Thursday, December 08, 2005

How the hell do you do a top five…..

Ok, list time. End of the year, almost, but close enough as matters, another best of. I guess it’s an excuse really for me to bleat on about the records I liked best this year.

In the assumption that there is someone out there that cares? No not really.

It’s a personal thing that may or may not make any difference to anything or anybody, I don’t care, but music is and I hope always will be a crucial part of my existence on this increasingly shaky rock. And the urge I’ve always had has been to share that, something that kept me on the radio for close to two decades (and, once again, to those that may care, there is an Extended Play on George FM on Wednesday 21st courtesy of Mr Fell who has given up his spot for a week, ta Grant).

Is it an ego thing, maybe it is without consciously intending it to be, but more, simply put, I like playing music to people and talking about it. God knows I’ve dragged more than a few through the more obscure regions of my record collection in the early hours of the morning. I guess most of them want me to actually finish a record before I move onto the next.

Anyway, without to much more tu-tuing around (have you ever tried to explain that phrase to a barely-English speaking Indonesian crowd…bemusement doesn’t describe the looks), these, for better or worse are the records I’ve liked lot, and there are a few, over the past eleven and a bit months:

Ok disco re-edits and the like: It goes without saying, but I will regardless, there are good, indifferent, and, countless bad. This little cottage industry has exploded in the past twelve months. Every hack bedroom DJ seems to think they have the ability to, here we go again, tu-tu around with classic and not so classic tracks (being old does not make a record good). It’s a step beyond the shoddy Grant Nelson school of time stretching a song then banging a rolling 4/4 under it. Still the hack approach is the same. The essence of dance music is its punk element, the D.I.Y, bedroom-ness, but that doesn’t make any D.I.Y. record right, especially when we all have access to a copy of Acid. At least when tape and a razor were used the skill level required, and the determination to actually do it made the bar higher. I love the way you can read in a book about the edit at 1:16, and then when you listen to the bugger you can actually hear it, you can almost see the sticky tape slipping across the head. With that in mind, I like most of Greg Wilson’s Credit to the Edit. Not all of it, there is the odd track which grates a little but, although these are actually re-created turntable edits mostly, the ethic is the same. His hard to find I was a Teenage DJ is the same, especially the killer title track which was on DJ friendly 12” too. In a similar style, the Original Block Party Edits, from Frank Tope’s OST label has too many killer sharp edits to name here but the Black Science Orchestra’s edit of Patti Jo’s stone classic “Let Me Believe In You” was an often repeated 10 minutes in recent months for me. Both these albums take me back to a time when I first started hanging out in dark clubs listening to black music so they may be more of a personal thing…

12” wise on the edit front, I loved the Italian Neroli Slam Jam singles, snippets of things you may never have heard before, like kraut rock, severely fucked with; Todd Terje’s Michael Jackson and George McCrae tweaks; the NYC2 single was a lovely revisit of an old Nu Groove record I liked a lot the first time around about 17 years ago; Prins Thomas did a pretty neat four track EP on Rong which was a turntable fixture for me in the early part of the year, especially the old French disco tune, the name of which escapes me right now, which he mutated into some warped noisy techno thing; the Moxie 12”s were all reliably essential, but that’s about it for me

The fashion victim in me went gaga over the rise of Big Apple punk funk in recent years, once again, because of where I was musically a long time ago, and I’m still there I suppose. The Out Hud album Let Us Never Speak of It Again, but more especially the single One to Leave were quirky, irreverent and fun; the Tussle album Kling Klang was initially one dimensional but its Bootsy goes to CBGBs grind was pretty appealing and I played it a lot; the DFA album, went all major labelish with EMI but still managed to put out three of the years best albums, from LCD Soundsystem, The Juan Maclean with the wonderful Less Than Human, and the glorious synth punk wash of Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom’s Day’s of Mars. There are so many ghosts in these records but they effortlessly look forward too. Somebody at EMI is smart…LCD could be massive.

After a gap of god knows how many years the house releases from New York City finally recaptured some of the spirit it once had, moving away from the post MAW house by numbers which fed the Defected compilations but not much else. And they did it by toughening up, by adding at times a techier edge, almost moving back to the Tribal (as in the label), almost epic feel that symbolised so much of the best music from this city in early to mid of the last decade. Kerri Chandler, still, after all these years, had a string of killer records, Bar a Tym was one of the year’s anthems, and worthy it was too, I loved, big loud thing it is, it but hated the unnecessary UK remixes; the follow up Sunset was almost as good, if more subtle, but got overshadowed by Bar; Back 2 The Acid, was better than either of those but in itself was overshadowed by the majestic Six Pianos, an epic trek to Detroit in the mid nineties and one of my singles of the year; and then there was A Demo by 6:23 Quentin Harris, of course was justifiably one of the producers of the year, his Lets Be Young, both in its original and Community Vocal remix takes are simply fantastic, big, dance records that are of their time; his bootleg mix of Luther Vandross’ Apologise has been a huge favourite of mine in 2005, its simplicity and beauty is worthy obituary for one the great voices, placing him firmly in a contemporary surrounding, somewhere he’d not been for too long ; his Ron Trent collaboration, Happiness, was in a similar vein; and The Shelter Anthem which was simply an old school reference point for the kids to try and understand where this all comes from. Its all disco y’see…it never went away…

Also from the NY axis, on Ibadan, I’m a sucker for Jerome Sydenham’s dark dubby symphonies and Road to Calabar and Stockholm Go Bang were well cool, as was another favourite for the year, Herb Martin’s one sided percussion fest, Soul Drums.

I bought a copy of Kraftwerk’s live double, Maximum Minimum in Singapore and after finally getting past the copy protection nonsense, thrashed it relentlessly for a month or two…and was sorely tempted by the boxed vinyl but common sense won out for a change. More records by old soldiers: I liked the loud tracks, and a couple of the ballads on the Paul Weller album As Is Now, but it was more a whim for the past than a genuine “damn this works”. I have a soft spot for Paul simply because of The Jam and the early Style Council records but it’s a soft spot anchored firmly in pleasant memories and he does little to enthral me now; the Elvis Costello return to form The Delivery Man really was that and it bloody well worked; finally, guilty pleasures time, I loved big slabs of the Paul McCartney Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, one of my most played albums of 2005. I guess when one gets to, the quaintly named, middle age, you can listen to virtually anything without shame. I’m certainly not going to hide from my musical past and the first couple of McCartney albums were a part of them.

I also warmed pretty much to the New Order re-comeback, Waiting for the Siren’s Call, which fitted pretty well with their Singles compilation which gave me warm fuzzies.

The Norwegian connection got massive amounts of attention this year, and deservedly so. The Lindstrom & Prins Thomas album was a wonderfully textured collection that is still growing on me, and the twisted mutant disco of the Major Swellings album from Thomas alone is perhaps my album of the year. These guys were relentless in their rush of singles this year but the ones that hit the mark for me included Paaskeyld off the Lindstrom Plague the Kid II ep and the 10” Violent Group, and Thomas’s shimmering Goettsching and the remix of Chicken Lips’ Sweet Cow, and the Tribulations remix and the…actually most of them, truth be known.

And to Carl Craig, yep one after another ballistic and breathtaking in their quality, barely taking a breath and only faltering, for me, with the Fabric 25 album which I found quite a letdown after his Auckland live set earlier this year. The Another Day ep, with its subliminal Sandstorms only got better after the release of the remixed, and totally revisited Darkness backed with Angel. He reissued Landcrusing, albeit in re-visited form, maybe the greatest album of the post Detroit electronic era; sympathetically tweaked Hugh Masekela’s Doing it for the Boys on the otherwise redundant Verve Remixed 3; but saved the best for the end of the year, the sensual climatic remix of Laurent GarniersBarbiturik Blues, the classic tech soul of Terry Brookes and Aaron Soul’s City Life, and the monumental Falling Up from Theo Parrish for some reason only on Japanese 10” to date but a record, that in itself justifies virtually everything that’s ever been said about C2

I’ve long lost track of hip hop and its something I’m a little sad about. Until a few years ago I bought and consumed hip hop with a hunger. But I still buy the odd thing…I’ve always bought Common’s albums, and whilst I still regard 2003’s Electric Circus as his masterpiece, I loved Be this year, I could just feel the hand of some A&R guy at Universal a little too strongly. I liked Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock a lot in the sunshine in Bali.

There were dozens of singles that worked for me this year and I’ll never remember them all, especially since most of my vinyl is a long way from me as I write. So…..Quiet Village’s Can’t be Beat ; Black Joy’s La Stache; the Frantic Flowers Sampler and the Hutton Drive 324 single on the same label; Soul Mekanik’s Wanna Get Wet; I:Cube’s Chicago Sur Seine; FK & U-Roy’s Rootsman, especially the dub; Ame’s Rej; two remixes from Abe Duque: Take Care from Chloe, and the neat Expression from Vinny Troia; New Young Pony Club’s cool post Blondie 7” Ice Cream; on the same label, Tirk, Maurice Fulton’s Mom, The Video Broke, and his production of Kathy Diamond’s Sunshine on Cottage; Yukari Fresh’s incredibly limited Break remixes; Blake Baxter & Mark Romboy’s acidic Freakin’; Mathew Jonson’s stunning Followed by Angels; Vince Watson’s Sunrise; Slam’s Human as remixed by Vector Lovers; a few by Anders Trentemoller….his mix of Fred Everything’s Friday, and his very cool mix of Oh You and I by Unai, and his own Sunstroke; David Duriez’s mix of Ok Rocks on Artofdisco; Nick Chacona’s Angel Dust Swan Dive; and finally two from Patrick Chardronnet, which were and are big records for me in 2005, Phonix, with Afrilounge, and the minimally beautiful Eve by Day which is, happily, playing as I write.

I listened to lots of old soul, disco, funk, jazz, reggae, house and rock records in 2005 but this is not really the place to write about them. Suffice to say that Eddie Kendrick’s Philly drenched He’s a Friend was a major discovery and got rather thrashed.

Locally, and I write this from a desk outdoors in Bali, so I mean enzild, I lost touch a bit but failed to find an album which really did too much. I own quite a few local albums from 2005 and kinda liked the Phoenix Foundation album. Many of the uusal suspects (Roger Perry, Joost, Cuffy) were noticeably quiet in 2005 so I expect to hear things in the new year...please. Tomorrowpeople did a killer remix for Pluto, which, sticking their heads in the sand, they refused to sanction…when will these people learn about expanding their markets. He, TP, that is, provided me with an unnamed track which I played a lot and still do; many of the best things I heard in 2005 were unreleased demos, that arrived in the mail and Tom Ward sent me a series of very cool mix CDs which were quite a soundtrack to a few days and nights, as did the Soultrust guys; The Others released a wicked 7” and I acquired a bunch of forthcoming demos; Greg Churchill’s mix of SJD was seriously good but his own Automatique and the new Lesser Meaning (Techno single of the week in the UK’s influential Update and number 7 on their overall chart)are the real deal and the latter is gonna be huge. He offered to do a mix of Savage but got turned down….as I said, when are these guys gonna work out marketing 101. Greg also, despite his international success, got ignored in New Zealand outside the dance scene, especially by the recording industry and it associated agenices…Budonkadonk is probably the biggest inner city anthem of the past decade but gets ignored….its indicative….

And if you think I’m gong to spend half a week linking to that lot on 64kbs Indonesian “broadband”……

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