|RA Poll: Top 100 tracks of the '00s
RA concludes its week-long look back with our round-up of the best tracks of the past decade.
In his recent book, Berlin, Techno and the Easy Jetset, Tobias Rapp claims that techno in the '00s was in many ways a reaction to techno from a decade earlier. "The nineties were about rave and everything that went with it," he writes, "and then, after all the great successes and excesses, the whole thing collapsed as the end of the decade approached. Around the turn of the century, the music went back underground in order to revitalize itself."
Looking at the list of singles below, Rapp's assertion rings true. Electronic music went through a metamorphosis in the past ten years, taking on such a diverse and heavily niched form that it seemed to lack a singular identity. But as disparate as the sub-genres became, there were always tracks that managed to catch everyone's attention, like Burial's "Archangel," Claude Von Stroke's "Who's Afraid of Detroit?" or LCD Soundsystem's "Someone Great." It's tracks like these that make up our list: Tunes that transcend all the sub-genre titles, and stand out simply as the best electronic songs of the decade.
100. Kabale und Liebe & Daniel Sanchez - Mumbling Yeah [Arearemote, 2007]
The minimal techno track everyone tried (in vain) to sing along with.
99. Pendulum - Vault [Obsessive Recordings, 2003]
The visceral debut single from what would later become the world's biggest drum & bass band.
98. Aeroplane - Caramellas [Eskimo Recordings, 2007]
The Belgian disco duo made their name on their remixes, but the piano line here has all the drama you need.
97. Sebbo - Watamu Beach (Moritz von Oswald Rework) [Desolat, 2008]
Sebbo's Watamu Beach couldn't have been reissued at a better time; it was March of 2008, minimal backlash was in full force, and winter was almost over, making this kind of tribal, rough-edged house number absolutely tantalizing. Moritz Von Oswald's rework, on the other hand, wasn't such an immediate hit. If the original was warm and breezy, then Von Oswald's version was sweltering and humid, with a sluggish beat that seemed to be plodding toward exhaustion—a little confusing at first, but like most great tracks, increasingly pleasing over time. With its splashy reverb, vivid atmosphere and odd acoustic percussion, the track is quintessential Von Oswald, simultaneously recalling Rhythm & Sound and foreshadowing Vertical Ascent. Originally released in the early '90s, Sebbo's original shows how house music sometimes moves in circles, while Von Oswald's rework proves it still lunges forward every now and again. - Will Lynch
96. Samim - Heater [Get Physical Music, 2007]
The crossover club hoe-down that divided audiences the world over.
95. Halo Varga - Future! [Hooj, 2000]
Heads-down tribal progressive at its most potent.
94. Joker - Digidesign [Hyperdub, 2009]
Video games + hip-hop + the color purple = an indelible dubstep anthem.
93. Afefe Iku - Mirror Dance [Yoruba Records, 2008]
An African-tinged house banger from "Osunlade's protege."
92. Johnny D - Orbitallife [Oslo Records, 2008]
The finest house Mannheim has offered up, combining straight-forward percussion and an evocative moan.
91. DJ Zinc - 138 Trek [Phaze:One, 2000]
Working behind the counter of London's Blackmarket Records in 2001, it came as little surprise to hear rumoured threats of violence towards DJ Zinc from his fanbase for slowing down his hardstep drum & bass to experiment with "garridge." The store specialised in house, UK garage and D&B, and although the three shopping crowds were in such close physical proximity, they were also utterly dismissive of one another. I never found out if the proposed smackdown actually happened, but, if anything, Zinc countered the haters with this, his own aural bitchslap and a rambunctiousness introduction to the new hybrid genre, breakstep. - Christine Kakaire
90. Junkie XL feat. Saffron - Beauty Never Fades [Roadrunner Records, 2002]
A haunting vocal turn from Saffron turned this progressive house tune into an epic.
89. John Tejada - Sweat on the Walls [Poker Flat Recordings, 2004]
A rare anthem from California's master of techno.
88. Radiohead - Idioteque [EMI Records, 2000]
If, as a DJ on the electronic music scene, you wanted to air your respects to Radiohead pre-2000's Kid A, you needed either to have extremely large balls or a blatant disregard for the floor. The album turned the group's flirtation with analogue instruments into a full-blown proposition; enamouring them to a whole new demographic, while simultaneously alienating another. For many, lead single "Idioteque" proved the most fascinating prospect of all: frazzled 8-bit drums joined Thom Yorke's crooked lyrics, while that pensive chord progression played out in the fore. - Ryan Keeling
87. Konflict - Messiah [Renegade Hardware, 2005]
Massive doesn't even begin to describe this intense tech step classic.
86. Recloose - Cardiology (Isolée Remix) [Playhouse, 2004]
Isolée somehow makes the Detroit denizen's original even funkier than before.
85. Squarepusher - My Red Hot Car [Warp Records, 2001]
The accomplished bass player infuses a bit of pop into his drill & bass.
84. Matthew Dear - Dog Days [Spectral Sound, 2003]
The arrival of a new American techno talent.
83. Alan Braxe & Fred Falke - Intro [Vulture Music, 2000]
French filter house of the highest order.
82. Bent - Always (Ashley Beedle's Mahavishnu Remix) [Excession, 2000]
If I remember correctly, Bent wanted me to do the remix of their record, but it was the label that came to me asking about it. I hadn't heard the track before that, but once I heard it I immediately fell in love with it. And it struck me straight away what I wanted to do with it. The process was quite quick. I got the idea for the synth chords from an old track by Last Rhythm. I got a lot of people coming up to me saying that it reminded them of something. Ha! It's been a bit of an albatross this remix, to be honest, but it's a nice albatross to have! - Ashley Beedle
81. DJ Koze - I Want to Sleep [IRR, 2008]
This slow burning original from the top-shelf remixer doesn't do much, and that's exactly the point.
80. Cobblestone Jazz - India in Me [Wagon Repair, 2006]
Winding melodies with a jazzy tint from one of the best live acts in techno.
79. DJ Marky & XRS - LK [V Recordings, 2002]
A sublime drum & bass melding of the traditional and the new.
78. DJ Mujava - Township Funk [Warp Records, 2008]
At a certain point as a music listener, you become a tiny bit jaded. "I've heard it all before." "Isn't there anything new around?" "They're reviving this already?!" Which is why it was such a shock to hear "Township Funk" for the first time, thinking that I had a handle on just about everything out there in the world of music. Clearly I didn't. And that's exactly why it slots into this list. A truly singular tune. - Sam Louis
77. Saints & Sinners - Pushin Too Hard [Bedrock Records, 2000]
At the dawn of the millennium, this progressive house stormer was positively ubiquitous.
76. Juan Maclean - Happy House [DFA Records, 2008]
No track title better encapsulated its contents better than this gem.
75. Rhythm & Sound - Free for All (Soundstream Remix) [Burial Mix, 2006]
Frank Timm cuts up everything around him on this deep house charmer.
74. Akufen - Deck the House [Force Inc., 2002]
The manic mind of Marc Leclair finds funk inside the radio.
73. Djuma Soundsystem - Les Djinns (Trentemøller Mix) [Emotiva, 2006]
A lush and expansive rework from the Danish producer.
72. Paul Woolford Presents Bobby Peru - Erotic Discourse [2020 Vision, 2006]
Simple and murderously effective dance floor magic from the Space Ibiza resident.
71. Felix Da Housecat - Silver Screen Shower Scene (Thin White Duke Remix)
[City Rockers, 2002]
Felix Da Housecat, Miss Kittin and Stuart Price might not have seemed like an all-star pairing in 2002, but with 20/20 hindsight, it's a rather remarkable moment. Housecat was in his Glitz prime, Miss Kittin was at her indifferent best and Price was on the precipice of pop stardom. This being his remix, you can tell that Price does the heavy lifting in reimagining the tune, but it's Felix and Kittin's original that gave him the excellent source material from which to fashion it. Three artists at the absolute top of their game. - Terry Fonseca
70. Basement Jaxx - Where's Your Head At [Atlantic Jaxx, 2001]
Big, dumb and fun: The UK duo ask a simple question over and over and over again.
69. Shackleton feat. Vengeance Tenfold - Death Is Not Final [Skull Disco, 2008]
Claustrophobic bass music from one of Bristol's greatest iconoclasts.
68. Luciano & Quenum - Orange Mistake [Cadenza Records, 2003]
"Orange Mistake" was titled so because we were just working in the studio on the track and then heard this buzz from an orange emulator. We didn't understand where it came from, but then we started to design the song around this buzzing. Once Quenum and I finished, we liked it so much we decided to make a release out of it instead of sending it around to other labels. But we weren't so sure about starting a label like this, it was just going to be a one-off thing, a collaboration between graphic design (my sister does all the graphics for Cadenza) and music. Once we got all the feedback, though, we thought "Oh no! Maybe we should do a label?" - Luciano
67. Benga & Coki - Night [Tempa, 2007]
The tune that arguably broke dubstep to the masses.
66. Dølle Jølle - Balearic Incarnation (Todd Terje's Extra Døll Mix) [Permanent Vacation, 2008]
The edit-happy Norwegian turns out a deliciously slo-motion disco remix.
65. Der Zyklus - Formenverwandler [International DeeJay Gigolo Records, 2001]
Drexciya's Gerald Donald first showcased his love of all things German on the first Der Zyklus release in '98. But it's his second outing as Heinrich Müller features the crisp electro beats and Kraftwerkian melodies of "Formenverwandler" that is arguably his finest work under the moniker. The common Drexciyan theme of dimensional travel is apparent in the track's "I'm shapeshifting from place to place, bending time, curving space" mantra, which glides atop shimmering chords and arpeggiated synthesiser bursts, creating an underground anthem for both late night sessions and heavenly dance floor moments. - Richard Carnes
64. Underground Resistance - Transition [Underground Resistance, 2001]
An inspirational techno sermon from the shadowy UR stable.
63. Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence (Timo Maas Remix) [Mute, 2004]
The famed electronic group gets subtly reworked by an electronic icon.
62. Drexciya - Under Sea Disturbances [Tresor, 2002]
Trippy electro from the late, great Detroit duo.
61. Josh One - Contemplation (King Britt Funke Remix) [1-Off Recordings, 2001]
King Britt reminds us to open up our minds.
60. Tiga & Zyntherius - Sunglasses at Night [International DeeJay Gigolo Records, 2001]
An electroclash classic, and the Turbo boss' breakthrough moment.
59. Minimal Man - Make a Move [Trelik, 2000]
If there were a track to singularly summate the experience of writhing on the decade's most notorious dance floor, DC-10, than Baby Ford and Ian "Eon" Loveday's "Make a Move" would get my cross on the ballot. Rather than emitting one of those famed sit-down inducing "moments" ala "Doppelwhipper," "Make a Move" gradually uncurled itself like a snake emerging stolidly from its basket; or in audio terms, its filter teasing and titillating before adding that extra bass note and eventual open hi-hat. Context-specifics aside, the track has been a not-so-secret weapon for all manner of selectors since its unfussy release back in 2000, proving that functionality is often the key to love and longevity. - Ryan Keeling
58. Martin Buttrich - Full Clip [Planet E, 2006]
The man behind the desk for Timo Maas and Loco Dice steps out with an anthem.
57. Jürgen Paape - So Weit Wie Noch Nie [Kompakt, 2002]
The quintessential Kompakt tune, ready for both the radio and the dance floor.
56. The Avalanches - Since I Left You [Modular Recordings, 2000]
A stitched-together neo-soul classic from Australia's celebrated cratediggers.
55. Luomo - Tessio [Force Tracks, 2001]
The oft-remixed, turned-on microhouse classic from Finnish producer Sasu Ripatti.
54. Stylus Trouble - Sputnik One [Junior London, 2002]
The progressive techno tune that never stops building.
53. Hot Chip - Boy from School [EMI Records, 2006]
The UK quintet's finest pop moment.
52. Heartthrob - Baby Kate [Minus, 2006]
Listening to the opening measures of Heartthrob's "Baby Kate," it's easy to see why it became one of minimal techno's signature anthems. The aggressively funky rhythm made it perfect for peak time, and its epic, instantly recognizable melody haunts long after it disappears into the ether. - Will Lynch
51. Junior Boys - Like a Child (Carl Craig Remix) [Domino, 2007]
The Planet E head's epic take on the melancholic original earned him a Grammy nomination.
50. Noisia - The Tide [Vision, 2005]
"For one bass sound, we'd use our entire CPU." And listening to "The Tide," you can't help believe the drum & bass trio Noisia, whose commitment to aural assault in the first half of the '00s was unparalleled. This particular track was perhaps their most ferocious moment: The group reportedly employed a sample of their window cleaner using a pressure washer to gain the particularly gnarled quality of its bassline. But it's the calm before the storm that's the real fascination: It takes more than two full minutes for the boys to unleash the pressure, most of which you spend cowering in anticipation of the inevitable onslaught. - Dan Hartner
49. Moodymann - Freeki Motherfucker [KDJ, 2008]
This long anticipated funk masterpiece finally saw a release in late 2008.
48. Justice vs. Simian - We Are Your Friends [Ten Records, 2006]
A cross-Channel chant-along from two dance pop titans.
47. Radio Slave - Grindhouse Tool (Dubfire Planet Terror remix) [Rekids, 2008]
The apex of Dubfire's ferocious white noise minimal techno.
46. Ferrer & Sydenham - Sandcastles [Ibadan Records, 2003]
Two East Coast producers bridge the gap between house and techno effortlessly.
45. Vitalic - Poney Part 1 [International DeeJay Gigolo Records, 2001]
A Frenchman's brutal electro vision.
44. Blaze presents UDA feat. Barbara Tucker -
Most Precious Love (DF Future 3000 Mix) [Defected Records, 2004]
Despite his reputation for impeccable original productions, it's often in remix form that Dennis Ferrer really shines. His prowess in the studio is the reason why: His rework of Blaze's "Most Precious Love" pumps up the house, giving it a bounce to go along with its fantastically catchy riff. The '00s were littered with moments like this from the Objektivity head, each one a further indication that the reins of New York's house had been transferred into Ferrer's very capable hands. - Todd L. Burns
43. Tony Lionni - Found a Place [Ostgut Ton, 2009]
A UK producer's exultant ode to locating an apartment in Berlin was one of the biggest crossover tracks of 2009.
42. Green Velvet - La La Land [Music Man Records, 2001]
The Chicago legend's anti-drug message went down easy due to its ridiculously catchy beat.
41. LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great [DFA Records, 2007]
One of James Murphy's rare moments of seriousness is also one of his most memorable musically.
40. Mylo - Drop the Pressure [Breastfed, 2004]
Semantically speaking, the past decade saw the term "electro" put aside its dystopian, Detroit-bound roots to gradually become a totally empty signifier used to describe everything from Cut Copy to The Black Eyed Peas. For a brief moment in-between, though, it also fit a very European, electronic-er brand of house music that felt both new and exhilarating. Mylo's "Drop the Pressure" articulated that shift from peripheral sub-genre to main floor-filling, Elton John-approved populism. With its (slightly irritating yet) federative chorus, it even became the decade's "Around the World," and made Mylo the first credible superstar of mainstream electro-house. - Stéphane Girard
39. Layo & Bushwacka! - Love Story [XL Recordings, 2002]
Its meeting with "Finally" may have conquered the charts, but the original is still a bona-fide piano-house anthem.
38. Chicken Lips - He Not In [Kingsize Records, 2000]
Andy Meecham and Dean Meredith's unparalleled touch for indelible pop electro riffs is almost annoying. Almost.
37. Kerri Chandler - Bar a Thym [NRK Music, 2005]
The sound of what happens when a house music legend happens upon a magic little melody.
36. Technasia - Force [Technasia, 2000]
Charles Siegling's battering ram of techno bliss.
35. Larry Heard presents Mr. White - The Sun Can't Compare [Alleviated Records, 2006]
Acidic deep house from a Chicago legend, made complete by a forlorn man with no first name.
34. The Rapture - House Of Jealous Lovers [DFA Records, 2002]
New York's hippest fin de siècle quartet and their dance punk classic.
33. Theo Parrish - Solitary Flight [Sound Signature, 2002]
Essential to the story of Detroit Beatdown, Theo Parrish elicits near-universal superlatives for his locked grooves and noodly, hypnotic trips into deepness."Solitary Flight" is a remarkable sonic departure from Parrish's many other sample-driven productions, though, which always emphasise the found sounds, but are still thoroughly "Theo-ed," filtered through his distinctive musical lexicon, eternally seeking the most instinctive, inherent funk. Bittersweet and dreamily melancholic with gorgeous, sweeping strings at its core, "Solitary Flight" is emotionally wrought and shamelessly uplifting—an unexpected shaft of sunlight in Theo's basement full of dusty treasures. - Christine Kakaire
32. Carl Craig - Sandstorms [Planet E, 2004]
More slow building bliss from Detroit's master of restraint.
31. Kings of Tomorrow - Finally [Defected Records, 2001]
A glowing house anthem from Sandy Rivera and Julie McKnight.
30. The Knife - Silent Shout
[Rabid Records, 2006]
Apparently Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer are a bit weird. But if you take away the masks, the affected voice and the uncommon fascination with synthetic steel drums, you're left with—on a base level—pop songs. (Which Jose Gonzalez memorably proved with his heartbreaking cover of "Heartbeats.") "Silent Shout" is among their best, a slow drive into darkness that combined what makes the group special (Karin's voice was rarely more menacing than here) and what makes them simply part of a long tradition of songwriters (Olof cloaks Karin in one of the most lush arrangements his unique hand has ever come up with).
- Todd L. Burns
29. Roots Manuva - Witness (1 Hope)
[Big Dada, 2001]
UK hip-hop has long favoured themes of the kitchen-sink and sink-estate variety, and within that paradigm UK bashment developed, a pre-grime expression of the black British experience that drew as much from hip-hop as from a specifically Afro-Caribbean heritage. Fusing the mystical and the mundane, Roots Manuva spits wise about downing pints of bitter and cheese-on-toast, and battling a malevolent Jamaican "Duppy" spectre, while bass notes flare out and bleed into each other, and the two-finger MPC riddim frames the lanky king of Stockwell, with a cadence resembling dancehall chat more than anything else.
- Christine Kakaire
28. Claude VonStroke - Who's Afraid of Detroit? [Dirtybird, 2006]
I called it "Who's Afraid of Detroit" because when I lived downtown, it was shocking to see the amount of people in the suburbs who were afraid of even just going downtown, when it was actually really tame. The track itself actually came out of another thing called "Dirtybird for President" that just wasn't that good. I figured out a new programming trick of EQing three different lines of bass so they all resonated the same, even though they were at different pitches, and then the line just came naturally once the bass was in. But it's funny. Nobody played it for a year. Richie Hawtin was the first person I heard about that was religiously playing it, he was closing his sets with it. Back when you could take a year for a track to work...
- Claude VonStroke
27. Shackleton - Blood On My Hands (Ricardo Villalobos Apocalypso Now Mix) [Skull Disco, 2007]
By the end of the '00s, Sam Shackleton was widely considered to be dubstep's most artistically advanced rule-breaker—an exalted status he might not have reached if it weren't for his symbiotic relationship with Ricardo Villalobos. Engulfing both sides of a 12-inch single, the skeletal rhythms and charred aural palette of the minimal giant's remix take the listener on a hauntingly beautiful ride through the decimated remains of an urban landscape. What makes it one of the best records of the decade, however, is the work of others. Somehow this dystopian epic became a club hit, redefining how strange a record can be and still make its way into thousands of DJ crates.
- Will Lynch
26. St Germain - Rose Rouge
[Blue Note, 2000]
"I want you to get together." Ludovic Navarre put this simple plea over the top of a jazzy backing, and in so doing created one of the loveliest moments of dance floor anticipation of the decade. The secret is in that vocal sample, whose cadence implies that something comes after. And finally it does. "Put your haaaaAAAAaaaands together one time." With a squealing saxophone and lockstep rhythm urging you on, you can't help but want to comply.
- Todd L. Burns
25. M.A.N.D.Y. vs Booka Shade - Body Language [Get Physical Music, 2006]
Virtual unknowns at the time, Booka Shade and M.A.N.D.Y.'s "Body Language" announced the arrival of a new German sound, one built on the idea that melody and harmony could easily co-exist on the dance floor. Booka, of course, would take this theme to even more complex ends on their celebrated full-lengths, but "Body Language" still sounds like the perfect marriage of form and function, a burst of color in the otherwise grey minimal landscape of the time.
- Todd L. Burns
24. Fischerspooner - Emerge
NYC art-schoolers with an experimental theater and performance background, and a knack for shameless self-promoting strategies, a heavy debt to Warhol's conception of fame combined with a talent for self-aggrandizing poses and larger-than-life, histrionic personas. Lady Gaga has made this the stuff of repeated Top 40 successes recently, but Fischerspooner paved the way for her with "Emerge." And while, sadly, their subsequent work never topped that initial brilliance, it also didn't have to: "Emerge" remains a truly triumphant telescoping of style and, yes, momentarily "ironic" substance.
- Stéphane Girard
23. Joy Orbison - Hyph Mngo
[Hotflush Recordings, 2009]
With the mass foaming of mouths over Joy Orbison's latent potential during 2009, it's easy to neglect the fact that "Hyph Mngo" was the 22-year-old South Londoner's debut. Even now, as the dust begins to settle on this particular hype cloud, it's tough not to become ensnared by speculative prose and bombastic superlatives. What we do have to go on is a pair of perfectly formed EPs, and memories of the decimation "Hyph Mngo" inflicted upon dance floors for much of last year. Although we can't say for certain whether Joy Orbison will soar to heights that many expect, touching distance of this track would surely suffice.
- Ryan Keeling
22. Funk D'Void - Diabla
[Soma Records, 2001]
"It started out with a four chord orchestral pattern then I used the long bassline coupled with a strong 909 ride as its core impact," recalls Lars Sandberg, AKA Funk D'Void, on his '00s tour de force "Diabla." "As soon as I hit the bass notes I knew I was onto a winner: It packed that emotional wallop that people seem to register." And register it did. Like "Knights of the Jaguar" two years before it, "Diabla" was the cut that DJs of all musical persuasions just loved to drop. -6? +8? It really didn't matter where the pitch control ended up.
- Ryan Keeling
21. Lindstrøm - I Feel Space
If space disco didn't start here, it might as well have. Lindstrøm's "I Feel Space" drew eyes to a burgeoning scene of Norwegian producers intent on bringing simple soaring melodies that evoked the vastness of the cosmos down to Earth with a slow, pounding 4/4 beat. Lindstrøm would go on later in the decade to explore the terra firma of prog, synth pop and epic Christmas jingles, but he never sounded quite as concentrated in his aims as he did here. Bound by the strictures of the dance floor, he also never sounded better.
- Todd L. Burns
20. Audion - Mouth to Mouth
[Spectral Sound, 2006]
After the visceral debut trio of "Kisses," "The Pong" and "Just Fucking," Audion might have been forgiven for dropping down a gear. But it's a testament to his unique deftness with the harsher edge of techno that he instead subverted their sound, following it up with 13 minutes of looped insistency that found its way into the sets of myriad top DJs—from Hawtin to Beyer to Koze—who caned it black and blue when it came out. The key to it all, of course, is that lead sound—a strong candidate for the title of most berserk synth patch ever programmed in dance music. What's most remarkable about "Mouth to Mouth," though, is that beneath its bilious shrieks there lies a rare artistic subtlety that has seldom been matched.
- Daniel Petry
19. Skream - Midnight Request Line
Before "Hyph Mngo," Burial or even "Night," dubstep simmered below sea level, with little interest in moving beyond its own tight-knit community. The genre's swaying half-step rhythms, gaping pockets of reverb and po-faced minimalism were nothing if not a challenging first-time experience for the uninitiated. Enter Oli Jones' runaway hit, which crossed up, over and beyond. "Midnight Request Line" retained dubstep's earthy, grimey swagger, but afforded it some musicality and personality with oscillating sci-fi synths and electronic arpeggios. Most significantly, it signaled the tipping point between the unknown and the accessible, providing a melody to hum, succinctly arguing the case for dubstep's wider creative potential and mainstream appeal.
- Christine Kakaire
18. Hercules & Love Affair - Blind
It would be easy to dismiss Hercules & Love Affair's breakthrough as a "right place, right time" scenario: Just as disco had become ripe for reevaluation, "Blind" was released by the hip-but-well-respected DFA, and, what's more, the whole thing was centered around the distinct vocals of Antony, who had already received mainstream attention for his Mercury Prize-winning album. But there was nothing calculated here: Hercules frontman Andrew Butler had been DJing disco since the late '90s, and Antony's appearance stemmed from friendship rather than Blackberry emails and business lunches. Indeed, after stripping away any favorable circumstances and hype—even stripping away the kinetic production—what remains is simply one of the most powerful coming-of-age songs released in the past decade.
- Joey Hansom
17. Dntel - (This Is) The Dream Of Evan And Chan (Superpitcher Kompakt Remix) [Plug Research, 2002]
It's the bells. Sure, there's the song, originally the definition of laptop indie-pop, which Dntel and guest vocalist Ben Gibbard would take to the bank as the Postal Service: skittering post-jungle beats, cozily careening synths, Gibbard crooning charming nonsense ("Your eyelashes tickle my neck": twee-est lyric ever). There's Superpitcher slowing the vocal lovingly across foghorn synths and tip-tapping snares, a bassline that tugs forward even as the backdrop beckons toward woolly immersion. But then, beginning at 2:02, an out-of-nowhere gurgle sparks a chain reaction—first one bell dragging across a shipwreck floor, then a slew of them, ascending in curves for a full minute. The first time you hear it, it's as if nothing else in the room exists.
- Michaelangelo Matos
16. Mathew Jonson - Marionette
[Wagon Repair, 2004]
It can be said that some tracks stand the test of time; others, like the hypnotic "Marionette," were timeless in the first place. Mathew Jonson had already achieved recognition with releases on Minus and Perlon. Yet amongst his many releases, it's his debut for Wagon Repair, "Marionette," that showcases his in-depth programming skills, classical and jazz-based musicianship and, above all, his ability to transcend the genres within which he operates. Although challenging and melancholy, and certainly not the obvious choice for a peak-time weapon, this is Jonson's career manifesto which, like him, occupies a space in music that is all its own.
- Daniel Petry
15. Moodymann - J.A.N.
Riding on the crest of a wave following the second of his well-received albums on Peacefrog, Kenny Dixon Jr. dropped this little gem as a single-sided 12-inch via his own KDJ imprint. Arguably his finest ever track, "J.A.N." (Just Anotha Nigga) sees the Detroit house pioneer cut up samples of The Electrifying Mojo's interview with Prince and make it sound like Mojo is talking about him instead. With a weaker musical backing, Mojo's aggrandisement could come across as trite, but the rugged rolling bassline that opens the track soon dispels any notion of mediocrity, with Dixon's tapestry of samples adding a sense of drama that finally lifts when the track flips into an irresistibly jazzy house jam.
- Richard Carnes
14. The Other People Place - Sorrow & A Cup of Joe [Clone Records, 2002]
Some contribute the high work rate of Drexciya's James Stinson in the years before his death due to a heart condition to his awareness of his illness. If that's the case, his final offering under his The Other People Place pseudonym could be seen as a comforting farewell note, melding rich intertwining analogue synth work with a soothing but distant vocal. The minimal percussion and sporadic bass triplets may be restrained, but they're clinically measured, giving the track a floating lilt that perfectly complements the moody melodies. If you're in need of something some dreamy electro to soothe your soul, you can't go wrong with "Sorrow & A Cup of Joe."
- Richard Carnes
13. Daft Punk - One More Time
[Virgin Records, 2000]
You could almost hear the sound of dismayed jaws dropping as Daft Punk's sophomore album, Discovery
, was released in 2001. Fans who had been bowled over by the acid-funk and Chicago house of their masterful 1997 debut, Homework
, were now confronted with cheesy melodies, orgiastic guitar solos and robot masks. What the naysayers failed to see, though, was that this was Daft Punk having fun and inviting us all to join in. And, after some acclimatisation, join in we did. In Discovery
's de facto anthem, "One More Time," and in its vocoder-laden cradle of good vibes, a whole new generation of fans was born.
- Jack Haighton
12. Omar-S - Psychotic Photosynthesis
[FXHE Records, 2007]
With most pundits insisting that the music of the Motor City was going nowhere, trading on past glories and the sole preserve of curmudgeonly purists in their vinyl-only towers, it was in hindsight the perfect time for a sleeper hit record—a real, plastic, black one—to emerge from Detroit and prove almost everyone wrong. Released without any PR campaign or major-name DJ hype on Alex Smith's determinedly low-key imprint FXHE, "Psychotic Photosynthesis" shone—and continues to shine—through its simplicity, layering a chiming, harp-like lead over a mid-paced, effortlessly honed one-bar groove. Like Mathew Jonson's "Marionette" or Villalobos' "Dexter," its elegance lies in its feather-light melody, a wordless techno hymn of beguiling, otherworldly beauty.
- Lee Smith
11. Theo Parrish - Falling Up (Carl Craig Remix) [Third Ear, 2005]
You really could not ask for a more perfect collaboration. The premise of having Carl Craig apply his expert remixing skills to Theo Parrish's mutant funk was almost too exciting to ponder. Which is why even before this Beatdown classic was released, you knew it would be a monster. When the 10-inch finally arrived, it took dance floors everywhere by storm. Boldly announcing its arrival in any set with its pounding, abstract synth line, C2 slowly hypnotizes his audience before dropping the beats and unleashing one of his jazziest solos ever. When the drums finally come back in, it's as if the world is standing still except for the heaving, ecstatic dance floor. One of the decade's most unique releases, "Falling Up" easily stands amongst the best work of each artist—quite an accomplishment given the talent on hand.
- Bernardo Arrospide
10. Nathan Fake - Sky Is Pink (James Holden Remix) [Border Community, 2004]
Remember how in 2004, you were either from Cologne or Berlin, Kompakt or Minus? Well in August of that year, you finally got a chance to be both when Border Community released James Holden's remix of "Sky Was Pink." There was an attention to melody, sure, but with less silliness and more pathos, even menace. There were sideways glances at minimal, those trippy lulls and scratchy warbles, but really that was all they were. This was music that was wholly of its time, without sounding like anything else out there. But more than this, it was dance music for people who hated dance music, a tune for hip-hoppers, prog-rockers and teeny-boppers. To this day, Holden's remix retains an epic universalism that fans of any genre coalesce around.
– Gabriel Stargardter
09. Ricardo Villalobos - Easy Lee [Playhouse, 2003]
I still don't exactly know what the hell that voice in Villalobos' "Easy Lee" is saying. It hovers on the edge of sense, tantalizingly out of reach. But that's exactly why we love Ricardo in the first place, right? Charmingly inscrutable, the minimal hippie lets the music do the talking, leaving the listener to fill in the blanks. "Easy Lee" offers plenty of them. It's one of the producer's sparest tracks, only revealing its remarkable complexity when you try to find something to mix it into. It's an anthem, surely, but it's an anthem done on Villalobos' very particular terms.
– Terrence Fuller
08. Pépé Bradock - Life [Atavisme, 2001]
"Deep Burnt"—released a year earlier—is more widely known but "Life," from 2000's 6 Millions Pintades
EP, can still lay a serious claim to being Pépé Bradock's best track. It's epic but somehow understated, melding sampled violin (from Prince's "Purple Rain") with wriggly Detroit-style synths and the crisp, compressed drums that the French producer's reputation was built upon. Beguiling and bewitching in equal measure—and with a depth and intensity that proved utterly irresistible—"Life" established Pépé Bradock as a peerless producer who would go on to contribute a significant chunk of the next decade's most distinctive dance music.
– Dave Stenton
07. LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge [DFA Records, 2002]
At some stage around the turn of the decade, after James Murphy had been branded "hip" for playing Can, Liquid Liquid and ESG records, the fear set in. "I was afraid that this new found coolness was going to go away and that's where 'Losing My Edge' comes from," he said of the track that simultaneously marked LCD Soundsystem's arrival at the disco, and served as the most astute observation on elitist music snobbery ever recorded. I mean, who can't identify with this track? While the perceptible message centres on being rendered irrelevant by "better-looking people with better ideas and more talent," in a wider sense the record tackles "ownership" over music; the bathing of oneself in smugness after discovering that Basic Channel original. Although he would go on to have an exceptional decade for many reasons, nothing felt more vital than James Murphy's insecurities.
– Ryan Keeling
06. Newworldaquarium - Trespassers [Delsin, 2000]
The connection between Amsterdam's Delsin Records and its spiritual home of Detroit has been documented thoroughly, so when Carl Craig came knocking in 2002 to license Jochim Peteri's dusty, loop-driven "Trespassers"—which had received a limited vinyl pressing on Delsin two years previous—a relationship based on taking cues from the Motor City was momentarily inverted. That the track's release on Planet E never progressed past promo status has done nothing to dampen its own folklore, though. "Somehow it now has become known as 'the track Carl Craig almost wanted','" says Peteri, "instead of the track 'that nobody wanted to release because nothing happened in it.' I love Carl, so I'm quite happy about that, but it's still funny. And there's still nothing happening in it!"
– Christine Kakaire
05. Burial - Archangel [Hyperdub, 2007]
After the commercial and critical success of Burial's debut full-length, the release of sophomore effort Untrue
was certainly a highly anticipated moment of the last decade. Just sixty seconds into opening cut "Archangel," it became clear that Burial had not only matched, but superseded the absurdly high expectations thrust upon him, grafting a certain spectral soul to the heavily swung dark garage percussion that has become his trademark. The deftness of his vocal manipulation is simply staggering—with Ray-J's 2005 R&B ballad "One Wish" amongst the acapellas getting cut-up and pitch shifted—while the haunting bass and strings combine to give it a dark but blissful feeling unlike any other 2-step record before it. Many producers may now be taking cues from different aspects of Burial's sound, but it's tracks like "Archangel" which prove that he's the man that does it best.
– Richard Carnes
04. Octave One feat. Ann Saunderson - Blackwater [Concept Music, 2001]
The first time I heard "Blackwater" was in a hotel lobby. Amongst the lounge music being pumped mercilessly on repeat, this piece graciously stood out with its elegant strings and gorgeous vocals. On my return home to New York, I started hearing the track everywhere: At a house set at Cielo
, emerging from a Basic Channel track during Nikola Baytala's set at Movement and eventually as part of Octave One's live PA at The Bunker
. Every time the effect on the crowd was the same: Eyes shut, wide smiles, jacking bodies. The beauty of "Blackwater" is that no matter where or when it's played, it will immediately trigger an emotional reaction in listeners. In a genre full of bland imitations, "Black Water" stands out as a true classic bound to create beautiful moments on dance floors (and hotel lobbies) for several more decades.
– Bernardo Arrospide
03. Âme - Rej [Innervisions, 2006]
"Rej" definitely came out at the right time; if it came out now, I think it would be just a good selling track, but certainly not as important as it was at this time. I like techno and house, and from the beginning we wanted to do tracks that could be played by techno DJs and house DJs. Maybe there was a lack of good techno-orientated house at that time. But, for me, the most important track for this gap between house and techno around this time was "Sandcastles." With that feeling in mind, we composed "Rej."
– Kristian Beyer
02. Laurent Garnier - Man With The Red Face [F Communications, 2000]
Throughout the '90s Laurent Garnier's genre-bending DJ performances earned him a reputation as one of electronic music's finest arbiters of taste. However, it was on "The Man with the Red Face" that Garnier really committed his unique personality to record. Mixing an incessantly funky techno backing with a quite literally breathtaking performance from jazz saxophonist Philippe Nadaud—something that's often assumed to have inspired the track's title—it remains one of the finest marriages of sequenced electronics and live instrumentation ever produced. From the moment the rousing bass drone kicks in, the record exudes drama and presence, a feature that continues to make it a surefire way to end any club night on a high.
– Stephen Titmus
01. Metro Area - Miura [Environ Records, 2001]
It's no secret that the beat to "Miura" is basically a cover of "Funky Town." I was using a kick and a snare, and I thought it would be nice to put a little reference in. I felt no compunction about doing it because I was using the Stars on 45 version of the song. I was ripping off the rip off. So I left this part where you can barely hear the cowbell in the break. The best part, I think, is the bassline, though. I work to get really empty basslines, and "Miura" is probably the emptiest one I've ever done. It's just two of the same note in the verse. I really enjoy when there's no virtuosity involved, but it still comes across as expressive.
We finished the record as we usually did at Darshan's place, who had a real studio in a loft in Manhattan right under Sonic Youth at Murray Street. It sounded like God was vacuuming upstairs when they were working, it was so loud. It was there that we recorded the vocals of Dei Lewison, who was actually the daughter of Woody Cunningham, the drummer of Kleeer. It was completely accidental, but we were so excited to be working with someone related to this disco guy. Something felt really right about having her work on it with us.
It's a bit hard to talk about "Miura," because it's a track that came together in my bedroom. I think that's common to all bedroom producers. I'm thankful, of course, that it got big. It was the biggest record on the label. But, like any big record, we also grew to resent it. When we would DJ and people would ask us to play it, I'd think, "That's really nice...but it's going to sound exactly the same as when you play it at home."
– Morgan Geist
Published / Friday, 29 January 2010