2006: The Year the Superstar DJ Died

Dinosaurs rule the dance floors no more

The Knife robbed the slightly superior Sissy — singer Johanne Williams and audio landscaper David Trusz — of some of the bouquets that Sissy's female-fueled reinvention of trip-hop album All Under deserved. Why single "In the Dark" was not a huge crossover hit as well as a dance-floor smash was difficult to explain, but All Under's remaining tracks of furious distortion ("Anyone but You" and "Can't Save You") were just as captivating.

And then there's London nightclub-derived label Fabric, which almost by itself salvaged a pretty bad year for dance music. Fabric's voluminous (several discs per month) numbered output, even duds like the unlistenable Fabric 26 and Fabric 27 records, put forth a strong case that the Londoners are the collectivist label of record for every DJ and remix theorist on the planet. Fabric 29, featuring Tiefschwarz, was a hardy techno discovery, and Fabric 24, though a part of today's often overzealous re-release movement, argued eloquently that the overlooked Rob da Bank deserves a place on jammy/groovy house playlists.

Finally, Christian IDM: Who'd have thought of it? Dark Globe had always evoked a Kayak-ish cult of mysticism through its majestic orchestrations, but with this year's Nostalgia for the Future, the band picked up the lushness and pace with a Lawlerish turn in tunes, and, quite surprisingly, gave some shouts out to the Lord.

Hybrid's Chris Healings and Mike Truman (right)
Hybrid's Chris Healings and Mike Truman (right)

So don't despair. The state of electronica always depends on perception. Any song by Kraak & Smaak, whose Boogie Angst was an inconsistent mix of funk hooks plus bass, is still better than anything Sheryl Crow or Evanescence could come up with. Hearing a track by DJ Shadow on your car satellite radio isn't going to make you pull over and puke the way one by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus will.

And in one last hopeful hurrah for 2006, Tom Ellard, founder of the Severed Heads and perhaps as influential in the genre's genesis as Cabaret Voltaire and John Balance, recently re-emerged with a body of new work. His soundtrack and animations grace the Australian Film Commission's The Illustrated Family Doctor, and slowly but surely he is posting remixed and remastered Severed Heads classics to YouTube, along with some new compositions. So hang in there, smarty pantses.

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