Best of 2001: Christine Hsieh

Best Music of 2001 Lists

1. Herbert, Bodily Functions (K7)
Words hardly do justice to this sublime, sensitive, and touching work. Matthew Herbert adapts his trademark experimental house and techno to loungey, jazzy deep house. This remarkable album takes found sounds (such as dripping blood, popping knuckles, a woman rustling through her handbag, and a mouse working its way out of a paper bag) and shuffles them into unique, pared down tunes. Vocalist Dani Siciliano adds her understated, beautiful voice to the proceedings, and the result is a landmark album which is at once melancholy, nostalgic, uplifting and wistful. Simply marvelous.

2. The Avalanches, Since I Left You (London-Sire)
This delightful cut-and-paste masterpiece turned the dance world upside down with its international release in the spring. Understandably so, as this Australian über-group meticulously constructed this album out of bits and pieces of hundreds of songs, spoken word bits, and movie soundtracks. Sounds gimmicky, yes, but the sheer musicianship and keen ear towards balance and composition on display here should undermine any sort of skepticism. Humorous, tongue-in-cheek and unexpectedly emotional, Since I Left You is a delight and a pleasure to listen to.

3. Stanton Warriors, The Stanton Sessions (XL)
Those jaded by UK commercial-pop-garage will find welcome respite in The Stanton Sessions. The Warriors serve up a brilliant, booty-shaking two-step/hip-hop/house mash-up with plenty of grungy bass and enough vocals to keep energy levels at dangerously high levels. Already known for their genre-bending remixes of such recent club classics as Azzido da Bass’s “Doom’s Night” and Basement Jaxx’s “Jump and Shout” (both of which appear on this disc), the Stanton Warriors prove that they know how to get a party started and how to bring the entire house down with their mad, undeniably urban tunes.

4. JL Magoya, The Deep Collections (New)
This disc avoids all the pitfalls of most major-label Ibiza compilations on the market. Those fancily-packaged discs often cram a mess of club anthems into the space of two discs mainly on the virtue of their dance floor popularity. Which is great if one wants a non-coherent ramble through some of the more mainstream tunes of the summer. The Deep Collections takes a sharp turn away from such commercialism and instead offers a scintillating set of deep, sensual, and organic tribal house tunes with a heavy dose of Latin rhythms. JL Magoya has a knack for adding layer upon layer of hand drumming, often building his set to incredibly intense peaks. This is fun stuff, and will likely stick to the stereo much longer than Ibiza Hits 2001.

5. Tiga, American Gigolo: The Best of International DJ Gigolos (Turbo)
DJ Hell’s Munich-based label, International Gigolo Records, serves as the source for sleazy, electro-trash techno. This label comp, mixed by the fine Turbo Recordings main man, Tiga, explores the Gigolo catalogue, and with excellent results. Tiga is known for his spot-on fusion of funky techno and grungy electro, and this album combines these talents with many gems from DJ Hell’s artist roster. Essential listening, this album exudes non-ironic Euro-trash flair. Perfect for the high-flying jet set class. Now pass the champagne.

6. Various Artists, Compost One Hundred (Compost)
This is one label that rarely goes wrong, particularly with their many series of compilations. These are the folks who put such definitive discs out there as the Future Sounds of Jazz and Glucklich series. This hefty double-disc digipak commemorates the label’s 100th release, and Michael Reinboth (aka Beanfield, and Compost’s founder/label-head) cherry-picks the best of the back catalogue. Comprehensive liner notes and shout-outs from DJs such as Gilles Peterson should satisfy any electronic fusionist out there.

7. Plump DJs, A Plump Night Out (Nettwerk)
A Plump Night Out, finally released in the US on Nettwerk, captures the best of the Plumps onto one handy disc. The Plump DJs (who took their name from a raunchy magazine called Plumpers) made waves in the UK when their first 12″s hit the market during the peak of nu skool breaks popularity. They added a much-needed dose of humor to the otherwise serious genre, and here they are with their sci-fi beats and blobs of sound.

8. Goldfrapp, Felt Mountain (Mute)
The former Tricky-collaborator is back, and with an album of shocking melancholy and self-indulgent moaning. And this is a good thing. Alison Goldfrapp has a knack for spinning lush tunes out of dreary themes, and Felt Mountain is a quirky album with just enough melodrama to distinguish it from scores of other somber electronica albums.

9. Various Artists, Clicks + Cuts 2 (Mille Plateaux)
Mille Plateaux really outdoes itself with this stunning addition to their Clicks + Cuts series. Three discs of mind-twisting experimental sound cover the bases of this label, spanning the minimalist atmospherics of alva.noto to the blips and pops of Matmos. The first disc explores rhythmic head noise to stunning effect, the third brings experimental music quite close to the club dancefloor, and the second bridges the gap. A good introduction to experimental sounds, this collection should satisfy new and old fans alike.

10. Joey and Norman Jay, Good Times 2 (Nuphonic)
Joey and Norman Jay hold down the fort at London’s famed Notting Hill Carnival. This annual street-parade is renowned for its wild party spirit and even wilder antics, but these boys have been providing the beats to get the party rocking for years now. A delightful collection of classic soul and disco songs on the first disc, and updated garage and house on the second, Good Times 2 will appeal to both young and old. Just the thing to spice up holiday family time, and perfect for the moment when Aunt Norma throws back her sixth eggnog and crazy cousin Jimmy slinks back into the room after stealing to the back porch for a toke or two. Guaranteed fun for everyone.