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over-looked ablums of 2004:
*credit to a friend
reviews courtesy of

ricardo villalobos / the au harem d'archimede / perlon

Yes, Villalobos is back! Following on from what must surely count as one of the largest and most highly regarded House albums of the last few years (the supremely sexy Alcachofa), Ricardo is back with another mighty collection, this time for the foremost purveyors of minimal cool – Perlon. “The Au Harem D’Archimede” is another epic succession of long tracks and divine instrumentation – Villalobos manages to make his percussion sound complex and terrifyingly funky at the same time, while the melodic arrangements are often brooding (Murcof-esque harp cascades grace the haunting “Hireklon). Villalobos is a master of the slow build up, taking you from looped malfunctioning machinery to twilight loveliness without you really noticing how you got there. Album closer “True to Myself”, meanwhile, throws caution to the wind and heads for the minimal disco with some unhinged vocals thrown in for good measure – like a tanked up Theo Parrish. Magnificent.

robag wruhme/ wuzzelbud kk / musik krause

From the plethora of artists, labels and parties associated with Cologne's mighty Kompakt crew one can safely say that Musik Krause and the hugely talented Robag Wruhme have been the most consistantly evolutionary and enjoyable operators of the bunch. Mr Wruhme has crept up in our estimation with every 12” issued by the label, from the ace ‘Backcatalog’ to the bumping ‘Kopfniker’ ep and recently to the jacking tech house of ‘Polytik’‚ each 12" has delivered top quality tracks with a twist and has served to expand an ever growing fanbase spanning the spectrum from diehard Fabric practicioners through to Giles Peterson's massively influential playlist. "Wuzzelbud KK" sees Robag joyously tweaking and perfecting his glittering blend of microscopic house chops, jazzed-up vibes and late night airy beachside lullabies. He manages with a wink to equip a whole sound, a unique, forceful, tech-minimal-house with substantial bass, twists, tension, longing, felt all over and throughout your body. If you like your chopped-up house innovative, involving and advanced, at times diving into sun-drenched climes, at others even lending some deep Aphex melodies for inspiration, look no further. Awesome.

frivolous / somewhere in the suburbs / karloff

A compilation of the two Karloff 12”s plus a couple of bonus cuts are available for the first time on cd. It’s easy to see why Karloff issued this cd as it flows brilliantly, showing off of the varied talents of Daniel Gardner under his Frivolous moniker, from the cut up 80’s tracks on ‘Born Out Of Beta’ which uses a speeded up early hip house accapella and mashes the beats, drops vocoders and other vocal samples for a quirky early house mash up, to the ace deep cut, ‘All The Comforts of Home’ that hits the more left of centre with its deep groove and almost operatic vocal samples that mix with the subtle drums and club led edits. The bonus cuts are excellent, ‘Fredrick Cokanose’ skims the spectrum of dance music with abandon, from stripped acoustic guitar samples to rough ass 2 step bass and drums, with all manner of electro house and techno sounds and influences in, a little schizophrenic, but in the best mash up way. ‘Every Day Of My Life’ hits a deeper note with lush chords following a superb jazz double bass line that’s almost freestyle under the minimal house beats and lush noises. Unique and challenging material from Frivolous, well worth a check.


styrofoam / nothing's lost / morr

Belgium producer, songwriter Arne Van Petegem, aka Styrofoam has done it again with his latest release Nothing's Lost. Styrofoam caters to the electronic heads with crunchy pops and textures while still giving the indie lovers their melodic soothing sprays of warmth. This could be Styrofoam's best album to date especially when it comes to his collaborations with Death Cab for Cutie's artist Ben Gibbard, Lali puna's vocalist Valerie Terebljahr and Notwist's Markus Acher. This album is dynamic and layered in ways that keeps you craving more.
listen: misguided
listen: couches in alleys
listen: ticket out of town


dominik eulberg / flora & fauna / traum

Flora and Fauna, Dominik Eulberg's new album on Traum, is full of deep throbbing tracks peppered with all kinds of familiar sampled sounds (a shutter clicking, water drop, etc.), but the samples are not in the Matmos/Herbert, found-sound style. Some are found sounds digitized with effects, and some are digital versions of familiar sounds (a door closing, an echoing snare crack). Though the sampled bits and subtle deepness of the tracks set it apart immediately, it's the unique tweaking and placement of each sound that push the album into the "special" category. Finally, another new techno artist has emerged with a signature style.

Though the album is deep, there is a subtle hint of hardness (i.e. propulsion). Speed and softness combine with a feeling of depth that sounds as though all the sounds were encased in a glass container, or more likely, as if they were recorded outdoors amongst the Flora and Fauna.

Do you remember Marcus Guentner's last album? The general depth of the tracks is similar to that but a little less "minimal" and altogether more complex. On top of that, add a bit of genuine German acid funk with new not retro sounds and you have a refreshingly good and unique techno album.
listen: brenzlich, brenzlich' dachte der feuersalamander
listen: das roehren der rotwildbrunft


ada / blondie / areal

Ada, aka M. Dippel, has released her debut LP Blondie on the up-and-coming Areal label. Besides releasing 12-inch tracks on Areal, Ada's "Blindhouse" appeared on Triple R's Friends mix. (A remixed vocal version is featured on Blondie.) Areal has been making waves as a new label offering clubby yet poppy and abstract tracks with Ada being one of their standout artists. Her album is a nice surprise, offering more than a few potential (abstract) club hits.

While so much techno released this year prior to Fall 2004 has been just more cookie-cutter set-fillers, Ada has managed to make a listenable album, with a variety of danceable tracks (i.e., she's not just obsessed with one type of beat/melody or track style). It's saying a lot, and may sound like an exaggeration, but she comes across very much like a mix between Ellen Allien and Michael Mayer: deep and emotive, with a pop sensibility that has a nice rockin' feel with well-placed female vocals, and without trying too hard. Some of the tracks have a groovin' German club disco feel, some are poppy and bouncy like Bpitch stuff but with a softer, deeper feeling.

Though I don't guess that this album was painstakingly produced (many sounds/parts on this album sound very 'familiar', either directly sampled or otherwise borrowed), no matter what (I personally don't care, I just dig the tracks), Ada's tracks still stand out for using these sounds in very unique ways and in unique arrangements. (Which should serve as a point of advice to the Techno Producer Boy's Club out there: It's not about being Mr. Glitchiest-of-the-year. It's more about showing that you have an 'ear' connected to your heart with whatever means you have at your disposal -- which is what Ada ends up doing.) At the end of the day, seven out of 10 tracks on this album would get me on the dancefloor, and for different reasons. Altogether this is a solid album. You'll hear a lot of this one while out this fall.      
listen: cool my fire (i'm burning)
listen: eve

khonnor / handwriting / type

Khonnor's Handwriting is the work of 17-year-old wunderkind Connor Kirby-Long who created this record in his bedroom with an old PC from the '80s, a free microphone that he acquired from a Spanish tutorial, and one single computer speaker. Khonnor takes his cues from shoegaze-era Creation records (especially Slowdive), Fennesz's Endless Summer and the Morr Music roster, and what he has created is unlike anything else around right now. A song will have a traditional start and then all of the sudden it is bombarded with beautiful digital noise (ala Fennesz). From there it will twist and turn into an acoustic ballad reminiscent of Bright Eyes' finest material, only seconds later to morph into a beautiful shoegaze anthem...and yes, it all works. Handwriting is an incredible debut and one that will introduce this emerging talent to the world -- and I say emerging because he is only 17.

Khonnor's lyrics are that of lost love, longing, confusion about the world, and everything else in between. At times they are quite naive but I have to say that it is definitely part of the charm. This album is a treasure filled with lush beautiful sounds and rich textures that will appeal to anyone that is a fan of the aforementioned artists, and music that wears its heart on its sleeve. Gorgeous!
listen: daylight and delight
listen: a little secret


triola / triola im f├╝nftonraum / kompakt

Triola is the one and only Jorg Burger, the man from Cologne who records under almost as many aliases as Wolfgang Voigt. You may have just heard of a few of them; does the Modernist, Bionaut, Autobianchi, Burger/Ink, ring any bells?? Yes, Jorg Burger is all of them and more, and now he has recorded one of the most brilliant records that Kompakt has ever released. Triola Im F├╝nftonraum is right up there with Dettinger's two full-lengths. It is that good, and takes us back to the classic days of Kompakt, before Schaffel, before Pop Ambient, when a techno record was filled with all of the elements that I love in electronic music. Downtempo beats collide with lush synths and the tracks build slowly with some of the most gorgeous melodies I have heard in some time until they climax and everything drops, fades and the next track does exactly the same thing -- it totally blows you away. This album is fantastic, and definitely one of Kompakt's finest hours.
listen: neuland
listen: wanderlust

various artists / but then again / ~scape

Well, right off the bat, the first thing I noticed was that this album sounds AMAZING. The tracks feature ultra-dynamic sound positioning and pin-point melodies that linger so far from the speakers that it resembles the effect of someone behind you beatmatching his ringtone to your stereo. (Check the last section of Cappablack's "5th Dimension" with its Brigitte Fontaine loop.)

While previous ~scape releases focused on dub, glitch-hop and, minimal soul, "But Then Again" displays a wide yet focused sense of variety that shows the label successfully branching out while still remaining true to its minimal, textural, high fidelity aesthetic. The melodies are more pronounced but without just being one-finger, 'naive' melodies. They remain somewhat 'serios' and complex, sitting in some less-explored space between dancetracks and ambient tracks. (Check John Tejada's "And Many More," Jelinek's "Western Mimickry" and J. Burger's "Neuland".) Some tracks touch on the indie/melodic electronica leanings of Morr Music, Karaoke Kalk and maybe even Intr. Version (Headset and Soulo, Epo etc.), but again, without ever becoming too obvious or 'cute.' Bravo to Stefan Betke and all the artists involved and happy fifth year anniversary! Recommended.

andrew pekler / nocturnes, false dawns and breakdowns / ~scape

Former member of Sad Rockets and Bergheim 34, and current Heidelberg, German resident (by way of California), Andrew Pekler began recording on his own in early-2000. Nocturnes, False Dawns and Breakdowns continues where 2002's Station to Station left off, exploring the possibilities of combining programmed digital-scapes with acoustic improvisation. Precise shifting tones of delicate electronic textures combine with bleeps and pulses coming in, seemingly from all directions, while multiple layers of dense and diverse percussion and vibes work with and against each other to create a sonically rich tapestry of sound. Recalling everything from the electro acoustic funk of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Sun Ra to the spacial dub/jazz explorations of Burnt Friedman, Four Tet, Tortoise, Cinematic Orchestra and As One. The interesting thing is that Nocturnes manages to keep it all together in a way that gives his music a very evenly balanced weight and feel to it, never pushing so far out that it disrupts the overall character of the whole. Recommended.
listen: stardusting
listen: sleepless

soft pink truth / do you want new wave or do you want the soft pink truth / tigerbeat6

With last year's fantastic micro-funk masterpiece Do You Party, Matmos' Drew Daniels showed us that when he wasn't busy sampling the sounds of liposuctions and rat cages, he likes to get down and dirty. For his second solo release as the Soft Pink Truth, Daniels throws us another curve ball transforming old-school American hardcore and British punk songs into techno music. He covers bands like Angry Samoans, Die Kreuzen, Crass and Minor Threat reinterpreting their anarchist classics through house, acid house and booty bass grinders. Features vocal guests like fashion designer Jeremy Scott, Vickie Bennet, Blevin Blectum and Dani Siciliano.
listen: out of step
listen: kitchen