Top 5 picks this week

Abe Duque-Don't Be So Mean (Process)(US)
New York's Abe Duque is one of the few DJs I've ever really cared about and have been following him pretty steadily since his early days in the early to mid-90s. Back then, both he and Frankie Bones- to me -epitomized the Big Apple's hard banging rave sound-one that was very heavy on the relentless acid and techno. Over the past five years, Duque has moved on to a mellower, more refined version of techno that reflects his age and veteran status. His new focus mostly includes elements of house and techno alongside modern urban funk. His new album Don't Be So Mean is a snapshot of this new found maturity, I can already see hard techno fans rolling their eyes in disgust, but no matter because there are still elements of the old days on tracks like "Tonight Is Your Answer" and "Trash Acid House. However, for those looking to get E'd off their face like it was 1997 the new album is comprised mostly of the kind head lolling lethargy found cuts like "Life Is So Good To Me" and "Wake Up". Even the supposed back-in-the-day cut "Let's Take It Back" featuring Detroit legend Blake Baxter sounds more New Jersey than NASA party. But hey, I guess that's what they call progress and for me this album is part of Duque's natural progression as a vet in the game but for others this may just reek of yet another artist selling out to the unholy Berlin/Detroit axis. Your call...

Mark O' Sullivan-Fragments From a Long Country (Nice & Nasty)(Ireland)
Mark O'Sullivan may best be known for his work as one half of Swedish techno duo DK7 but he's also put out some great singles and now a full length for Irish imprint Nice & Nasty much in the same vein. Fragments captures all of the Teutonic iciness of old school analog techno (we're about talking Ashra Temple and Neu! not Sven Vath here) merges it with the Detroit influenced chill sound so prevalent in the Dublin scene and adds some punchy modern tech house groove for seasoning. The results are, I guess at this point, everything you'd expect from the Irish techno scene- a mix of nitrous laced airiness and heads-down late night torso grinders. The melodic qualities defined by O'Sullivan make Fragments From a Long Country one of the better techno albums in this vein to emerge from 2009.

Various-Darek Records pres Aleph Compilation (Darek)(Switzerland)
Darek is a sub-label of the Swiss imprint Dilek, but between the two rosters, it's pretty hard to tell the difference. This is your basic mid-Continental cum South America stack o' Latin techno tracks-some hit (Dub Dummies' "Teethno"), most do not. I suppose that's the state of the techno full length in the digital age-wildly overproduce in the hopes that someone, anyone, will buy something.

Chelonis R. Jones-Chatterbox (Systematic)(Germany)
I can always hope that an album titled Chatterbox will steal more than just a little of the over the top audacity of the original chatterboxes-the New York Dolls. Sadly, that's not the case here on Jones' new album, which is mostly Terrence Trent D'arby like histrionics on a K-Mart hissy fit budget. The album does incorporate some cool mid 80s post punk influences as Jones gets whole lot more musical on this album than most of his peers in the genre but the songs just lay on the dramatics too thickly and just wring you out after awhile. There are nice moments on Jones' Chatterbox just not enough to satisfy after such a long drawn out affair.

The Herbaliser Band-Session 2 (!K7)(US)
Unlike comtemporaries and close rivals Rae & Christian, the pioneering UK hip hop duo Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba aka the Herbaliser have decided to stay relevant rather than riding off into the sunset on golden donkeys (affectionately know as asses, which is what most of the tracks on R&C's latest cash-in collection Raiding the Vaults sounded like). Spanning their own decade of work the duo move away from the 1200s and MPCs into a world of full band orchestrations with nods to the big Seventies soundtrack guys like Barry, Jones, and Schifrin. Honestly, it comes across a tad forced and nowhere near as funky as the seminal Herbaliser albums for Ninja Tune but it is still nice albeit odd to hear beats getting cut in the middle of a stirring string section.

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