eMusic Yearbook: 2002
Maybe it’s a coincidence that three fabulous and endlessly eclectic DJ mix-CDs – John Peel’s FabricLive 07, 2 Many DJ’s As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2, and DJ /rupture’s Minesweeper Suite – all came out in 2002. But it sure didn’t feel that way at the time. Of course, eclectic DJ mixes were nothing new; they’d been a standard from at least 1995, when Coldcut released 70 Minutes of Madness. But 2002 was a crucial year in the ongoing breakdown of the false distinctions between “indie” and pop, between dance and rock. The spread of downloading had a lot to do with it: with the entirety of pop history at the tip of more listeners ‘fingers than ever, the idea of “indie” as a be-all end-all cure-all had less relevance than ever. Suddenly, to be a fan of “indie” was license to be a fan of everything.
The 2 Many DJ’s mix was the crest of an already ongoing wave of what people called “bootlegs” – songs that joined the vocals from Song A to the music from Song B, the most crucial of which is Freelance Hellraiser’s “A Stroke of Genius,” the every-which-way-right meld of the Strokes ‘”Hard to Explain” with Christina Aguilera‘s “Genie in a Bottle” – moving into wider renown. Many of the best boots predated 2002 (“Genius” found its way online in late 2001), but when some anonymous packager took it upon themselves to distribute a CD called The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever to hip record shops in a handful of big cities this year, everything seemed gleefully up for grabs.
Including auteur status. Rock fans tend to find their way into other genres by latching onto key figures: not much has been written about early ’60s girl groups in specific, but everyone knows who Phil Spector was. (Male privilege obviously plays a big role here, too.) But 2002 was a year of the producer if ever there was one. Bootlegs made producers – or anyway, remixers – out of fans. Timbaland and the Neptunes made unabashedly creative music while ruling mainstream rap and R&B. Techno was always a producer’s music, and it resurged, newly cool and beguiling, crossing over to folks who’d had no use in the late ’90s for frat-boy big beat or limpid trance; Ellen Allien, who ran Berlin label Bpitch Control, and Michael Mayer and Wolfgang Voigt, who co-ran Cologne’s Kompakt Records, emerged as crucial figures.
So did James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy, a.k.a. the DFA, a Brooklyn team that turned everybody’s head in New York when they released a pair of 12-inches – the Rapture’s slashing “House of Jealous Lovers” and LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” – that melded indie-rock angst with house’s curvaceous bump. Nothing was lost in translation; there was only gain. (That’s a mixing-board joke. Sorry.) The best-regarded more-or-less indie-rock album of the year was a producer’s delight: Wilco, who’d previously scored with winsome Americana, had hired Jim O’Rourke to sprinkle sonic pixie dust on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which finally appeared in 2002 after a much-publicized delay the year before. The most lauded debut of the year, the Streets ‘singular British hip-hop variation Original Pirate Material, was as striking for Mike Skinner’s homemade tracks as for his everybloke storytelling.
The strength of 2002, then, was less that it heralded a bold new beginning than that it continued to build on what had been stirring for a while, and reached a culmination of sorts. It was a great year for singles, more so than albums, which may be one reason its DJ mixes – not just the ones mentioned above, but Playgroup’s DJ-Kicks, Michael Mayer’s Immer, Triple R’s Friends, and Ellen Allien’s Weiss.Mix – continue to shine. Within their ambit those four are all pretty eclectic, too. But the three mentioned up top went further, and each represented a different continuum of thinking about and engaging with music that, especially in retrospect, lines up fairly neatly into a continuum of its own: past (Peel), then-present (2 Many DJ’s), and future (/rupture).
John Peel carries the mantle of “past” not because he was the oldest of the DJs by far, though he was (he died, suddenly and sadly, two years after FabricLive 07 came out), but because he godfathered the idea of listening to records as a means to adventure. The best thing about Peel was that it was impossible to imagine anything like a definitive DJ mix from him – his depth and breadth were simply too vast. But FabricLive 07 comes close enough, flitting from Peel-canon indie rock (the Fall, Joy Division, the Undertones) to drum & bass and African music, all of it made congruent thanks to the clear passion with which it’s presented.
2 Many DJ’s remain a time capsule for the year: not just because they helped sum up the bootleg phenomenon, but because their electro-heavy current selections defined a period when club music was drawing from punky energy again. DJ /rupture, on the other hand, heralded an increasingly fragmented and globally aware future that would take greater hold in mid-decade. Melding noise and breakbeats, chart rap and North African styles, Minesweeper Suite plays like a manifesto, communicating a sharply politicized worldview. What all three mixes, and their makers, had in common was that each carried a sense of urgency: New or old, you need to hear this right away. That urgency defined 2002.
Though neither 2 Many DJ’s nor Peel’s mixes are on eMusic, many of their component parts are. From As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2:
And from FabricLive 07: