Surprisingly, some of the more purist dance albums this year ended up falling by the wayside. Troy Pierce's Louderbach project 'Enemy Love' seemed to take on the format on its own terms early in the year, but inevitably people ended up celebrating the strong tracks out in the clubs and not listening to the album as a unified whole. Likewise the recent effort from James Holden's recent effort 'The Idiots are Winning'was similarly bitsy, perhaps surprisingly given the rock direction of his 'At the Controls' mix.
More successful were Alex Smoke's 'Paradolia' and Ellen Allien & Apparat's 'Orchestra of Bubbles', the former a pop-inflected take on minimal techno, the latter a one-off collaboration with two minds to draw from. The minimal Prince of Fuckpony’s ‘Children of Love’ found favour, while elsewhere more Detroit-oriented LPs such as Vince Watson’s 'The Emotion Sequence', Deetron's 'Twisted Memories' and Andy Stott's 'Merciless' were praised too, but in the end perhaps these were collections dance cuts aimed at DJs and not general punters, which may be why they failed to chart in our poll.
A new approach to the long-player format this year has been the mix artist album: 'Synaptic' by Pascal FEOS, ‘Home’ by Thomas Schumacher and 'Focus On' by Guido Schneider merged collections of a single artist’s tracks into a unified whole. The danger of course is that the result is neither fish nor fowl: none of these albums were perfect mixes (understandably, when you're limited to your own productions) and none wholly satisfying as a collection of tracks. Put on one of these albums and you feel like you must start from the beginning, but you can’t shake the feeling that it’s secretly a collection of 12"s.
Progressive house? In terms of albums, the 2006 approach has been to meld the drama of the genre with a new cinematic sweep. Hybrid delivered widescreen breaks on 'I Choose Noise' while BT hunkered down in the LA soundtrack room on 'Binary Universe'. Elsewhere in LA, soundtrack producers Oakenfold and Junkie XL took pops at the pop market with a 'A Lively Mind' and 'Today' respectively, with predictably mixed results.
The biggest disappointment this year undoubtedly was DJ Shadow's 'The Outsider'. His new hyphy direction and commercial flexing alienated the fan base, moving a step too far from the sample-based instrumentals which Shadow found fame with originally. In the realm of breaks, Stanton Warriors also drew on rappers on the 'Lost Files', Meat Katie continued the genre's love affair with electrohouse and Elite Force bet on vocals to see him through, but none of these really crossed over.
So what did work best on the difficult format in 2006?
05. Trentemoller - The Last Resort [Pokerflat]
"Whether your godless world is ruled by chopped Magda/Hawtin productions or Digitalism remixes of Kaiser Bloc tracks, you’ll be lucky to hear anything more era-defining than this in 2006. Trentmoller’s full-length debut is a twenty-two-track feast that sums everything that is great about these two tendencies of contemporary electronic dance music. Taken as a whole, the mood might be slightly dark, but it is always exhilarating, never depressing. The Sturm Und Drang-like cover art might show where Trentemoller likes to think he is coming from (German electronic Romanticism), but what’s inside shows what he is aiming for (international dance floors AND bedrooms, bodies AND souls). On that level, it is an utter success. Add the fact that is it an album’s album, i.e. it doesn’t feel like a single’s compilation, and you get one of the year's – and, let’s be frank here, Poker Flat’s, very first – dance music landmarks. All hail the real min2MAX king. No either nor or.” – Stéphane Girard
04. My My - Songs for the Gentle [Playhouse]
"My My have talent. In the best of their songs, every chime, every bleep, every tick and every thump can be directly expressed through movement. I’m not sure if someone who has never lost themselves on the dancefloor and experienced that abandon could ever see that in this music, but it’s there in its every fibre. This album and this artist exemplify to me why I love dance music and I urge anyone who feels the same to buy this record, though those who already follow My My will need no encouragement. Listen and remember that it’s not about hardware, software, vinyl, mp3s, UK, Germany, USA, minimalism or maximalism. It’s about dancing.” – Jacob Wright
03. Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye [Domino Recording Company]
"To these ears, now is exactly the moment for this release, the near perfect broken marriage of hardwired poptronics and floppy-boy tears. It’s a work that says goodbye, not by wearing its heart on its sleeve so much as routing heartbreak right through its midi. Whatever else these works sound like moment to moment, it’s the strength of the songwriting and the beautiful, desolate space this creates for the synthesizers to sing that makes this album truly outstanding. Standouts like ‘First Time’ and ‘So this is Goodbye’ (so good I have to be careful not to listen to it for fear of tears in public) prove that the sound of the human voice with a beautifully chosen synth tone is silicon sighs incarnate. This is music that understands that human beings are the softest synths of all.” – Peter Chambers
02. The Knife - Silent Shout [Rabid Records]
"Bjork on drugs with DK7 arranging instrumentals on a ghostly Roland 909? Karin from the Knife has been quoted as saying a silent shout is like when you dream and really want to scream, but nothing comes out, and this is an album that definitely screams loneliness and obscure inner visions. Complicated, beautiful and mystifying in turn, this third album from the brother sister duo broke The Knife around the world, perhaps surprisingly, since the textures here are so uneasy and ice cold. But what ‘Silent Shout’ lacks in depth and variation, it makes up for in raw emotion: the songwriting and clever production might shine here, but ultimately what is most effective is the emotion Karin brings to her distorted, jaded and ghostly vocals.”
– Mohson Iqbal
– Mohson Iqbal
01. Booka Shade - Movements [Get Physical]
"What is most compelling about ‘Movements’ is the one-two punch that almost all Booka Shade tracks deliver: melody and basslines. If Booka Shade know anything, it’s how to craft tunes filled with more hooks than a fishing kit. And if the hooks don’t catch you, the basslines will. A slightly reworked ‘Mandarine Girl’ and the single ‘In White Rooms’ testify to Booka Shade’s way with melody and bass: if a DJ can’t get a crowd moving with these tracks, their decks and records should be revoked. ‘Movements’ is a great home listen yet loaded with tracks that are begging to be played out. To have achieved both ends is an incredible feat, and in doing so Booka Shade have not only released one of the best albums of 2006, they may very well have crafted a classic.” – Cameron Eeles
Contributors: Jeremy Armitage, Peter Chambers, Richard Chinn, Paul Clement, Cameron Eeles, Tami Fenwick, Stéphane Girard, Chris Hobson, Ben Hogwood, Nico Ilickovic, Mohson Iqbal, Matt Langler, Lisa Loco, Alex Macpherson, Joshua Meggitt, Tal Messing, Dave Noonan, Barry O'Donoghue, Siana Petro, Dave Rinehart, Kiran Sande, Christopher Thomarios, Jacob Wright.
What are your top five albums of 2006? Have your say in the RA forums.