting to hear those records. Most surprisingly low entry has to be "Sound of Silver" at #23.

What a nice surprise: #6, Gas' "Pop". It's a crazy high ranking, it's not the best Gas album (that would be "Konigsforst") but it's the only one that was released this decade and I love the fact that Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project has grown so much in stature with the passage of time. Honourable mention to Shed's "Shedding the Past" -- a great, no nonsense techno album, and a record that I was worried had already become something of a forgotten classic.

I can't argue too strenuously against the choice of "Alcohofa" as their #1, again, it's a massively influential record and with the possible exception of "Pop" and "Untrue", it's easily the best album in the top 30.

RA's Top 100 Tracks

How many I've heard: I think it's 39. That is sure to change however.

Most shockingly high entry: It's tough to say because I've only heard about half of the top 20. However, "Dexter" and it's Joy Division-gone-minimal groove > "Easy Lee", "Raver" > "Archangel", and half of Audion's "Suckfish" > "Mouth to Mouth", although I know that not many others will agree.

What a nice surprise: #29, Roots Manuva, "Witness (1 Hope)" -- this would be a jaw-droppingly high entry in a US publication, but even on a UK site like RA it's nice to see this track so high.

Metro Area's "Miura" was one of the tracks I didn't know (of course I immediately queued it up on Youtube). It's a good top 100, although I personally don't have deep connections to most of these particular tracks. My favourite out of the bunch is #57, Jürgen Paape's "So Weit Wie Noch Nie".