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]
03. Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye [Domino Recording Company]
02. The Knife - Silent Shout [Rabid Records]
– Mohson Iqbal
01. Booka Shade - Movements [Get Physical]
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.