Here's what I've been listening to more recently during my insanely hectic late fall/winter 2009:
Underworld vs The Misterons-Athens (!K7)
The concept behind this DJ mix is crate-digging and in the band's own words "to highlight records we thought had great live playing on them." Seminal joys from the early Seventies including Alice Coltrane, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Roxy Music appear alongside more modern classics. What's amazing is that the contemporary selections from Moodyman, Osunlade, and Laurent Garnier stand tall in comparison to those inscrutable old classics. The mix is not complete until Miroslav Vitous' "New York City" and the new Underworld/Brian Eno pairing "Beebop Hurry" make appearances-at that point Athens becomes one for the ages.
Pere Ubu-Long Live Pere Ubu! (Hearpen/Smog Veil)
The long-awaited return of my most favortists Seventies punk absurdists was a true gift this year as David Thomas and (new) co. unleash one of the most brilliant, mean spirited albums of the decade. I cannot stop listening to the piece of high art! Insanely great and totally visionary.
Various-Kitsune Maison Compilation 8 (Kitsune)
The Kitsune imprint seems to me to be rather polemic in outward appeances-either folks are lovers or haters of the tres chic French label. I find myself in the middle, being only so-so on the Eighties/indie inspired trash but gaga over Kitsune's unique take on techno-one that sounds fresh and unforced. This one definitely surpassed the role of guilty pleasure with some inspired tuneage.
Hawke-+++ (Eighth Dimension)
Three cheers for the return of San Francisco's Gavin Hardkiss on this loopy, fun & sun exploration into the heart of the groove. This guy says he only makes music to please himself, from the sound of things on +++, he must be the happiest guy on Earth.
Granlab-Industrial Romance (Broque)
Okay, so this is only an eight track maxi-EP (or mini-LP, depending on how you slice it) but damn if this release from Heiko Schwanz isn't one of minimal's finest moments this year. Simply put, Granlab offers a full course of musical offerings that including beautiful swatches of pastoral melody and deep, meaningful ambient techno.
Etienne Jaumet-Night Music (Versatile)
Jaumet is an old school indie rocker with a yearning desire to fight limitations and to continue ongoing musical conversation. First came Zombie Zombie and now a daring solo release (produced by Carl Craig, no less) that channels Albert Ayler's menancing sax drone into a laser focused No Wave techno experiment. There are few tracks (six in total) and all unfold like a Sun-Ra Arkestra experiment gone horribly wrong. Kudos to Versatile for having the balls to release something so uniquely original.
Helado Negro-Awe One (Asthmatic Kitty)
Roberto Carlos Lange aka Helado Negro's bio speaks of comparisons to Arto Lindsay and Mayo Thompson with hints of Savath & Savalas and Christian Marclay when describing his new album Awe One. Where I come from, you have to have some serious guts to make those kinds of comparisons and, to no amazement, Lange backs-up his fightin' words. Awe One is the kind of album that embraces the lo-fi aesthetic while still stretching out into the great beyond with a big basketful of memorable tunes. It's hard not to be moved by the lazy summertime party grooves that propel this charming piece of work.
Various-Nigeria 70 2xCD (Strut)
This seminal comp makes a re-mastered appearance at the end of the decade
to remind everyone just how raw and fiery "Funky Lagos" was in the early Seventies. The grooves, the tunes, the energy-everything about this re-issue is perfect.
Samuel L. Session-The Man With The Case (Be As One)
The Man With The Case makes a strong argument that many of Session’s competitors in the techno genre have forgotten the secret formula. Here, he lays down a credible collection of hard techno that isn't pedantic or anachronistic. Instead he introduces elements of new-fangled production advances and recent changes in taste without losing his distinctive style, a sacrifice many others in his field seem willing to make for more commercial gains. He also adds some diversity to what is a simple collection of dancefloor cuts, adding deeper and more expansive ones to balance against the typical crateful of dark, menacing kinds found on these types of albums. The results are best described as thoughtful and energetic with Session remaining true to his techno roots whereas so many others have not.
Will Saul-Balance 015 3xCD (EQ)
The newest installment of the Balance series from the grand wizard-like record slinger Will Saul is a bit of a comedown after Joris Voorn's legendary offering. Over three disks, Saul offers a lot of cool sounds and ideas but he seems better suited to a live environment as this one never really gets cooking or finds the right groove for the appropriate duration.
Modeselektor-Body Language Vol. 8 (Get Physical)
German bass duo Modeselektor return, although at this point the duo has worn out its welcome with me proving themselves to be more flash than substance. However, on the latest installment of the essential Body Language series these guys go off on some bazillion track mix that sounds like M.I.A. ransacking Berlin's Hard Wax record shop in search of the perfect beat.
Various-Thoughtless Music Vol. 4 (Thoughtless Music)
This fourth collection of tracks from the always consistent Thoughtless Music imprint outta Toronto is solid. The comp is filled with essential late nighters from Jamie Kidd, Signal Deluxe, Limaçon, and a host of other North American techno standouts.
Jega-Variance Pts. 1 + 2 (Planet Mu)
Bass and IDM terrorist Jega returns for his first new album in nine years. Once again he proves why he is one of the best electronic producers in the game with one side of killer chill tunes and the other a tasteful collection of his drill & bass filtered through current electro-acoustic trends on Variance Pts. 1 + 2. The results are deviously gorgeous.
Diarmaid O'Meara-Structured Noise (Gobsmacked)
Irish three deck techno standout O'Meara releases his debut full length of streetsweeper strength nastiness. Too hard to be Detroit techno and too deep to be hardstyle, O'Meara treads new ground with something hard & fast that doesn't suck.
Lindstrøm & Christabelle-Real Life Is No Cool(Feedelity/Smalltown Supersound)
I really wanted to like this partnership more, some of Lindstrøm's ideas are solid and vocalist Christabelle has a nice set of pipes. But despite the tasrt Vangelis cover, this one quickly devolves into sub-Hall & Oates boogie rock with the requisite amount of Lindstrøm' deedle making this one nearly unbearable at times.
The Gaslamp Killer-All Killer (B-Music)
Three cheers for SoCal artist The Gaslamp Killer for wading into the B-Music crates and pulling out a very modern sounding rare groove mix from tons of obscure German novelty records. The results can get a party movin' but it's really recommended for hardcore vinyl junkies-who will get the greatest satisfaction with this one.
Wax Tailor-In The Mood For Life (Le Plan)
France's Wax Tailor returns with another album of cinematic boom-bap that sounds completely out of step with the times as if he stepped all the way back to 1995 to make this album. There is still good soulful ideas and a nostalgic twinge that propel this album beyond its innate desire to be mediocre, making it better than it probably should be all things considered.
Annie-Don't Stop (Totally/Smalltown Supersound)
I found the first album from Norway's Annie Lilia Berge Strand to be a completely charming collection of thrown together electroclash/indie sounds that sounded fun yet chaotic. The fun vibe is still here on her latest but too much of the chaos has been replaced by slick productions that call to min at best Stacey Q and at worst the whole stable of faceless teen pop acts on PWL back in the day. What seemed cool and edgy five years ago has been killed by the curse of professionalism. "Mo' money, mo' problems" indeed.
Various-The Vampires Of Dartmoor (B-Music)
B-Music strikes again with this awesome Halloween themed comp. While not as good as some of the label's other offerings, this one is still a hell of a lot of fun.
Tom Stephan-Nervous Nitelife (Nervous)
I just got this disk in the mail so it got added to the list as I am typing this so it probably deserves a higher position that #20 on this list. Old Superchumbo hisself delivers a truckload of sweaty, chest thumping peak hour bangers that sound more hit than miss. An excellent track selection and a decent old school vibe make this mix notable.