PRINT December 2004

Music: Best of 2004

Christoph Cox


1. Various Artists, Radio Java (Sublime Frequencies) From the teeming airwaves of Indonesia’s largest island comes this frantic and mind-blowing collage of gamelan-driven pop, saccharine jingles, muezzin calls, histrionic film dialogue, DJ banter, Javanese punk rock, and other gems, compiled by Sun City Girls’ Alan Bishop.

2. Sachiko M/Toshimaru Nakamura/Otomo Yoshihide, Good Morning Good Night (Erstwhile) The reigning triumvirate of Japanese experimental improvisation presents its sublimely understated aesthetic of emptiness by way of no-record turntable, no-input mixing board, and pure sine-wave oscillator.

3. Christian Marclay, DJ Trio (Asphodel) The father of art turntablism mixes it up with some of his most adventurous offspring: Toshio Kajiwara, DJ Olive, Eric M., and Marina Rosenfeld. Marclay’s hyperreferentiality is beautifully complemented by the compelling abstractions of the younger DJs.

4. Radian, Juxtaposition (Thrill Jockey) Vienna, these days, is a hothouse for hybrids of post-rock, electronica, and improv. This trio is one of the city’s most magnificent specimens. Crisp grooves ground the crackling fuzz of electricity.

5. Black Dice, Creature Comforts (DFA) A beguiling mess of a record in which wobbly guitars get blasted by analog belches, effects-laden goofs, haunted-house psychedelia, and wayward noises of all sorts.

6. Various Artists, Haunted Weather (Staubgold) A superb survey of international sound art and experimental music today compiled by peerless critic and curator David Toop to accompany his new book of the same name.

7. DJ/rupture vs. Mutamassik, Shotgun Wedding Vol. I: The Bidoun Sessions (Violent Turd) Thrilling funk-filled mixes by two of the world’s most expansive selectors. German dancehall and French hip-hop flow under, over, and alongside Algerian rai and Egyptian sa’aidi in this sonic celebration of the Afro-Arab diaspora.

8. Noël Akchoté/Roland Auzet/Luc Ferrari, Impro-Micro-Acoustique (Blue Chopsticks) Seventy-two-year-old musique concrète pioneer Ferrari makes his first foray into free improvisation alongside two stellar young French players. The result is a delightful assemblage of squeaks, thuds, plucks, and whispers that Ferrari aptly calls “new, real-time concrète.

9. Tape, Milieu (Häpna) This Swedish trio unveils a pastoral landscape in which the acoustic and the electronic, lyricism and noise perfectly cohabit. Like dragonflies in a summer field, digital bits and concrete noises buzz around lilting lap steel, harmonica, and banjo.

10. Sir Richard Bishop, Improvika (Locust) Elegant, virtuoso acoustic guitar improvisations that mine myriad traditions (Indian ragas, Moorish arabesques, flamenco flourishes) but remain searchingly original and experimental. An astonishing collection that places Bishop in the lineage of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, and Derek Bailey.

Christoph Cox is associate professor of philosophy at Hampshire College and co-editor of Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music (Continuum, 2004).