|RA Poll: Top 100 albums of the '00s
RA begins its week-long look back at the past decade with our list of the finest long players.
There was a lot of hand-wringing in the '00s about whether the album still mattered in the rock world. In our sphere, though, it's hard to say that appeal has ever waned. Ask any artist that has spent their career releasing a crush of 12-inch singles and digital EPs, and they'll tell you that it's the only place to stretch out, the format in which they can truly showcase everything they have to say. The best albums, though, transcend context. And that's largely what our top 100 records of the decade reflect. Whether it be house, techno, disco, drum & bass, jazz, trip-hop, ambient or all of it at once, these were the many sounds that made up the past decade for us.
100. Prosumer & Murat Tepeli - Serenity [Ostgut Ton, 2008]
Classic house with an almost unbearably melancholic feel from Berlin and Cologne.
99. Arovane - Tides [City Centre Offices, 2000]
Regarded as a nice enough IDM producer based on his debut full-length and a handful of singles, Uwe Zahn shattered expectations with Tides, a small masterpiece of ambient music that seemed to have nary a Max/MSP patch in sight. "Theme," which opens the album with a delicate harpsichord, immediately signaled the different tack that Zahn was to take with the album. But Deauville, the producer's tribute to the French town, is its most memorable moment, placid synths melting into a slow beat and the sound of the sea. - Todd Burns
98. Lucien-N-Luciano - Blind Behaviour [Peacefrog, 2004]
The Cadenza label head's debut album before Cadenza was even a glint in his eye.
97. Drexciya - Harnessed the Storm [Tresor, 2002]
Oceanic bliss from the Detroit duo "flared through dimensional waves."
96. My My - Songs for the Gentle [Playhouse, 2006]
Winsome post-minimal house from Lee Jones and Nick Höppner.
95. Miss Kittin & The Hacker - First Album [International DeeJay Gigolo Records, 2001]
The full-length masterpiece from electroclash's most visible duo.
94. Quiet Village - Silent Movie [Studio !K7, 2008]
Matt Edwards and Joel Martin's ode to exotica and trip-hop.
93. Benga - Diary of an Afro Warrior [Tempa, 2008]
The making of one of dubstep's biggest stars.
92. Sasha - Airdrawndagger [Arista, 2002]
Sasha's debut album, an impeccably produced collection of more relaxed fare.
91. The Bug - London Zoo [Ninja Tune, 2008]
Can a soundtrack exist without a film? It can with an album that bristles with as much volatile energy and conceptual scope as this one. The creature behind the barricades of London Zoo is tensely coiled, taut and defensive, rapid-fire ragga spitting over wall-of-sound industrial dubstep, casting a pall of urban dystopia with tracks "Angry," "Murder We" and "Too Much Pain." Electronic dub had long been the domain of Kevin Martin, AKA The Bug, but by moving two clicks to the left, he found within dubstep the perfect conduit to reconcile his menacing cinematic dub with its ancestral Jamaican roots. - Christine Kakaire
90. Nathan Fake - Drowning in a Sea of Love [Border Community, 2006]
To these ears at least, there was something quintessentially British about Nathan Fake's debut LP, Drowning in a Sea of Love. Sure, the awkward folktronica tag attached a certain geographical association. And the twee artwork, based in what is presumably rural Norfolk, struck an UK-centric chord. But there was something about the way in which the album's cascading floral melodies unfolded atop its barely-there drums that reminded me so resplendently of walks in country lanes and clotted cream. The then 22-year-old's opus did somewhat confound an expectant techno scene, although eventually that initial shock did, by and large, turn to awe. - Ryan Keeling
89. The Chemical Brothers - Come With Us [Virgin Records, 2002]
The duo's fourth album, and a return to more danceable fare.
88. Nightmares on Wax - In a Space Outta Sound [Warp Records, 2006]
More dub-heavy trip-hop grooves from the masters of the form.
87. Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain [Mute, 2001]
The mysterious debut from a woman who would grow to become a bona fide pop star.
86. William Basinski - The Disintegration Loops [2062, 2002]
An ambient elegy, composed of literally disintegrating tapes from the producer's vast archives.
85. Lawrence - The Absence of Blight [Dial Records, 2003]
The Hamburg producer emerged into the gray light with this album of downcast house.
84. Panda Bear - Person Pitch [Paw Tracks, 2007]
Animal Collective's resident techno geek turns in his most beat-driven affair yet.
83. Royksopp - Melody A.M. [Virgin Records, 2002]
A Norwegian take on Air, downbeat with plenty of pop sensibility.
82. Bruno Pronsato - Why Can't We Be Like Us? [Hello? Repeat, 2007]
New musicians go through different phases. I felt like I was entering something new for Bruno. I was going through a divorce, and had just moved to Berlin, so the album has that feeling of melancholy plus the feeling of being in a new city. At the time I was really seriously in touch with Roxy Music, and how Roxy Music albums are pieced together. I knew my album couldn't sound like Roxy Music, but I wanted to focus more on musicality and sounding nice, instead of some crazy MSP patch. Aside from We Are Monster and Alcachofa, there haven't been many techno records that really stand on their own as a musical statement. Even Moodymann and Theo Parrish, there's a huge amount of musicality to what they do, so it's timeless, you know? That's definitely a goal—making music that people can listen to forever. - Bruno Pronsato
81. James Holden - The Idiots Are Winning [Border Community, 2006]
The Border Community boss, and his expansive visions of electronic music's possibilities.
80. Aphex Twin - Drukqs [Warp Records, 2001]
An ADD-driven double album from the famed IDM genius.
79. Farben - Textstar [Klang Elektronik, 2002]
As Farben, Jan Jelinek's coup is in making glitch as palatable as possible. But most importantly, this album is unmistakably glitch; each skip, stutter, scratch, blip, zip and click an undeniable byproduct of abstraction and compost. And yet, the album is luscious enough to dine on, each detail and sound as individually textured and tasty as an array of food. Textstar is not just further proof that house music's possibilities are vast, but also that, often times, the best approach to music is the most unlikely one. - Tal Rosenberg
78. Apparat - Walls [Shitkatapult, 2007]
Sascha Ring's pop IDM full-length, a throbbing album of anthemic gems.
77. Ricardo Villalobos - Thé Au Harem d'Archimède [Perlon, 2004]
The second excellent full-length in as many years from the microhouse maestro.
76. Laurent Garnier - Unreasonable Behaviour [F Communications, 2000]
The French DJ/producer gets jazzy on his first full-length of the decade.
75. Dizzee Rascal - Boy in Da Corner [XL Recordings, 2003]
The grime superstar's debut was a surprisingly deep look into the mind of a fragile youngster.
74. The Mole - As High as the Sky [Wagon Repair, 2008]
Impeccably arranged soul and funk loops played over and over and over and over and over again.
73. Felix Da Housecat - Kittenz & Thee Glitz [City Rockers, 2001]
It can be difficult, in the wake of the disappointing work that's followed, to remember how defining this album was. But Kittenz both summed up the electroclash era and outran it blindfolded—not difficult, maybe, but the snarling whomp of "Silver Screen Shower Scene" and the wired rubber-band bass line of "What Does It Feel Like?" retain an urgency that even Miss Kittin's seen-and-snorted-it-all vocals can't damper. In fact, the contrast is one of the things that made Kittenz so emblematic for a generation inundated with media since birth, yet feeling its feet for the first time. - Michaelangelo Matos
72. Horsepower Productions - In Fine Style [Tempa, 2002]
The first album on Tempa is a rare beast: Highly influential and listenable.
71. Aril Brikha - Deeparture in Time [Transmat, 2000]
This Swedish producer's ode to Detroit techno is one of the genre's finest moments of the past decade.
70. Vladislav Delay - Multila [Chain Reaction, 2000]
Deep, dark and abstract journeys into the world of dub techno.
69. Layo & Bushwacka! - Night Works [XL Recordings, 2002]
Famed London nightclub The End was renowned for its diverse approach to dance music, boasting some of the most diverse programming in all of clubland. It was unsurprising, then, to hear the second album of Layo Paskin and Matthew Benjamin—two of the men behind the venue—bouncing around gleefully, taking in influence from all corners. More interesting, though, was how coherent it all ended up sounding: Somehow these two made anthems like "Love Story" and dreamy trip-hop workouts like "Blind Tiger" sit comfortably only a few minutes from one another. - Todd L. Burns
68. Tiga - Sexor [PIAS, 2006]
The electro producer proved he was much more than a mere master of the cover song on his debut album.
67. Studio - West Coast [Information, 2006]
Breezy Balearic tunes straight from the banks of the Göta Älv.
66. Closer Musik - After Love [Kompakt, 2002]
Dirk Leyers and Matias Aguayo's debut album was minimal techno of a different sort.
65. Skream - Skream [Tempa, 2006]
The debut album from dubstep's boy wonder showcased the sound of Croydon.
64. St Germain - Tourist [Blue Note, 2000]
Ludovic Navarre's greatest work was a sublime melding of jazz and house.
63. Cut Copy - Bright Like Neon Love [Modular Recordings, 2004]
A blast of synth pop genius from an Australian trio updating the sound of Depeche Mode and Human League.
62. Portishead - Third [Island Records, 2008]
The much welcomed return from the idiosyncratic Bristol group was every bit worth the wait.
61. D-Bridge - The Gemini Principle [Exit Records, 2008]
Much has been made of Darren White's recent exploits as one-third of the holier-than-thou Autonomic collective, but it was his debut album, released mid-way through 2008, that first marked him out as a true underground heavyweight. Coming on the back of sterling LPs from Breakage and Commix, it signalled a shift back towards a deeper, more musically adventurous aesthetic in drum & bass, and in its stylish but affecting marriage of stark percussion and bittersweet melodics, remains unsurpassed in the genre's recent history. - Max Bacharach
60. Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Vertical Ascent [Honest Jon's Records, 2009]
In which three leading lights of avant-garde electronic music get together and push themselves even further.
59. Melchior Productions - No Disco Future [Perlon, 2007]
A thoughtful take on microhouse. Considered, immaculate and supremely danceable.
58. Basement Jaxx - Rooty [XL Recordings, 2001]
The everything and the kitchen sink duo at their mind and genre-bending best.
57. Monolake - Polygon_Cities [Monolake / Imbalance Computer Music, 2005]
Nine night drive productions from the collective mind of Robert Henke and Torsten Pröfrock.
56. Plastikman - Closer [M-nus, 2003]
If Minus hadn't been created by the time Closer was completed, it might have been necessary to invent it. The album was the embodiment of the possibilities inherent in minimal techno, allowing for strange and wondrous landscapes and machine funk. Rarely do artists have the time and energy to make something as conceptually rigorous, an album which sounds as if it was borne out of depression and despair, but whose maker emerged on the other side to become something else altogether. - Todd L. Burns
55. Pantha Du Prince - This Bliss [Dial Records, 2007]
Evocative techno from one of the genre's few flâneurs.
54. Björk - Vespertine [One Little Indian, 2001]
Vespertine seemed to signal the end of an era for Björk. But what an ending it was, tiptoeing its way between pop ambition and avant-garde tendency. Imaginatively orchestral, it was among her most overtly beautiful records, awash with harp, bells, softened beats and, of course, her stunning voice cutting through it all. Among her most insular records, Vespertine stands as a prime reason to celebrate things like hidden places, cocoons and pagan poetry. - Todd L. Burns
53. Isolee - We Are Monster [Playhouse, 2005]
A complex and dizzying array of sound, all filtered through the prism of house and techno. Barely.
52. Recloose - Cardiology [Planet E, 2002]
Lush and jazzy vibes from the Detroit sandwich artist.
51. The Streets - Original Pirate Material [679 Recordings, 2002]
Mike Skinner's grimy and poetic debut album still sounds like little else.
50. Vitalic - OK Cowboy [Different, 2005]
Very few French producers can claim to have had a first album as primitively raw as Vitalic. The power of early, heavily compressed tracks like "Poney Pt. 1"and "La Rock 01" were so stunning it blew electroclash's self-absorbed mind and even turned James Murphy from punk to techno. Thankfully, Pascal Arbez-Nicolas was also versatile enough to confront his Eastern Europe background on "Polkamatic," while absorbing the doleful side of synth-pop on "The Past," making OK Cowboy the missing link between Daft Punk's sheer heart-pumping thrill and the instinctual energy unleashed by the Ed Banger cohort. - Stéphane Girard
49. Deepchord Presents Echospace - The Coldest Season [echospace [detroit], 2007]
Reverential dub techno from a Detroit and Chicago duo steeped in electronic music history.
48. Ellen Allien & Apparat - Orchestra of Bubbles [BPitch Control, 2006]
Bubbling, mesmeric suite of singles from an inspired pairing of Berlin's electronic music elite.
47. Martyn - Great Lengths [3024, 2009]
Dubstep-not-dubstep from one of the many producers methodically tearing up the genre's rulebook.
46. Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Insen [Raster-Noton, 2005]
A meeting of the experimental minds that was every bit as good as you'd expect.
45. Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye [Domino, 2006]
The synth pop duo flex their muscles more, but still can't help but shed a few tears along the way.
44. Theo Parrish - Sound Sculptures [Sound Signature, 2008]
Idiosyncratic house and techno from one of the most admired men in the business.
43. Gui Boratto - Chromophobia [Kompakt, 2007]
Along with The Field, this Brazilian jingle writer's infectious techno helped save Kompakt.
42. Efdemin - Efdemin [Dial Records, 2007]
Efdemin's self-titled album was perhaps the high-point of Dial's decade long dedication to downbeat house. Like labelmate Pantha Du Prince, Phillip Sollmann had plenty of outside interests that had nothing to do with electronic music—Harry Partch, This Heat, Robert Wyatt—that at least tangentially informed his beautiful deep house, allowing his work to somehow exist in a space outside of the genre. But as anyone who has seen him DJ can attest, he's well-versed in the genre as well, ready to rock Panorama Bar with an educated selection of dusty gems. - Todd L. Burns
41. Fennesz - Endless Summer [Touch, 2001]
Bewitching ambient music mostly composed via guitar. Not that you'd know it by listening.
40. Commix - Call to Mind [Metalheadz, 2007]
The Cambridge drum & bass heads provided one of the genre's best full-lengths of the '00s by looking outside of it.
39. Matthew Dear - Asa Breed [Ghostly International, 2007]
A friend recently called Matthew Dear's rock excursions perfect for Thursdays. That may sound like an indictment of Matthew Dear's best album to date, but I tend to think it's high praise. Albums that work outside of the weekend are exactly the type of music that stands the test of time. Like Kid A, Asa Breed works in nearly any context, whether you're waking up, going to sleep, gearing up for a night out or coming down from the same. - Todd L. Burns
38. Radiohead - Kid A [EMI Records, 2000]
An album that influenced countless DJs and producers, and was an electronic gateway drug for thousands of rock kids.
37. Ulrich Schnauss - A Strangely Isolated Place [City Centre Offices, 2003]
Ambient music with enough oomph to keep the club kids happy.
36. Newworldaquarium - The Dead Bears [NWAQ, 2007]
Swampy dance floor epics that transcend their original home on vinyl.
35. The Rapture - Echoes [DFA Records, 2003]
Punk, funk and dance music: Four Brooklyn lads make New York cool again after electroclash.
34. Move D & Benjamin Brunn - Songs from the Beehive [Smallville Records, 2008]
Syrupy selections from two of deep house's most thoughtful experimentalists.
33. Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald - ReComposed [Deutsche Grammophon, 2008]
When two of titans of the electronic music scene unite to take on two titans of classical music history, the pressure is certainly on to deliver the goods. Those expecting fireworks out of the Detroit techno demigod and the founding father of Basic Channel's interpretations of Ravel's "Bolero" (and the lesser known "Spanish Rhapsody") and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" might have been disappointed, but the pair make up for it with a series of subtle, yet stunning explorations of these signature works. ReComposed wasn't the dance floor bomb many anticipated (although there are some aggressively rhythmic movements here, to be sure), but it was still a mesmerizing listen, oozing with texture and deftly avoiding the trap of predictable. - Todd Hutlock
32. Infusion - Six Feet Above Yesterday [BMG, 2005]
One of Australia's greatest live acts successfully brings their live energy to the album format.
31. Prefuse 73 - Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives [Warp Records, 2001]
Scott Herren's debut album helped redefine both instrumental hip-hop and Warp Records.
30. DJ Sprinkles - Midtown 120 Blues
[Mule Musiq, 2009]
Terre Thaemlitz is one of the few producers capable of pushing electronic music into the political realm without retreating into platitudes about how everybody's dancing. Thaemlitz's exploration of identity politics via house music has long been an indispensible voice and on Midtown 120 Blues
, it sounds better than ever: Moody, spectral, world weary. Tracks like "Grand Central, Pt. II (72hrs. by Rail from Missouri)" echo like a decade-long hangover from some screaming epic party when you truly believed that everything was going to be okay. The press release describes the album as "the rhythm of empty midtown dance floors resonating with the difficulties of transgendered sex work, black market hormones, drug and alcohol addiction, racism, gender and sexual crises, unemployment and censorship." That's a tall order for any work of art—and in Midtown 120 Blues
, you actually hear it.
- James Reeves
29. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime
Fittingly released in the melting winter of 2007, Swedish techno mesmerist Axel Willner's debut as The Field, From Here We Go Sublime
, sounded kind of like a pop album mangled into novelty by a broken record needle. Part of this was the effect of the nagging familiarity of the samples he unspooled and lengthened into swooning, spring-wind epics, pulled from artists like Kate Bush and Lionel Richie. Mostly though, it was in how instantaneously he drew the listener in with the pulse and surge of his melodies: Shards from pop's past given the same emotive draw over six, seven shimmering minutes. We're contractually prohibited here at RA from using the dreaded "t" word—you know, the one that rhymes with dance—but Willner was deft enough with his cross-pollination on Sublime
to sidestep the genre's stigma. The result: The greatest techno-you-know-what hybrid we'll ever hear.
- Derek Miller
28. Trentemøller - The Last Resort
[Poker Flat, 2006]
One of my RA colleagues half-jokingly refers to The Last Resort
as "organic forest techno," but truth be told, he isn't that far off. Danish producer Anders Trentemøller's debut album works its way up from an atmospheric palette of sounds into a sprawling collection of tracks that seem to grow right out of the speakers. The twin secrets to success here, however, are Trentemøller's melodic skill, which elevates the proceedings from mere ambient techno noodling to earworm territory, and the musicality of the instrumental choices (including live drums, guitars and other acoustic instruments like celesta, glockenspiel, melodica and even DJ scratching). The combination makes for a deeply satisfying home listening experience that still manages to have all the beats line up effectively.
- Todd Hutlock
27. Flying Lotus - Los Angeles
[Warp Records, 2008]
Flying Lotus' Los Angeles
successfully reasserted the fertile link between hip hop and electronic music that had slowly been fading throughout the decade. For fans of classic material from DJ Shadow, Dabrye and Prefuse 73, it marked the rise of a new wave of beat-smiths from California. Beyond helping break a new sound, though, the album was also a milestone for atmospheric electronic music, employing an array of dusty break beats and crackly samples to transport the listener on a midnight ride through the City of Angels. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is the fact that this dense, syrupy music could move crowds just as well as minds. The live show Flying Lotus toured with after the release heavily relied on material from the album, and was one of the most exciting and creative of the decade.
- Bernardo Arrospide
26. Matias Aguayo - Are You Really Lost
Matias Aguayo had already delivered a much-lauded album earlier in the decade as one half of Closer Musik, but despite this, Are You Really Lost
arrived with little fanfare in 2005—perhaps a result of the Cologne powerhouse's seemingly relentless schedule of releases, sub-labels and distribution activities at the time. But those who spent a little while in the company of this slow-paced, oddly unsettling release found that it yielded great rewards, tracing previously unseen links between sparse minimalism, loose-limbed percussion and Agauyo's flailing, haunted vocals. More sombre in tone than much of his output, Are You Really Lost
is an utterly distinctive piece of work, uncovering a murky narco-disco hinterland that has yet to be fully explored.
- Lee Smith
25. Burial - Burial
Burial's sophomore album Untrue
may have had the spectral garage anthems of "Archangel," "Ghost Hardware," "Raver" and the title track, but that doesn't mean that we should forget about Burial
. Many fans still hail it as their favourite of the two due to the way it works as an album and its concisely dark and dusky tone. It was—and still is—a revolutionary record in the way that it influenced dubstep sounds and reinvented 2-step for an entirely different generation. From the sublow meditation of "Distant Lights" through to the Eno-esque ambience of "Forgive" and the gorgeously wonky "Broken Home," every track on Burial
stands up firmly on its own, making it an essential listen whether you consider yourself into dubstep or not.
- Richard Carnes
24. Fever Ray - Fever Ray
[Rabid Records, 2009]
When Olof Dreijer left Stockholm and moved to Berlin to explore other sonic ventures, fellow Knife member Karin Dreijer-Andersson was left behind, stuck with a home studio and crying baby-induced sleep deprivation. Bad for her, good for us: The results of those late night/early morning recording sessions under the Fever Ray moniker somehow engendered the most peculiar-sounding electronic music ever put to tape. Produced with the help of Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid (their collaboration was clearly instrumental in shaping the album’s idiosyncratic sound), Fever Ray
is an oeuvre that is both ancient and modern, highly stylistic yet profoundly liturgical, combining ritualistic paganism and hi-fi wizardries, Jungian archetypes and visual ideas from Google Image searches.
- Stéphane Girard
23. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
[DFA Records, 2007]
No one seems to put more pressure on himself than James Murphy, so if expectations were high for Sound of Silver among fans, you can only imagine the crushing weight that Murphy felt. Murphy's neurosis was a good thing for all of us, though, because it clearly led to moments of tortured bliss like "New York, I Love You..." and melancholy anthems like "Someone Great." Sound of Silver
's secret weapon, however, were the tracks that everyone forgets. "Watch the Tapes" and "Time to Get Away" both swing with a funk that should have no place on album like this, and "North American Scum" is likely the funniest self-lacerating anti-American screed put to tape in a decade when patriotism was no laughing matter. That it sounds like the easiest thing in the world may be the greatest testament to Murphy's talent of all.
- Todd L. Burns
22. Justice - Cross
[Ed Banger Records, 2007]
Justice. What a great name for a group. Quick, powerful, single-minded. Just like Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay's music on their debut album. Sure, Cross
was more than a little reminiscent of fellow countrymen Daft Punk, but Justice's tunes had less humor, and were far more brutal in the way that they went about their business. Everything was distorted, brash, young. And awesome, in the truest sense of the word. "Genesis" immediately took your breath away, and the boys didn't allow you to get it back until somewhere around "Tthhee Ppaarrttyy," before launching into the final salvo of tunes. It's a fast ride, but Augé and de Rosnay knew that it had to be. After all, Justice doesn't allow for a whole lot of subtlety. In this case, though, that was a very good thing.
- Todd L. Burns
21. Mylo - Destroy Rock and Roll
There are still so many unanswered questions thrown up by the video to Mylo's "Drop the Pressure
." But it's that same sort of inexplicable quality that also makes the song, and the album it's contained within, so great. No one knows why all the doctors are bearing Destroy Rock & Roll
shirts. And no one knows exactly why a simple voice telling you that a "motherfucker's going to drop the pressure" makes you want to dance so hard. What is clear is that the success of Destroy Rock & Roll
was immense, an all-encompassing situation which allowed for half of the tracks on the album to be released as singles. That Mylo hasn't returned in a meaningful way since is no surprise. How do you follow up something this inexplicable?
- Todd L. Burns
20. Moodymann - Silence in the Secret Garden [Peacefrog, 2003]
Moodymann's albums in the late '90s and early '00s felt a little bit like The Wire
. Both defied their mediums, stitching together pieces of art that seemed more interested in acting as novels than record or television shows. Silence in the Secret Garden
is a novel without much of a plot, of course. But that's also the point: Moodymann stayed true to his name by simply crafting atmospheres and feelings that appear and disappear without rhyme or reason, as subliminal as the rush of words that close "Yesterdays Party Watta Bout It." There is no narrative, just scenes. "Silence in the Secret Garden" reveled in the power of repetition, "Shine" reminded us that vocalizing words is often unneeded when you have "mmm" and "yeah" to see you through. And it was all held together by one of the most idiosyncratic producers of our time.
- Todd L. Burns
19. Hot Chip - The Warning
You got the sense that in 2006 listeners were ready to embrace Hot Chip. The path trodden down by LCD Soundsystem earlier in the decade had defrosted dance fans' attitudes toward guitars wedding electronics, while the star of longstanding electronic outfits such as Basement Jaxx, Underworld and The Chemical Brothers had long since began to fade. Sounding like a New Order for a new era, The Warning
saw the UK outfit grow into the sharp suit they had tailored on their fine, but ultimately lightweight debut, Coming On Strong
. Lead single "Over & Over" epitomized this newfound steely resolve with its searing guitars and tenacious chorus; "Boy From School" illustrated their capacity to emotionally engage; and numbers such as "Colours" and "The Warning" played to the light and shade, sweet and sour tones that bled throughout much of the album.
- Ryan Keeling
18. Shed - Shedding the Past
[Ostgut Ton, 2008]
Though Ostgut and Berghain had already established themselves as leaders in contemporary underground techno by the time Shedding the Past
hit, only now can we fully appreciate the importance of René Pawlowitz's debut in defining the aesthetic of one of the world's most important clubs. Where Dettmann and Klock had been challenging the old power station's revellers with the potentials of the new wave dub-techno crossover, Shedding
connected the two in a coherent package suitable for consideration off the dance floor, tracing links between ambient electronica and Berlin's old school. Over a year after its release, Shedding
's austere landscapes continue to defy their retrospective past and shape the present, maintaining Pawlowitz's reputation as one of today's most consistent producers and precedent-setter for the future of True. Techno. Music.
- Leigh Dennis
17. Convextion - Convextion
[Down Low, 2006]
Convextion may lean heavily on the reverberations of Basic Channel and Deepchord, but there's a critical twist: Emotion. Moody chords and optimistic melodies conjure the streamlined future visions that you first heard in the gliding lasers on Carl Craig's Landcruising
or the raw poignant hooks of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works
—those overheated golden tones from back in the days when techno music was future music. Dig the plaintive streaks across "Equanimity" or the sparkling chimes on "Premiata." This is cinematic music. This is Blade Runner
and Logan's Run
. By turns jittery, sedative and jacking, Convextion's singular long-player plugs the emotional side of electric music into the stern template of dub techno and it's a beautiful, timeless intersection. Winter neon lights sliding across the hood of a car. This album sounds exactly like that.
- James Reeves
16. Herbert - Bodily Functions
[Studio !K7, 2001]
Many of the tracks on Bodily Functions
were written according to the rules of PCCOM
, Matthew Herbert's self-imposed regulations for composing music. (Most notable among them: "The use of sounds that exist already is not allowed.") Unlike much of his later work, however, you could hardly tell that was the case. Herbert's remarkable collaboration with Dani Siciliano simply sounds like a jazz album with some house flourishes thrown in every so often to ensure that the tempo never drops too low. Expertly sequenced, it ebbs and flows with highs—"It's Only," "Suddenly," "Leave Me Now"—and lows—"About This Time Each Day," "I Miss You," "I Know"—that give this record a sense of balance that few other electronic music albums can claim. Rarely has Herbert been this interested in traditional beauty as he is on Bodily Functions
. Thankfully, we'll have the results for the rest of time.
- Todd L. Burns
15. The Other People Place - Lifestyles of the Laptop Café [Warp Records, 2001]
The greatest of the seven album "storms" that aqua-funk legends Drexciya scattered over an array of labels, guises and enigmatic framing concepts, James Stinson's yearning, house-affected solo album is beset with the mismatch of human intimacy and depersonalized internet culture. A record—as the cover image suggests—of lush, open sounds and spare, confined interiors, Lifestyles
' purring keyboards and ripe organ chords set a reflective, languid tone, though its splashing rhythms have all the intensity of Drexciya's earlier, coursing electro. And there were the vocals—plainspoken and understated, they speak or sing of romance and sunshine, but hint at brooding discontent and even loneliness. More touching and human than anything we'd then expected from this secretive techno warrior, it made Stinson's untimely passing a year later all the more heartbreaking.
- Chris Burkhalter
14. Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair [DFA Records, 2008]
The dissonance between Hercules & Love Affair's first two EPs is remarkable. The Chicago jack of Classique #2/Roar
shortly gave way to the melodramatic throwback disco of Andy Butler's debutante anthem "Blind." The subsequent self-titled album not only made "Blind" infinitely more palatable, it effortlessly sealed the gap between the two EPs with an oddly thrilling and unexpectedly familiar-sounding love letter to disco and EDM. House and disco are inextricably linked to the gay experience, and our modern-day Hercules succeeded in reconciling images of Baccahanalian hedonism with body music and modern day queer culture. Through this lens, Butler reimagined indie darling Antony Heragty as Sylvester, his vocal muse, and himself as his Arthur Russell or Ron Hardy, flitting between leftfield disco arrangements and expert dance floor alchemy.
- Christine Kakaire
13. Luomo - Vocalcity
[Force Tracks, 2000]
Back at the start of the decade, house music was in pretty uninspired shape. A handful of German labels, however, were quietly forging an intriguing fusion of instinctive house structures and increasingly experimental sound design. The most prominent of these microhouse imprints was Force Tracks, and Vocalcity
remains by some distance the label's most enduring full-length release. While other microhouse producers had been dabbling in rarefied, glitch-heavy experiments, Vladislav Delay's Luomo alter ego was arguably the first artist to successfully meld next-level production techniques with a rich, emotionally-charged soul. From the endlessly shifting plains of "Synkro" to the vocal tearjerker "Tessio," it set the tone for a decade that would see the conservative boundaries of what we once knew as house transformed beyond all recognition.
- Lee Smith
12. Akufen - My Way
[Force Inc, 2002]
Like the 2000-plus micro samples comprising Marc Leclair's definitive release My Way
, microhouse's threat as a dominant discourse in dance music got clipped short and sweet. But despite Force Inc. disappearing soon after releasing Akufen's idiosyncratic debut, the album outlived its contemporaries and become a classic for both the mind and hips. Using the glitch as a means of teasing the glee out of fleeting everyday audio encounters, My Way
's theoretical strengths paved the way for LeClair to bring subsequent live performances into art galleries as well as clubs. Because while other conceptual records get forgotten under the weight of their own methods, LeClair's grounded dedication to a hook-heavy splice and groove made My Way
a fervently buoyant listen.
- Leigh Dennis
11. Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
[Warp Records, 2002]
Rarely has an album cover so fittingly embodied an album's sound as that of Geogaddi
. A bloody, sun-drenched, kaleidoscopic tessellation of a child standing in between two trees, the image imparts inscrutability, whimsy and an ominous sense of danger. Elementally, Geogaddi
does not depart all that radically from its predecessor, Music Has the Right to Children
. But in tone and texture, the album is Music
's stark opposite. Possessing a uniquely alluring dread, Geogaddi
's 23 soundcards form a collage of eroding nostalgia, a singular sonic experience whose reach we have yet to truly witness. Because though we can pinpoint aural touchstones in its predecessors and followers, we still cannot find an approximation of its consummate purview.
- Tal Rosenberg
10. Rhythm & Sound - w/ The Artists [Burial Mix, 2003]
Mark Ernestus and Mortiz von Oswald will probably be best remembered for their mid-'90s run of Basic Channel records, but they sure set the price high on dwelling on the past. Their subsequent Rhythm & Sound project nestled into slower tempos and thicker atmospheres, drawing deep from a dub muse discernible even at BC's inception. For w/ the Artists
, the Berlin duo called on some of dub and reggae's most legendary voices, turning the likes of The Chosen Brothers, Love Joy and Paul St. Hilaire loose over reverb-soaked, organic rhythm tracks that rank among their weightiest (see the companion Versions
disc). The vocalists take to the techno-informed environs like they were born in them, spitting stories proud and wearied, and making this landmark of digital dub sound design a hell of a soulful reggae record to boot.
– Chris Burkhalter
09. The Knife - Silent Shout
[Rabid Records, 2006]
"Angular" doesn't sound like it describes music; when we use it, it's because someone has made the most heartfelt and companionable artform feel like it could cut you if you touched it. That the curling alien menace the Knife wield comes from fairly conventional sources just makes it scarier. In anyone else's hands "Forest Families" would be moving instead of weirdly threatening; "One Hit" would express concern about the abuse at its heart instead of leering at you; "Still Light" would be a ballad instead of something whispering underneath your bed. And tracks like "Marble House" and "We Share Our Mother's Health" would be dance tracks instead of stark, taciturn, brilliant edifices. Whatever the Knife are ultimately up to, the title track puts it best: On Silent Shout
you caught a glimpse, now it haunts you.
– Ian Mathers
08. Booka Shade - Movements
[Get Physical Music, 2006]
Bangers. At the end of the day, it's really all that you need. "Night Falls," "Body Language," "In White Rooms," "Mandarine Girl." Nearly everything on Movements
was primed for the club, ready to be unleashed on crowds via vinyl or Booka Shade themselves during their excellent live show. The duo made some concessions to the format—making an album version of "Mandarine Girl, for instance—but Movements
was largely an exercise in trusting a musical vision. Booka's dance floor material was always slightly more musical than most, and the reaction to Movements
—a record that brought the group and label more mainstream attention—proved that theirs was a formula that didn't need to be shoehorned to fit some idea of what an album should be.
– Todd L. Burns
07. The Avalanches - Since I Left You [Modular Recordings, 2001]
While long periods of silence following genre-smashing debuts are far from rare in the electronic music world, The Avalanches are the perpetrators of a walk-off that make Portishead look like R. Kelly. Whether they're just sitting somewhere in Australia, still stunned, or have simply returned to their home planet, their debut and sole long-player remains as eye-opening and brain-buggering as the day you first heard it. Most of a decade later, there's still no easy way to summarize Since I Left You
. Is it an AM radio falling off a cliff or an art-collage gone pop? Soundtrack to a prom in Heaven or the devil's own mixtape? Whatever you make of it, you're diminishing these 60 minutes of blissful miscegenation. Is it any wonder its' own creators don't know what in Hell to do?
– Mallory O'Donnell
06. Gas - Pop [Mille Plateaux, 2000]
I almost don't want to write about Pop
in isolation, because few experiences in ambient music are as sublime as the transition from the rest of the Nah Und Fern
box set to this album. It's like stepping off an airplane and away from the high, sweeping view you get from its window into the thick of a jungle, a dense, steaming hiss enveloping your ears while somewhere, in the distance, an orchestra plays (this is
Gas, after all). Here Wolfgang Voigt deploys his mastery of loop-based composition such that some of the tracks feel a bit like perpetual waves of deja vu, a timeless slice of the feeling you get when you're just coming up, dilated out to what feels like infinity. It's actually 66 minutes, but Pop
's excruciating beauty makes you wish it was twice that.
– Ian Mathers
05. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem [DFA Records, 2005]
There was a line of thinking in some quarters that LCD Soundsystem's eponymous 2005 debut was a questionable representation of the album format; little more than a collection of distinguished singles. For the ears of a casual mass market listener? Perhaps. But viewing the record via the prism of a throbbing dance floor, it hardly seemed to matter one iota. The run of singles that began with 2002's "Losing My Edge" kicked up an anticipative dust cloud for the full LP and cannily made up LCD Soundsystem's second disc, while the LP proper basked in Murphy's love for Talking Heads, Can and Suicide, within the loose-ish framework of a disco jam session. Influences aside, LCD Soundsystem
burnt up the rulebook Disco Demolition-style on what a contemporary "dance" band could, and should, sound like.
– Ryan Keeling
04. Daft Punk - Discovery
[Virgin Records, 2001]
Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo probably didn't set out to create the Sgt. Pepper's
of dance music when they started writing songs for the follow-up to their loudly-lauded Homework
. No, they merely embraced a wild spectrum of post-'60s popular music with the kind of innocent reverence normally reserved for rock's halcyon heyday, chopped it up with precision sampling technology in obedience to a throbbing 4/4 and recycled it into fourteen blurts of heady machine-processed joy. House-rooted artists before and since have made albums more avant-garde or more populist, but none have combined the two as suavely and effortlessly as Discovery
, and no one, ever, has made a simple filtered loop sound so life-affirming, so thrilling as Daft Punk do in the first 47 seconds of "One More Time."
– Mallory O'Donnell
03. Burial - Untrue [Hyperdub, 2007]
If Burial's self-titled debut was the first dubstep record to really give the UK-bass mutant a somewhat larger foothold elsewhere, then follow up Untrue
was the album that led to its first household-name claim (fine, apartment-name). Often described as "ghostly" or "spectral," Untrue
was, first and foremost, a mastery of sample stitching. Vocal shards smudge almost every edge of his dark-alley 2-step, often left to moan below as blurry new haunts take the fore. The genre's sharp, machine-room edges suddenly seemed sanded down, touchable; a notoriously dour, black-and-gray format now infused with both a little color and a bit of spiritualism. Were it not such a "British" record in terms both of heritage and sonics, one might almost consider Untrue
a kind of urban gospel music: A hymn, almost solemn, in a cracked pavement landscape.
– Derek Miller
02. Metro Area - Metro Area
[Environ Records, 2002]
Essentially a modern electronic take on the '80s boogie sound of yore, Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani's first and only full-length together is a landmark album in more ways than one. Largely responsible for the resurgence of the electronic disco sound, this collection of the previous Metro Area 12-inch singles is still played by DJs from all genres, building nu-jazz DJs a bridge to house and opening a door for techno heads into disco. The tried-and-tested dance floor anthem "Miura" will be the one that you know inside out, but from the bubbling funk of "Dance Reaction" all the way through to the slinky shuffle of "Caught Up," the New York duo didn't put a foot wrong. With its crisp sounds, clinical arrangements and ridiculously funky grooves, Metro Area
truly is a timeless album.
– Richard Carnes
01. Ricardo Villalobos - Alcachofa [Playhouse, 2003]
For most, Alcachofa is where "Ricardo Villalobos" began. A little known DJ and producer with a few solid tracks to his name in 2003, there were few indications that there would soon be a 3 x 12-inch release on Playhouse that would help change the course of electronic music. After a few years of playing the game as it should be played, however, Villalobos let his freak flag fly in full view on Alcachofa. It was a revelation in both imagination and scope. It was a question. "How out there can we go and still make people dance?" And an answer. "This far...for now."
"For now" meant that there were ever-so-slight concessions to the masses. You would never hear the desiccated voice of "Easy Lee" nor would things ever get quite as easy as "Dexter" in a Villalobos track ever again. But the particular genius of Alcachofa is that you only realized that things like "Easy Lee" and "Dexter" were anthems after you listened to them for the second, third or 15th time. It's a nearly impossible trick, making tracks that kept you dancing but which still give up new secrets each time that you hear them. Seven years later, we're still hearing things. – Todd L. Burns
Published / Monday, 25 January 2010