An article by Jordan Volz


10. Max Richter | Memoryhouse
Germany

Website | Late Junction

With the full force of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at his disposal, Max Richter's debut album is every bit as good as many hoped. The German-born composer crafts a full bodied work with Memoryhouse, using a wide array of techniques to birth what he calls a "post-classical" work. It's a fitting title, as Richter indulges the audience in some minimal piano compositions, as well as some stunning orchestral pieces. "November" and "Last Days" are sure to be crowd favorites with their climaxes and engaging instrumentation; anyone with a pulse would have to stop and take a listen. Many of the shorter tracks contain found sounds that fit wonderfully into the music while bolstering Richter's desire to have the album function as a conceptual piece that spans the 20th century. In the end Richter has delivered a compelling work of art that pulls at the heartstrings.

Key Tracks: Sarajevo; November; Last Days.


9. Amon Tobin | Out from Out Where
Brazil


Website | Ninja Tune

The phenomenon that is Amon Tobin never stops. Every time this man releases an album, the critics fall over themselves with praise. It's no wonder; even after three highly acclaimed albums (1997's Bricolage, 1998's Permutation, and 2000's Supermodified), Tobin returns with Out from Out Where, and it's like he hasn't missed a single beat. Always defying convention with reckless experimentalism yet still catchy as hell, Out from Out Where is no exception to the rule -- which throws more genres into the mix than should be humanly possible -- it's just damn fun and endlessly addicting. Having long since founded his own brand of electronica, all that's left for Tobin is to keep us entertained with one spectacular track after another. Out from Out Where doesn't disappoint.

Key Tracks: Back from Space; Chronic Tronic; Mighty Micro People.


8
. Murcof | Martes
Mexico


Website | Leaf Label

Previously known for his work in Terrestre, Fernando Corona's Murcof project is decidedly more experimental than its predecessor, although still loosely based in the techno world. As if experimental techno wasn't hot enough already, Corona throws in some touches of cello and piano to add a irresistible classical flavor to the work. The compositions themselves are intriguing; shying away from the microsound many occupy themselves with, Martes also isn't aggressive like a standard techno disc. What Corona envisions is a very feminine album, soft and smooth, yet also sexy and seductive, resulting in a collection of standout tracks that pushes all the right buttons and cements Murcof's place in the electronic world. While the album might have missed its goal of beginning every track with the letter 'm', Corona has still done well to leave his mark on the world.

Key Tracks: Memoria; Mir; Muim.


7. Boards of Canada | Geogaddi
Scotland

Website | Warp

While many inevitably saw Geogaddi as a continuation of Music has the Right to Children, I wasn't going to complain about having a updated edition of one of the best electronic albums of the 90's. Although Music has the Right to Children is largely considered Boards' crowning achievement, Geogaddi is arguably a more mature, better crafted album. Sure, it relies on Music's foundations, but in doing so is capable of drawing more powerful conclusions. Moods are commanded with much more force and precision than on its predecessor, as Boards dives deeper into the dark end of the spectrum, while still clutching onto the nostalgic, spine-tingling magic of its earlier work. At its best, Boards of Canada is unmatched by its peers; Geogaddi is a good hour's worth of this phenomenon.

Key Tracks: Music is Math; Sunshine Recorder; Dawn Chorus.


6. Loscil | Submers
Canada

Website | Kranky

Loscil is a natrual fit on the Kranky roster. One part ambient, one part minimal techno, Scott Morgan bridges the label's strong ambient reputation with its experimental flank. As his second outing, Submers is a drastically refined album, revisiting many of the ideas in Triple Point but connecting with the listener on a much deeper level. The submarine themed album is quite befitting for the aquatic atmosphere of the music. Tracks are long, daunting, and hollow, allowing every sound to echo through the length and giving it a mammoth feeling amongst the electronic twitching. While Morgan certainly draws inspiration from some key influences, it's astonishing to see him embrace the works of artists such as Gavin Bryars just as readily as that of Thomas Fehlmann. Whether you find yourself loving the ambient or electronic components (or both), there's many ways to enjoy Submers, which is book-ended by some truly spectacular tracks.

Key Tracks: Argonaut I; Triton; Kursk.


5. Six Parts Seven | Things Shaped in Passing
United States


Website | Suicide Squeeze

No band encapsulates the picturesque, idealized American lifestyle better than Six Parts Seven. The band's career has been built upon understated yet powerful works, a continual drive to better itself with every record, and an uncompromising dedication to its established style. Things Shaped in Passing can arguably be called the band's best. While it's not as sophisticated as albums that succeeded it, there's a cohesion here which would be difficult, if not impossible, to match, and the group plays seamlessly together, as if it has been doing this for a lifetime. In the end, Six Parts Seven lays out forty minutes worth of beautiful, moving music which is as timeless as the sound it has perfected over the years.

Key Tracks: Where Are The Timpani Heartbeats?; Sleeping Diagonally; Now Like Photographs.

4. Sigur Rós | ( )
Iceland



Website | Fat Cat

The long awaited follow-up to the band's breakthrough, Ágætis byrjun, ( ) demonstrates the band's strengths like no other album. Decomposed into two halves -- one hopeful and optimistic and the other dark and oppressive -- the album is a living testament to the dichotomy present in Sigur Rós' music from the earliest days of its creation to the present time. While Samskeyti and Njósnavélin are perfect examples of Sigur Ros' ability to craft gentle, low-key numbers, the album is eventually won on the theatrics that we've come to know and love of Dauðalagið and Popplagið. With operatic compositions and symphonic movements, ( ) is every drama lover's wet dream. Label the band whatever necessary, there's little denying the power these four Icelanders have on our emotions.

Key Tracks: #3 (Samskeyti); #4 (Njósnavélin); #7 (Dauðalagið); #8 (Popplagið).


3. William Basinski | The Disintegration Loops I-IV
United States


Website | 2062

Any die-hard fan of ambient music will confirm that The Disintegration Loops are essential works in the genre. The collection spans four discs and was released over the course of two years; it's only appropriate to include it in 2002, the release of the first installment. Basinski reinvigorates the microsound movement with his use of repetition of sound in time as a narrative device, harking back to the golden days of minimalism. Pieces begin robustly and full of energy, then gradually decay until only the very essence is left and the surrounding silence highlights the brilliance of the work. Though the four hours plus of music may be daunting to the casual listener, those who allow themselves to be immersed in the music will never look at ambient music the same way. Thirty years after Brian Eno revolutionized ambient music, Basinski is having a very similar effect on an entirely new generation of ears.

Key Tracks: d|p 1.1; d|p 3; d|p 4.


2. Bohren & der Club of Gore | Black Earth
Germany


Website | Wonder

For as long as Bohren & der Club of Gore has been around, it has been extremely difficult to pin down. Best described as "ambient-black-metal-avant-garde-doom-jazz," it is perhaps much simpler to know that Black Earth eventually found a home on the Ipecac label and is perfectly comfortable not fitting any molds. Dark, detached, depressing, and dismissive, Bohren crawls along at a snail's pace, gradually pulling the audience down into the gloomy world it inhabits. It's a wholly unique experience that paved the way for many bands to come, defiantly rewriting the sounds of heavy and jazz music and opening up more than a few doors in the process. Released more than a decade and a half after the band's formation, Black Earth is an album of monumental importance and will not easily be forgotten.

Key Tracks: Crimson Ways; Constant Fear; Skeletal Remains.


1. The Mercury Program | A Data Learn the Language
United States


Website
| Tiger Style

A verifiable Holy Grail of the post-rock world, A Data Learn the Language is The Mercury Program's magnum opus. From the distinctive flair of the vibes to the slick electronic undertones and jazzy stylings of the bass and drums, every aspect of the album is perfectly crafted and stands as a testament to the band's creative vision of fusion within the instrumental realm. Doubling as a bridge between the more academically minded post-rock musicians of the early/mid 90's and the purveyors of instrumental rock/pop that hijacked the early 2000's, The Mercury Program presents music that is sophisticated and fun -- easy to listen to, but still as perplexing and challenging as a Chicagoan mainstay. Once touted as the rightful heirs to the post-rock throne, the band has since gone into hiding, but that hasn't prevented this album from picking up legendary status and a cult following. To this day A Data Learn the Language proves to be a tough act to follow, six years running now...

Key Tracks: Fragile or Possibly Extinct; Slightly Drifting; Egypt.