Best of the '90s: Music.
BEN RATLIFF, music critic, New York Times: I've been amazed by Caetano Veloso's records--he is the avatar of a universal artist in pop music: a musician who studies and protects the cultural traditions of the New World, then generously expands them.
ELIZABETH PEYTON, artist: Nirvana.
BARBARA KRUGER, artist: There is no best of--just a bunch of white guys busy soldering the rusty remains of heavy metal onto the bro's syncopated tall tales while baby-got-back rattles her tail. Happy New Year.
WOLFGANG TILLMANS, atrist: For me, Moby provided the sound track to my '90s; obviously I have other favorites, but no other musician from Go to Play touched me so consistently.
TOURE, author: Since the day I got the advance of D'Angelo's Voodoo, I have not made love to anything else.
JIM O'ROURKE, musician: Tony Conrad's reemergence not only brought a completely revolutionary perspective to music "materials" and film, but dynamited the high-low/artist-audience hierarchy that had separated "art music" from the punk-rock "aesthetic" grew up with. He's the kind of visionary who clears up your cloudy eyes, and when you can see again it's not a backlit icon, but the whole damn sky.
DAVID TOOP, musician/author: KLF's Chill Out shocked me because a successful chart-topping band released a record that helped open the door to other, more experimental projects.
STEVEN PARRINO, artist: A vote for hardcore heaviness in Agnostic Front, Last Warning, and Poison Idea, Pig's Last Stand, and a vote for rock experimentation: Royal Trux and The Melvins (anything they do).
JUTTA KOETHER, artist: Oh there was a musical turn that messed with my painting and my perspective NY Rave (Disco 2000 at Limelight), Blumfeld Hildegard von Bingen, Tom Verlaine's "Soul Freedom 2000" (live at Tramps in '96) Tilt by Scott Walker, Gummo (soundtrack), my "Diadal" experience Millie Jackson's Totally Unrestricted! From there on, it's all for the love of disorder: Outer Music, Outer Art.
1. Aphex Twin (Selected Ambient Works '85-'92) A Mondrian-like early work of techno by an artist who's subsequently become so-called electronica's Bruce Nauman.
2. Bjork (Post) The most charismatic, forward-thinking, yet old-fashioned recording artist of the decade, at a moment of beautiful solidity.
3. Cat Power (Moon Pix) Small and incredibly pure.
4. The Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulletin) The way the songs' intricate musical layouts create a little chapel around each syllable of their silly-ass lyrics suggests a kind of Pet Sounds--like paean to the perils of qualified sincerity.
5. Future Sound of London (Lifeforms) Easily the most ambitious work of the decade. Whether the album ends up over time sounding as crappy as Tales of Topographic Oceans doesn't matter (yet).
6. My Bloody Valentine (Loveless) The CD that killed rock.
7. Pavement (Terror Twilight) The only great American band that keeps getting greater.
8. Public Enemy (Fear of a Black Planet) The CD that killed hip-hop.
9. Sebadoh III The album that for all intents and purposes identified lo-fi recording techniques as the back entrance to the soul and inadvertently revealed that Guided by Voices were the face of God.
10. Spiritualized (Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space) These came really, really close: The Black Dog, Spanners; Fugazi, Repeater; Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand; Missy Elliott, Da Real World; Orbital 2.
1. Nirvana (Nevermind) I can't possibly think of anything new to say about this album. It's everything good about the '90s.
2. Hole (Live Through This) The visceral female screaming is so cathartic, and it's real easy to sing along to.
3. Smashing Pumpkins (Gish) The drumming was the first thing I noticed when I heard the advance of this album. It's still pretty exciting.
4. Afghan Whigs (Gentlemen) An addictive, down-and-dirty album about egregious male behavior.
5. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (Now I Got Worry) Cheat-on-your-boyfriend rock from the handsomest man in the business.
6. Guided by voices (Bee Thousand) These songs make me feel happy (no easy task), and they're short.
7. Bikini Kill (Reject All American) Ballsy, loud-mouthed, inspirational.
8. Joan Jett ("Love Is All Around") A large part of my identity was ripped off from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Joan Jett's cover of the theme song really is perfect.
9. Elastica (Elastica) Who cares if they borrowed from Wire. It works.
10. Beck (Odelay) The befuddled genius-boy's masterpiece.
1. Various Artists (Modulations & Transformations, Volume 4) The best archive of new electronic and post-electronic, activist and non-activist music was this Mile Plateaux series. Volume 4 is the most baffling, and full of cool contradictions.
2. Sun Ra (The Singles) The hero on whom all can agree--from postcolonialists to pop musicians, from afrofuturists to archaeologists of the essential--died at the start of a decade that became his alone. The last Gesamtkunstler of the century will project beyond it the longest.
3. X-102 (Rings of Saturn) This stands for Detroit techno as the best electronic music of the decade; for Sun Ra's influence; and for Jeff Mills's genius.
4. Timbaland (Tim's Bio: From the Motion Picture: Life From da Basement) The best crossover beat of the decade. What Prince was for the '80s.
5. Son of Bazerk (Bazerk! Bazerk! Bazerk!) A project unfortunately abandoned at the decade's outset: to confront James Brown, Led Zeppelin, and Sam & Dave.
6. Gas (Zauberberg) You asked for Germany? Here are Thomas Mann, Wagner, and Schoenberg combined in the medium of cushioned delirium.
7. Red Krayola (Fingerpainting) The reconstruction of the incomplete avant-garde lashes with the force of negative dialectics against the attempt to reconstruct neue Musik as sacred object.
8. Prefab Sprout (Andromeda Heights) Does almost the same thing, but with a music one can cuddle up to.
9. Pere Ubu (Ray Gun Suitcase) Main point: Side effects.
10. The Melvins (Honky) Their never-ending history of heavy metal as high Conceptualism remains open-ended.
1. London Pirate Radio Rallying the city's "vibe tribe" with patois chants and Dada sound-poetry, pirate MCs surf the DJ's turbulent flow and together conjure a Hakim Bey-style "power surge" against Babylon.
2. Public Enemy (Fear of a Black Planet) Militant hip-hop's last blast, before gangsta/playa/thug rap's still-unbroken reign of false consciousness.
3. Saint Etienne ("London Belongs to Me") Britpop's dub-hazy pinnacle, four years before a pipe dream was realized as a ghastly hegemony of nostalgia and parochialism.
4. Beltram ("Energy Flash") Techno's "Raw Power," although Joey was aiming for "Iron Man."
5. Nirvana ("Smells Like Teen Spirit" video) Rebel rock's glorious valedictory blowout.
6. Castlemorton Common Rave (1992) Anarchy in the UK's rural heartland, this 40,000-strong illegal party actually provoked legislation to ensure nothing like it happened again--top that, punk rock!
7. Aphex Twin (Selected Ambient Works Volume II) Less lovely than Volume I, but deeper.
8. Aaliyah ("One in a Million") Produced/written by Timbaland and Missy Elliott, the hypersyncopated ballad that revolutionized R&B.
9. Pilldriver ("Apocalypse Never") Rave crusader Marc Acardipane's career zenith, this gabba blitzkrieg feels like surging through a nebula cloud of flame, limbs slipstreamed with incandescence.
10. Herbert (Around the House) Spongy pulses, texturhythmic voluptuousness, and exquisitely jazzed vocals reveal the myriad mood shades contained in the platitude "House is a feeling."
1. Rodney Graham ("Verwandlungsmusik") The provisional expanded to the scale of a monument.
2. Cortical Foundation Especially its 1998 "Beyond the Pink" festival, which included works by Yves Klein, Emmett Williams, La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine, and others.
3. My Bloody Valentine (The Roxy, LA, 1992) When the locked-groove cadential chord of the penultimate number approached the duration of twenty minutes, it was clear that a new genre of popular music had been invented that evening.
4. Gastr del Sol (Mirror Repair) My introduction to that loose confederation of musicians variously grouped as The Sea and Cake and Tortoise, as well as to Jim O'Rourke and David Grubbs. Or: I'm on my hands and knees working in my studio when Tortoise's "Glass Museum" comes on the radio. I pause and reflect, "This is the music I should have been making all along."
5. Tony Conrad (Slapping Pythagoras) Reminds me of how it feels to hear.
6. Scott Walker (Tilt) This majestic voice of the '60s returns coupled with the acknowledgment of all that has transpired since.
7. Christian von Borries (Podewil, Berlin, 1996) Restores the function of architect of sound to the conductor's role.
8. Tom Recchion (Chaotica) Produced with pre-recorded stereo tape-loops, records, cassettes and keyboards (no samplers)," these recordings are some of the tenderest coaxings out of the world of hardware one could ever know.
9. Polar Goldie Cats Urban folk density.
10. Michael Webster (Mt. Washington, CA, 1998) Always a sucker for a tunesmith, I fell hard for the exquisite turns placed on the art-song form.