Gilded eternities

Without spoiling too much of the current thrill-a-minute Subterraneans column, which puts to rest a bloodstained year in a fractious imperial democracy and looks ahead to even stranger days ahead, I thought I'd jot down some essential tunes to take with you to the island of your choosing, when you need to get away from it all. Here is the best of what I've returned to again and again in 2009, shared in some random kind of lyrical disorder. Jams that made my mind and body turn and twist and shout. Crossing genre borders, including comps, singles and re-mastered and reissued stoner-approved classics.

Hyph Mngo (Hotflush) - Joy Orbison. Ecstatic funky legit house-dubstep blender that gets better and better before your virgin ears. A young talent (Pete O'Grady, 22) to watch. Good pairings to seek out: Hotflush label owner Scuba's two side-sided powerhouse ('Speak/Negative') for Naked Lunch; and Hessle Audio co-head Pangaea's one-sided 'Memories' released on (our favorite) label unknown. Next up, freaks: flame out to the Dark Knight's highly combustible 'My Bitch/Mutant Funk' sides. We're dancing to it right now, in a bass haze, in case you want to join us.

Exploding Head (Mute) - A Place to Bury Strangers. Heavy, mysterious, loud, mumbled psych-punk poetry. Yes, the Jesus & Mary Chain comparisons are apt, but it has me reaching further for my Loop reissues, A Gilded Eternity (Beggars Banquet) and The World in Your Eyes (Reactor), each filled with hypnotic drone pop and proto-ambient metal, initially released in those golden years, 1987 to 1990.

5: Five Years of Hyperdub (Hyperdub) - Various Artists. Sexy greatness is all over it, beginning with the sublime modern poptones of Darkstar's 'Aidy's Girl is a Computer,' Cooly G's 'Weekend Fly' and Ikonika's 'Sahara Michael;' reprising a Burial track (a beefy 'Distant Lights'), finally losing its temper on 'Fukkaz' and the Specials' 'Ghost Town,' the latter two grindcore dubs courtesy of Kode9 + Spaceape. And there are close to 30 other gorgeously-produced tracks. Rock!

Tracks and Traces (Gronland) - Harmonia & Eno '76. Trance rock of epically-beautiful proportions, matching members of Germany's Cluster and Neu! with new wave Brit synthesist Brian Eno. The original 12 songs are plenty to digest, but plan to add smart remixes by Appleblim & Komonazmuk ('By the Riverside') and Shackleton ('Sometimes in Autumn') issued by the Amazing Sounds label.

Great Lengths (3024) - Martyn. Almost everything he touched turned to hipster gold. One of the first to build bridges between Detroit techno, Chicago house, LA hip hop, UK jungle, drum 'n' bass and rave, this debut shows off the transplanted Dutchman's (from medieval Eindhoven, now living in suburban Washington D.C.) skill at shaping dub desire into coherent, universal pop.

Fever Ray (Rabid) - Fever Ray. Karin Dreijer Andersson's (The Knife) unchallengeable synth/goth/pop masterpiece, now in special three-disc edition including live tracks and video. Dead sad exquisite northern beauty. Here's your chance to surrender, slave. I did.

Self-Assessment and Symbiosis (both Modern Love) - Pendle Coven and Demdike Stare. Two LPs, two separate Manchester, UK projects connected by the presence of warehouse techno-house/evil dub producer Miles Whittaker, Berlin's Dubplates & Mastering studio wizardry and kinship with Detroit otherness and self-mystification of artists like Rod Modell and his Deepchord and Echospace crews.

Waiting for You (Hyperdub) - King Midas Sound. Narco-dream dub from London space-bass producer Kevin Martin, who doubles as the man behind the Bug, featuring acid-dread vocals by poet/MC Roger Robinson and Hitomi. The lovely voices float over waves of melodic sub-bass and crazy effects all pitched down to a junkyard crawl. How low can you go?

The Strange New World of Bernard Fevre (Lo Recordings) - Black Devil Disco Club. Amazing recordings from 1975, revived and re-worked for instant groovy dancefloor reaction by the now 63-year-old Fevre. Ripping French disco basslines meet German space rock elements, suggesting a careful listening to Can and Faust. If you like it, and you will, also dig around for another more tragic re-discovery: Wolfgang Reichmann, who was knifed to death in a bar brawl in 1978, the same year his Wunderbar debut was issued on Hamburg's Sky Records. Big, ambitious recording (re-released on Bureau B) will make you shiver if you like 'Man Machine' era Kraftwerk or even Tangerine Dream. Say you will.

Until Then, Goodbye (Smallville) - Lawrence. What's the most quietly consistent house-techno combo player in the world, Peter Kersten (Lawrence/Sten), been up to lately? Pristine productions, as usual. The new one is for you, closet Emo girls and boys, pure melancholy danceable 4/4 pop for now people. Don't bother dressing up, the party is at your house tonight and we're coming over.

Also riding the year out on a high: the Netherlands' Dave Huismans, whose A Made Up Sound ('Rework/Closer') and 2562 (Unbalance LP) projects continue to impress; Detroiter Omar S went to the plate swinging and went yard on Fabric 45, a mix that contained all original material; Berlin-based Redshape's The Dance Paradox, was pure Detroit love in all the right ways, as was Actress' (Londoner Darren Cunningham) stomping 'Ghosts Have a Heaven' and Quantec's Basic Channel-Deepchord flavored Cauldron Subsidence. Moodymann (Westsider Kenny Dixon Jr., lusty and re-invigorated at 42) stayed chic in the global underground with Anotha Black Sunday, and contributed tracks, along with fellow Detroiters Theo Parrish and Rick Wilhite, to 3 Chairs' Spectrum LP. LA funk was re-born (sounds a lot like Seven Mile and Ryan neighborhood to us) on Dam-Funk's massive, soul-stirring Toeachizown. More good dubs from the UK came via Untold's 'Dante/Sweat,' Millie & Andrea's 'Spectral Source/Ever Since You Came Down' and Ramadanman's 'Humber' and 'Justify' (with Appleblim). Mordant Music developed hauntological kitchen sink surrealism as a new sub-sub-genre on the monochromatic SyMptoMs LP; Blue Daisy somehow made shoegaze and wonky-funky space-disco riddims work on the 'Stings Detached' four-track EP; and Klimek continued on his alternately grimy, haunting and beautiful journey through the ambient ghetto of the imagination on his Slavoj Zizek/Van Dyke Parks/Brian Wilson-inspired Movies is Magic LP.

Bristol's Peverelist dropped a tasty full-length bass bomb, Jarvik Mindstate; Deastro (early-twentysomething Randolph Chabot of Sterling Heights) produced the kinetic Moondagger, for Ghostly International; Matias Aguayo put another stake in the heart of boring elitist minimal with the populist South American-European street party-club music hybrid, Ay Ay Ay on Kompakt. From the vaults, we were digging the Soul Jazz collection Can You Dig it? The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1968-1975 and the Kill Rock Stars reissue of the stunning Mayo Thompson-produced Raincoats debut, originally out on Rough Trade in 1979. We raise a toast to 30 years of post-rock relevancy with a glass of champagne that tastes just like Cherry Cola.

The hits kept on coming: Editors' In This Light and On This Evening, the Depreciation Guild's In Her Gentle Jaws and The Mary Onettes' Islands brought pop poetry to club life, shaking fists at God, nature and human failure. Thanks to the marvelous ears of Pop Ambient visionary Markus Guentner, those LPs are on heavy rotation on various iPods, iPhones and computers all over the house. As is yet unreleased material from Dresden's Malory (Pearl Diver, out in early 2010), though it has been galloping in my head since November. That's when the digital A/V trio nospectacle (Chris McNamara, Jennifer Paull and yours truly) performed with Guentner at a special event called Collapsing Borders on the University of Michigan's North Campus. I mention it partly because I have a great picture posted here of McNamara (mixing live video, left) and Guentner (right) playing sublime live original material for the first time -- anywhere, ever. It's one of many secret best moments of a pretty great year in Detroit music. You missed it, but the afterlife in the blogosphere is made for eternal second opportunities like this. Enjoy! Not to mention vicariously experiencing other rare live appearances by Move D, Scion, Faust, the Sight Below, Flying Lotus; and less rare happy hours and hours by local mischief makers Macho City, Disco Secret, Aaron-Carl, Kevin Reynolds, Wolf Eyes, Aaron Dilloway, Jamie Easter, the Wolfman Band and, of course, all the discerning music lovers in Detroit that kept it all kicking like a sleep twitch in 2009. Stay safe and don't dare lose your fever knife edge in the new year.

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