Frequencies 2001 Year in Review
Published Feb 01, 20001. Basement Jaxx Rooty (XL)
Joshua Ostroff: Boasting an asinine ape cover and a predilection for erring on the side of disco, Rooty should have been the sophomore bomb everyone was expecting after Basement Jaxx wrote an effective prescription for ailing four-on-the-floor with Remedy. Instead, Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton have once again provided the soundtrack to a summer, bringing punk, Latin, electro, jazz and UK garage to their open house party. Rooty might not be the eye-opener their debut was, but with rave-ups like "Romeo" and the sex-crazed "Get Me Off," Basement Jaxx showed they know where our head's at.
Vinita Ramani: This Brixton duo have taken all their lush, provocative outtakes from Remedy and doubled the intensity dosage on Rooty. At times sounding like a visceral exploration into pop/garage rock and at times thoroughly disco, with plenty of house-inspired insanity, Basement Jaxx provided just the kind of party album we're going to need to take us into the uncertain days of the next year.
Prasad Bidaye: The Jaxx come back to play the fine line between sex and funk, with beats that are dirtier and ultra-edited, while the lyrics ooze out with hunger in a way that's both dark and comical.
2. Aphex Twin Drukqs (Elektra)
Cam Lindsay: Last year he proclaimed that he was through putting out albums and a year later he gives us a double album. But the ever unpredictable Richard D. James didn't follow-up his last album by continuing his anarchic drill n' bass sounds. Instead, he combined every style he has attempted, blending them into 30 tracks that contradict each other so well that there is complete harmony. Classical piano followed by scattered and scary beats and selected ambient works with samples of his friend's diarrhea and his parents singing happy birthday to him mixed in to keep things interesting.
Philip Downey: Richard D. James is back and he's in top form. After waiting five years since his last so-so album, I was pleasantly surprised by Drukqs, two discs of short melodic piano pieces and longer, mildly and wildly insane breakbeat numbers.
Joshua Ostroff: It bubbles, skips, glitches and still makes you wanna dance. Richard D. James defies the oxymoron that is Intelligent Dance Music by delivering you his final thesis and leaving out the intellectual leg-work that got him there.
3. Herbert Bodily Functions (K7!)
Denise Benson: This album made my world a better place throughout 2001. Matthew Herbert is one of the most innovative and inventive producers in dance music, recording under aliases including Wishmountain, Radioboy, and Doctor Rockit. Here, he experiments to create melodies and hooks from utterly original sound sources: birth, death, blood, bones, laser eye surgery, mice at play, and traditional instruments amongst them. It's little wonder that the classically trained musician does, in fact, rate the sampler as his favourite instrument; the amazing thing is just how much emotion he manages to coax from it. Of course, Dani Siciliano's gorgeous voice also adds a great deal. Herbert himself calls this "music that doesn't quite fit," but with mesmerising, beautifully developed songs such as "The Audience," "Foreign Bodies" and "It's Only," I hear Bodily Functions as the ultimate link between headphones, art houses, and dance floors. Stunning.
Marc Roy: Organic sample-free house music with a soul as deep as the ocean.
4. Bonobo Animal Magic (True Thought/Ninja Tune)
Noel Dix: Through numerous samples of his own instrumentation, Simon Green pieces together a beautiful collage of downtempo bliss with the North American release of his stunning debut. Piano tinkering, upright bass and jazz-like drums weigh heavy in this mix of hip-hop beats and creative complexity all in a mere 40 minutes that float by far too fast and leave you craving more. Animal Magic streams together eerie-sounding horns and vocal samples similar to the beats Amon Tobin created while still under the Cujo name. And like his Ninja Tune labelmate, Bonobo seems to have laid down the foundation for a wondrous bloom of musical growth.
Denise Benson: Be still my heart. Producer Simon Green has deftly side-stepped the big beat sound many of his Brighton, U.K. city-mates have made famous, instead pairing quality, quiet beats n breaks with top-notch instrumentation and arrangements. This is genuine chill-out music of the highest order. Sumptuous!
5. 4Hero Creating Patterns (Talkin Loud)
Denise Benson: This is the album of 4Hero's career to date, demonstrating that production partners Dego McFarlane and Marc Mac are growing in leaps and bounds. The instrumentation is incredibly rich and deep, easily obliterating the lines between live and sampled. Guest vocalists (Ursula Rucker, Terry Callier, Lady Alma, Roy Ayers, Jill Scott) are framed beautifully as 4Hero both create and connect new musical patterns. The duo's growth has taken them well beyond the realm of drum & bass, to an emotion-filled landscape embracing jazz, soul, and broken beats alike. Generations of music lovers will meet here, with 4Hero pointing to the future. Nothing short of brilliant.
6. Orbital The Altogether (ffrr)
Philip Downey: For the last 11 years Orbital (English brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll) have been bringing forth exciting blends of cool, creative samples, funky beats, and strong melodies. From the wonderful electronic pop songs "Funny Break" and "Illuminate," to the insane breakbeats of "Tension" and "Meltdown," The Altogether demonstrates that no one genre can be applied to Orbital, other than quality.
Joshua Ostroff: A electronic album that consists of more than singles and filler? Believe it.
7. Lamb What Sound (Polygram)
Vinita Ramani: Five years on, cosmic siblings Andrew Barlow and Louise Rhodes have found the perfect balance of tension and release in their third album What Sound. Perhaps some would long for the raw, sensual tension of their debut release or the push-pull tug of war between Barlow's broken beats and Rhodes' swooning epic love songs from Fear of Fours. That's a no go. What Sound comes off like a massive sigh of relief backed by a soundtrack of strings. Barlow's scathing, four/four fearing experiments are still there, but more muted and matured while Rhodes continues to write unabashed love poems. After almost breaking up, this is Lamb reincarnated, to be taken in like a large dose of air after staying under too long.
8. Matmos A Chance to Cut Is A Chance to Cure (Matador)
Eric Hill: If Matmos weren't getting paycheques signed by Björk would we still be able to take seriously their music made from samples of fat sucked through tubes and nose cartilage snapping? God, I hope so. The San Francisco duo occupy a middle ground in electronic composition between the loopy IDM/gabber ghetto of Autechre, Squarepusher and Kid606, and the high-brow conceptual pioneers like Morton Subotnick, Raymond Scott, Alvin Lucier and others. That said, they are as likely to piss off as to please followers of either camp. If that alone isn't the mark of a transcendent work, I don't know what is.
Cam Lindsay: A totally sickening experience is made into the most fascinating sounds produced this year. Who knew liposuction could sound so great?
9. Mondo Grosso MG4 (Sony)
Prasad Bidaye: While Craig David turns North American R&B heads onto two-step breaks, the latest from Mondo Grosso reverses the flow and takes those sounds to levels that are much more adventurous and melodic. The skittering-snares of UK garage are heightened here with string sections, acoustic guitars, Brazilian rhythms and a solid cast of soulful vocalists from around the world. The results are absolutely gorgeous, as they blend a fine balance of the organic and the electronic, while exuding some of the most positive sonic vibes of the year. The pulsing energy on "Butterfly" and "Life" leave the listener elated, while the jazzy mania on "MG2SS," "Samba Do Gato" and the three-part "Star Suite" proudly prove that there's ample room for experimentation in this genre despite the fact that it is arguably on the wane.
10. Manitoba Start Breaking My Heart (Leaf)
Denise Benson: Toronto's Dan Snaith came out of left field to steal hearts, mesmerise grey matter, and earn heaps of press all across the globe. His free jazz-influenced bits, beats and bleeps are paired with a deep appreciation for melodies and quality pop music, resulting in a whole that is both immediately accessible and deeply ambitious. Snaith has an ear for beats, with his love of hip-hop subtly informing the sound, but it's his gorgeous keyboard work that sets pieces like "People Eating Fruit," "Schedules & Fares," and "Dundas, Ontario" in a league all their own. Currently relocated to London, UK as he furthers his studies in pure mathematics, and travels across Europe and Japan to perform, Snaith is undoubtedly one to watch.
Nathan Haines featuring Verna Francis "Earth Is The Place" (Wave)
Prasad Bidaye: Haines propels a subtle, but pulsating groove of colourful synth-loops, while Francis weaves black, womanist attitudes into a poetic flow.
Rafael Toral/Rob Wannamaker Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance (Touch)
I. Khider: An eerie yet beautiful atmospheric recording done through processed guitar noise and electronic modulations. Coasting over a wide range of emotions, the prevailing feeling is intensity and awe. Violence of Discovery... is one of the most beautiful sonic sculptures to come out this year.
Nigel Hayes But is it Art? (Sunshine)
Marc Roy: Jazzy downtempo and head-bobbin' deep house for the martini crowd.
Timo Maas Connected (Kinetic)
Troublemakers Doubts and Convictions (Guidance/Fusion III)
Various Komfort Labor Presents Scape (wmfrec)
Brian Eno/J. Peter Schwalm Drawn from Life (Opal Records/Virgin)
I. Khider: A gorgeous recording co-made by a life long-producer of phenomenal sound. Orchestral arrangements, pure ambiance, guest vocals by Laurie Anderson, a beautifully put together album. This album demonstrates what someone who has attained studio mastery and tenure can come up with.
Landslide Drum+Bossa (OM)
Marc Roy: Finally bringing something new to the otherwise stagnant genre that is UK Garage: soulful. Fresh and original!
Loscil Triple Point (Kranky)
Saru Downtempo Dojo (Shadow/Instinct)
Etienne De Crecy Tempovision (Solid)
Prasad Bidaye: A predecessor to Daft Punk and Air, Etienne De Crecy comes correct with tunes devoid of the retro-tackiness that's usually expected of the French electronic wave. Sophisticated production, sweet atmospheres and a penchant for melodies with a pop sensibility.
Landing Oceanless (Strange Attractors)
I. Khider: Non-conventional pure atmospheric rock music, wordless ballads, a freefall into unfurling guitar loops and billowing soundscapes.
Various Brazil EP (V Recordings)
Marc Roy: The first in this exciting new series of globetrotting D&B remixes. Quente!
Mikael Stavostrand Reduce (Force Inc.)
Beatless Life Mirrors (Ubiquity)
Denise Benson: Alex Attias (Catalyst, Visions Inc.) and Paul Martin (Interfearance, A&R at Talkin Loud) have made one of the modern soul albums of 2001! Here, the duo beautifully juxtaposes new and old, placing classic soul and gospel sounds alongside quirky, wonderfully twisted hip hop and perfectly broken beats. Genius. One I'll still be enjoying in a decade's time.
Cristan Vogel Rescate 137 (Novamute)
Prasad Bidaye: Better known as a techno DJ of the hard-as-metal British persuasion, Cristan Vogel innovates this genre by de-constructing it to the point where his beats sound damaged and dislocated. A lot of it comes across as though the studio equipment is having digestive problems, and as a result, that makes it all sound even more human.
Way Out West Intensify (Distinctive Breaks)
Marc Roy: Restored my faith in trance music. Sweet, ethereal and funky.
Hazard/ Fennesz/ Biosphere Light (Touch)
Mitchell Akiyama Hope That Lines Don't Cross (Substractif)
Sylk 130 Re-Members Only (Six Degrees)
Prasad Bidaye: Everyone's tried the 80s route, but few have been able to bring the once-segregated sounds of electro-funk and synth-pop together the way King Britt does on his second e-motion picture soundtrack. Soulful music that has as much to do with the future as it does with the past.
Richie Hawtin DE9: Closer to the Edit (Minus)
Joshua Ostroff: Canada's most extraordinary DJ breaks his set down into bits and bytes. But while the construction is revolutionary, it's the result that matters -- and loop-happy Hawtin has built a brilliant techno tower.
Mouse on Mars Idiology (Thrill Jockey)
Wagon Christ Musipal (Ninja Tune/Outside)
Fantastic Plastic Machine Beautiful (Emperor Norton)
Joshua Ostroff: Japanese DJ/Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka hits us baby one more time with Beautiful, using early '90s house music as his base and piling on Philly soul, Brazilian sambas, hip-hop beats and even a Frankie Knuckles cover.
Moonstarr Dupont (Public Transit Recordings)
Prasad Bidaye: The long-awaited mini-LP shows the Toronto bedroom-studio star taking new leaps with a diverse range of broken-beats. More street-wise than most of the stuff coming out of West London, and ultimately scores with the vocoder rap on "Interplanetary Thoughts In Flight."
Solvent & Lowfish w/ guests Snow Robots 1 & 2 (Suction Records)
Nickodemus & Mariano Turntables on the Hudson 3 (Rhythm Love)
Fugitive Elf Soulbound (Shadow/Instinct)
Oval Commers (Thrill Jockey)
Detroit Grand Pubahs Funk All Y'all (Jive Electro)
Prasad Bidaye: The duo's obsessions with booty and bass brings out what may as well be the first full-length, techno-comedy record. Obnoxiously funny, yet sonically adventurous.
Llorca New Comer (F Communications)
Marc Roy: Can you have enough sexy jazzy house in your life?
Les Go "Dan Gna (Spiritual Life Vokal Version)" (Spiritual Life)
Prasad Bidaye: Joe Claussell takes this West African vocal into a sweet garage dimension, and then just when you think it's over, he unleashes traditional percussion that flips the time-signature into a mode that's almost religious.
Sync & Lady J ReCord (Ghost)
Marc Roy: Homegrown D&B with sensuous vocals and world-class production find this record!
Vladislav Delay Anima (Mille Plateaux)
New Deal s/t (Jive)
Joshua Ostroff: Toronto's own progressive live house outfit took their live shows, broke 'em into pieces and reconstructed a major label debut that will have you dancing in your living room.
Reno Disco Rare Tracks and Remixes (Haute Couture)
Marc Roy: M. Disco, Montrealais et house producer extraordinaire!
Mikael Stavostrand Reduce (Force Inc.)
Goem Disco (Fourth Dimension Records)
Mujaji Free Rain (Shadow/Instinct)
New Sector Movements Download This (EMI)