Best (and worst) clubs

And what we're looking forward to in 2010.

Henrik Schwarz

The best

Henrik Schwarz, me, Dixon, The Grandfather Paradox (BBE)
Ostensibly an exploration of sonic minimalism, the Innervision label’s Henrik Schwarz, me and Dixon actually crafted a beautiful, heartfelt and wide-ranging mix that rambles around the outer edges of popular music, featuring tracks from the likes of Young Marble Giants, Liquid Liquid and Can. Henrik Schwarz interview
Buy The Grandfather Paradox on | Get it on

Arthur Russell, “Wax the Van (Yam Who? Rework)” (Electric Minds)
Originally credited to vocalist Lola, this Russell-penned track from 1987 gets a complete do-over from the U.K.’s Yam Who?, transforming the bouncy postdisco oddity into a boiling, driving house-music epic.

King Midas Sound, Waiting For You (Hyperdub)
Alternating between ambient airiness and dystopian desolation, Kevin “The Bug” Martin & Co. explore the spaces between bass, beats and echo for the game-changing Hyperdub label. Waiting For You review

Telefon Tel Aviv, “You Are the Worst Thing in the World” remixes (Bpitch Control)
Coming out in the aftermath of Telefon Tel Aviv member Charlie Cooper’s sudden passing, this pair of gorgeous remixes—a soaring, revved-up tech-funker from Jay Haze and a moody, minimal take by Gaiser—serve as a fitting tribute to a fallen soldier. Telefon Tel Aviv interview

Hell featuring Bryan Ferry, “You Can Dance” (International Deejay Gigolo)
This track, from DJ Hell’s fine Teufelswerk album, pairs two generations of iconic rous, with Ferry’s world-weary voice and lyrics the perfect complement to Hell’s melancholic melody (coincidently or not, echoing the four-chord progression of Roxy Music’s “Pyjamarama”). Remixes from Carl Craig, Tim Goldsworthy and Simian Mobile Disco coming out soon! DJ Hell interview

Yacht, “Psychic City (Voodoo City)” (DFA)
At first listen, it’s a summery slice of bubbling, slightly skewed dance-pop—in reality, it’s a wistful contemplation on the possibilities that slip though our fingers as we get older. Or maybe it’s really just about talking kitchens and clairvoyant pals. Either way, it’s killer, as are the remixes from Classixx the Trash party’s Rory Phillips and Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard.

Woolfy vs. Projections, “Neeve (Permanent Vacation Tropical Heat mix)” (Permanent Vacation)
Another great remix (there were tons of them this year), this one sees Tom Bioly and Benjamin Frhlich performing aural alchemy on Simon James and Dan Hastie’s nursery-rhyme original and ending up with a moist voodoo-disco classic, dripping with churning congas and a bleeping 303.

Pylon, Chomp More (DFA)
In a year of seminal reissues (Kraftwerk’s box set and the Ze Records compilation come to mind), DFA’s beefed-up release of Pylon’s 1982 sophomore album stands out. And if you don’t think the Athens, GA, combo’s angular, postpunk weirdness is dance music—well, you probably never were at one of the band’s shows, where the frug and watusi were practically de rigueur.

Neurotic Drum Band, “Neurotic Erotic Adventure” (The Wurst Music Co.)
Piano-house track of the year? Well, your Clubs section certainly thinks so, as NYC’s own Ulysses and John Selway ride a classic Chicago bassline, a few banging chords, a bit of swirling filigree and (near the end) some angelic strings to clubland heaven. “Neurotic Erotic Adventure” review

Eddie Kendricks, “Goin’ Up In Smoke (Super Value Special Edit)” (Super Value)
More than an edit, the brain trust behind the mysterious Super Value label reimagine this Kendricks edit as a stately ode to...well, not quite joy, given the lyrics (“We ain’t got no hope / ’cause we’re goin’ up in smoke”), but something pretty damn close.

The worst

90 percent of big-club dance music
Have you ever spent a Saturday night on one of the town’s larger dance floors? If not, consider yourself lucky—you’re missing some of the least imaginative sounds around, the kind of copycat, pseudotribal house and trance (often augmented by perky vocals for full cringe factor) that gives club music a bad name.

Report card

The NYC nightlife scene of 2009 (or, really, of most of this millennium) could charitably be described as stagnant. Now, that’s not entirely a bad thing—stagnant implies that things haven’t gotten worse, at least—but we’re still waiting for a few courageous club owners or DJ bookers to step up to the plate and show the city that a creative sort of clubbing isn’t an impossible dream. Then again, we’re beginning to think that courageous club owners are as mythical as Bigfoot. But it’s not all doom and gloom—you can still often to great sounds at clubs like Cielo, Sullivan Room and Santos, and parties like the Bunker, 718 Sessions and Turntables on the Hudson.

But there has been at least one interesting development on the nightlife front: As the gulf between the commercial, bottle-service scene (wasn’t the recession supposed to lay waste to that world?) and clubland’s underground becomes ever wider, members of the latter camp have been taking matters into their own hands and tossing parties in alternate, ofttimes secret venues, generally featuring very cool music makers and a bit of that old outlaw vibe. Fingers are crossed that this trend continues, and that our city fathers allow it to do so. Final grade: B-

Best of 2010?

New York’s producers rise to the topOne of our longtime peeves, at least since the mid-’90s days of Twilo’s supremacy (and probably long before that), has been the inordinate amount of love that NYC clubland has for out-of-town artists, to the extent that the home team often gets left in the cold. Fingers crossed, we predict that will change—largely out of necessity, as Gotham music makers have been on such a roll as of late that it’ll be impossible to ignore them. Runaway, Neurotic Drum Band (pictured), Abe Duque, Dennis Ferrer, Nick Chacona and Still Going are just a small sampling of those who have had released brilliant music in 2009, and local labels like Wolf + Lamb, Wurst Music Co., and Disques Sinthomme have all been doing amazing work. Who needs Berlin and London, anyway?

Clubs: Best of 2009

See more Best and worst of 2009