Here are my top 5 albums (not ‘most important’, cos sometimes an important album can be a bit shit 😉 These are my top 5 perfect all time listens (so far)!
Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
One minute of ‘Ready let’s go’ and the opening bars of ‘Music is Math’ have to to rate as the most emotive starts to any album I have ever listened to. It’s a real ‘are you sitting comfortably’ moment, because what is about to come will make you melt. ‘Gyroscope’ is a clear 10 years ahead of its time, but we are only in the early stages. At its core ‘Sunshine recorder’, ‘Julie and Candy’, ‘1969’ and ‘The Beach at Redpoint’ enthral, and groove just enough to bring some lucidity to an album that is a giddying journey of psychedelic beauty.
Leftfield – Leftism
The daddy of all ‘dance music’ albums? Perhaps we’re showing our age but we can’t help but shiver with excitement when listening to this. The mood is perfect, the album as a whole builds from beauty into groove and heart stopping drops, tailing to a reflective end. Unlike all the other albums reviewed here it is hard to say it is more than the sum of its parts, the reason being simply that each track, on its own is a stone cold classic hit. One after the other. Almost any track on it would send any festival crowd in to a tizz, even today, and next year it is 20 YEARS OLD! Gah!
Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
I first thought of ‘In Rainbows’ which is a close contender. But this is a less obvious option, and a more consistent album. This is MY favourite Radiohead album. And Radiohead have done so many truly astonishing albums that it is no wonder that everyone has a different one. But this hangs together perfectly, with wonderfully constructed songs throughout. A deeply haunting opening 3 tracks (2 + 2 = 5, Sit Down, Stand up (little raindrops!), Sail to the moon), then, oh my, sublimest of sublime ‘electronic’ tracks ‘Backdrifts’ which builds and morphs to a fantastic climax, which along with ‘The Gloaming’ are the only exceptions to making this album the most ‘non electronic’ album since OK Computer. For a reflective and sombre listen only perhaps, but unsurpassed at that.
Underworld – Beaucoup Fish
Off, On. Off, On. A schizophrenic album. One slow track, one stormer, and repeat. You could listen to all the ‘odd’ tracks and have a chill album, every ‘even’ one and you have a bonafide, stonking, dance album. Try it!…with the exception of the last 2 tracks which switch.
Albums fall in to many categories, one of which is ‘A journey’. This is not one of those. This album is a different beast, but it is ‘definitive’. It is a collection of work that defines Underworld. It is the perfection of everything they had done until then, and is what they are compared to since. It defines a ‘sound’. And to an extent it defined the end of the 1990s and the new millennium.
And so many ‘hits’; Jumbo, King of Snake, Push, Moaner. Not to mention Kittens which is probably one of the most underrated of their tracks ever…its perfection. As is the whole album. It closes with one of the most brutal techno tracks you will ever hear, Moaner. And anyone who has seen them live will understand why it ironically makes almost cry to hear it. What a finale!
Orbital – Insides
So, this has it all. The opening bars, ominous and beautiful rolling in to a 10 minute long classic that could only ever exist on an album. Followed by one of the finest examples of brooding electro-breaks you could every hear, Petrol. Then we get in to the meat. The Box. Part 1 is a beautiful overture, exquisitely protracted…and now, for me one of the finest moments in any album, and a moment that can only exist in the context of an album, the segue between 6.10 of Box 1 and the start of Box 2. Pure joy. Box (Part 2) is a total classic. Then we have the track no-one can pronounce, Dwr Budr, but it is sublime and has all the Orbital light touch breaks and vocal loop beauty you could ever wish for. Same goes for Adnans, except here are the bleeps and soaring melodies.
The climax of the album deserves its own paragraph. A paragraph with little in it other than to say that the last 25 minutes of ‘In Sides’ is unsurpassed in the form of ‘Out There Somewhere’. Containing another one of those great Segue moments between the 2 halves this is another ‘track’ that could only exist on an album, progressing , meandering, building, dropping and finally wrapping up a timeless ‘Journey’. The finest 25 minutes of album listening, ever.
Like ‘Beaucoup Fish’ this album is, for Orbital the definitive album for me. It is strewn with loose sync’d breaks and ‘live’ sounding arrangements but is pure in its perfection, no distractions, you can almost hear the the guys crabbing and tweaking their hearts out from start to glorious finish.
(Note: Albums sometimes change. And this album is a perfect reminder of the palpable effect of a ‘body of work’. When I refer to ‘In Sides’ I refer to the original 8 track release. Since then other tracks have been added, no doubt for marketing reasons. ‘The Saint’ being the most common, but ‘Satan’ as well in some cases. It is very clear that these are tacked on additions and weren’t written in context, which only goes to prove an albums value. Only listen to Tracks 1 to 8 😉