A lot of people have been asking around for music lately, so I figured this thread could easily spread the word on what we all thought was the best of the best in 2003. Some might preach about how all music sucks these days, but when I actually sat down on thought about it, it was really quite difficult for me to pick out the 5 best albums released this year. Of course…all of mine fall under the electronica division, as that’s really the only new stuff I listen to anymore, but of course we’ve all got slightly varied tastes, so we should be able to compose a pretty good list. Please include a small review or description also, so those ignorant to your tastes have an idea of what you’re talking about.
- Infected Mushroom - Converting Vegetarians.
The 2-disc release from Middle Eastern trance sensations Infected Mushroom has unfortunately not made it to the US shores yet, and no release is scheduled yet. This is a real same, for it is leaps and beyonds beyond the trance and progressive trance most of us Americans are inundated with. Some have complained about the ‘cheese’ factor in the album and the rather absurd vocals, but in music like this lyrics can be forgiven and cheese has never tasted so good. String accompaniments, middle-eastern inflected guitars, winds, brass, and even a banjo all appear on this album, sampled by the band members themselves, and they are fitted in almost seamlessly with the psychadelic, pounding trance beats. Meant almost strictly for the dancefloor, this album is really enjoyable anywhere, from the car to your headset.
- Aphex Twin - 26 Mixes For Cash.
Though pretty much all of the material on this 2-disc album was composed prior to 2003, most all of it was unreleased up to this point. Richard D. James has an impeccable taste for mixing, and this album will make you want to crush the legions of DJ StupidHouseDiscSpinner with your valiant fist. The mixing is flawless, with James completely changing the faces of the songs he is remixing yet creating an equally, if not more compelling soundscape out of the old bits and pieces. It’s rare to see a 2-disc set not laden with filler, but I could not think of a single thing to remove from this collection, and these CDs are packed to the brim with 70+ minutes of music each. Sure, Druqks might have sucked, but this more than outweighs his faults and proves he is the extraordinaire techno artist.
- Autechre - Draft 7:30
Nearly impossible to listen to at first, I have never had an album done such an about face on me. This album is impossible to define or even put into words, yet with enough effort one discovers behind the crunching beats, squiggles, and bleeps, an album geared getting lost in. Autechre, on this album, thankfully starts to move away their random-beat-generator programs and instead goes for a manual mindfuck. The first 20 minutes of the album are incessant - drums crashing in a vibrant cacophony of sound, evoking an irrational array of genocidal imagery leaving you nearly exhausted by the end of the 4th track. Thankfully, for the first time since Tri Repetae, they realized that sometimes it’s okay to give the listener a repose, and as the fifth track moves in, a slow, moving synth starts to pervade the atmosphere, and the drums chill down to almost nothing, while a deep, intense, but but mellow bassline drifts you along through 11 minutes of reductio ad absurdum. The rest of the album continues this slow, downward spiral into obscurity, but it is a rational obscurity, with more familiar drum lines, such as the hip hop line of track 9, crunched together to lead you down Autechre’s inescapable path of insanity. Clearly not an album to be listened to in the background, this requires your full attention, but your efforts are more than well rewarded.
- Luke Vibert - YosepH
This album is pure fun(k). Luke Vibert is not only a master of making your lazy ass demand to get up and boogy down, but god damn, even your brain drools over this stuff. A return to the acid beats of the early 90s and late 80s, but with some actual feeling and melody, Vibert makes us all wish it was 1993 again (well, at least 1993 with his album available). “I Love Acid” here is the major highlight, featuring a groovetacular bass line which you’ll be humming for weeks, a modest amount of beats which don’t intrude but keeps things moving at a perfect pace (a nice break from the gorging of pounding 4/4 beats from progressive house and trance), not too slow, not too fast, but at just the right speed that your body could remain in perpetual motion forever, while a droning robot voice repeats the “i love acid” theme. Perhaps the best dance album of the millenium so far.
- Bonobo - Dial M for Monkey
This album sort of took me by surprise. I was not expecting such an intricate and beautiful composition. A jazzy hip-hop album (without vocal accompaniment), Bonobo ties together a beautiful sonic array of pianos, flutes, guitars, and orchestration with mellow hip-hop (but not quite trip-hop) beats. This is an album to chill out to, dance intimately to, make love to, or just give your mind some delicious attention - it works for anything and everything, and it will leave you wishing that it was not so short. Rarely does electronica produce feelings inside the listener outside of the ecstacy realm, yet this album succeeds in filling you with all sorts of inspirations from writing a great novel, a beautiful love sonnet to that crush of yours, finally picking up that old, dusty guitar in the corner, or laying alone on the bed, recalling the best memories you can think of from your past. This is the kind of album that makes even the most vehement electronica opposers stop and think for a minute.