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6. Jay Haze

Mindin Business Part 1: The Minimal Grind

(Tuning Spork)

Some pundits whine that minimal techno is passé. Hogwash, counters Philadelphia's Jay Haze with this 47-track argument for its robust health. Mixed for maximum quirky punch and unobvious dance-floor oomph, Mindin Business Part 1 features scads of obscure producers (including Haze in various guises) whose complete works you'll want to own after hearing this two-disc album. CD 1 teems with the sort of inventive, scientific techno with appeal for the genre's most discerning aficionados. CD 2 is a more song-based/vocal-laden joy ride down tech-house's strangest thoroughfares. You're not going to believe this, but there's not a weak cut here.

7. Kode9 (feat. The SpaceApe)

Dubstep Allstars: Vol.03


8. Youngsta & Hatcha

Dubstep Allstars: Vol.04


Dubstep — UK garage and grime's more forlorn, less MC-oriented cousin — has been incubating since 2000, but despite greater awareness via blogs and Internet forums, it's unlikely to blow up; most people just don't want to experience cranium-clamping bass pressure, entropic beats, and austerely melancholy melodies. Nevertheless, seekers of innovative low-end music should keep tabs on Tempa's Dubstep Allstars series. The latest two entries offer 72 tracks of the stuff, giving newbies a crash course in the London-centric genre's stark, haunted mutations of dub and 2step while sating devotees' hunger for fresh jams. Vol.03 benefits from the SpaceApe's ominous basso deadpan (imagine dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson riffing on William Gibson's Neuromancer). "I am lost in paranoia's most beautiful dream," Spaceape intones, summarizing his intensely laid-back approach. Vol.04 doubles the darkness with Youngsta and Hatcha delivering crucial overviews of dubstep's spellbinding, dread-filled (r)evolution.

9. Magda

She's a Dancing Machine


Micromanaging normally annoys, but in DJ mixes we can tolerate it when the results are as rewarding as Magda's hundreds-of-edits-per-hour M.O. on She's a Dancing Machine. Similar to mentor Richie Hawtin's method in DE9:Transitions of weaving countless minibytes from several artists into an über track of awesomeness, Magda constructs a minimal-techno magnum opus from 71 discreet pieces (mostly from M-nus Records' superb roster: Marc Houle, Ryan Crosson, Plastikman, Run Stop Restore, I.A. Bericochea, Magda herself). The effect is like delving into dance music's internal organs and discovering what makes them thrum, burble, and click. Magda's mix inspires a deeper appreciation for minimalism's subliminal kineticism. As a bonus, Dancing Machine also lifts your spirits and revs your sex drive.

10. Henrik Schwarz



The DJ-Kicks series has been trending eclectic this year (see Four Tet above), and with selectors like Herr Schwarz at the controls, this is wise. One-dimensional, perfectly beat-matched mixes in which all flaws — and surprises — are digitally airbrushed away are bo-ring. Heads are jonesing for risk-taking and deep, diverse crates. Schwarz's DJ-Kicks delivers and then some. Taking listeners/dancers on a "journey" is a hoary DJ mantra, but Schwarz rejuvenates that cliche with a transcendent blend of excellent cuts from Moondog, Cymande, Drexciya, Robert Hood (his minimal techno cut segues into an African chant and Pharoah Sanders' astral-jazz piece to stunning effect), Arthur Russell, Rhythm & Sound, and many other essential, soulful musicians rarely heard in clubs — plus certified gold from James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and D'Angelo, just to keep you off balance. — Dave Segal

Lullabies For The Deranged: Wallow in the mire of the year's best scuzz rock

So here's my mixtape that's been 12 months in the making. Sorry it's taken a while, but reality often moves at the same molten pace as a couple of the bands culled here. While the new folksters get accolades for their freaky psychedelic tendencies, there're plenty of heavy rockers that will also make you see stars of the hallucinogenic variety (and, more importantly, who'd also blow out the speakers on open mic night). Whether they're using metronomes that move in molasses or adding mandolins to elevate metal into the realm of something mystical, these Hessian punks and acid-fried psych-heads keep the outside world on delay. It's a cozy headspace these shamanistic acts get into, one that I'd suggest entering often.

Crime in Choir

Trumpery Metier

(Gold Standard Labs)

Prog rock is like that really geeky kid in class who's steadily and stealthily been kicking it with the badasses. You can have your chip off the ol' AC/DC block — this San Francisco instrumental outfit would rather play around with a Rhodes piano and saxophones, landscaping albums in rich science fiction freakouts. A couple of Crime's members did time in At the Drive In, and as with their post-ATDI pals Mars Volta, there's no limit to the musical imagination on display here. Check your head to CiC's third full-length, this year's triumphant Trumpery Metier. Can you really do better than a title like "Land of the Sherry Wine and Spanish Horses"?

Comets on Fire


(Sub Pop)

You know when a band just nails it? Then you know Comets' Avatar. The Bay Area's revered acid rockers feed back against what they've done before on this year's disc, taking a rag to the dirge dusting Ethan Miller's vocals so his grainy refrains scoot closer to your eardrums. Few acts can pull off such dynamite dynamics this thoughtfully — thorny guitar hallelujahs and Echoplex excesses perch against melodies that float like feathers after the chicken coop's been destroyed.

Sic Alps

Pleasures and Treasures

(Animal Disguise)

This S.F. duo takes me back to listening to my parents' muffled discussions through the vents between our bedrooms. On disc, Sic Alps' vocals come at a slight remove, hovering half a dimension away from the rest of the recording. In their disembodied stage, the lyrics are haunting, ghostly moans on some tracks, drawling Royal Trux teasers on others. But on Pleasures and Treasures, everything from the human voice to a six-stringed instrument is a house of mirrors, distorting reality. Guitars buzz like assembly-line machinery or bloat into heavy sacks of feedback. And wait, was that a kazoo or just white noise run amok? Who miked the belabored breathing to make it sound like the view from the other side of a nitrous balloon? How can songs this creepy also sound sweet as lullabies (albeit for the mentally unstable)?


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