WallsApparat - Walls
Having made a considerable splash with the Ellen Allien collaboration Orchestra of Bubbles, Apparat returned to his own path with Walls, a remarkable album that ranks as his best yet. Beginning with the gentle string and vibes beats of "Not a Number" -- which in its own melancholy way, combined with the title, suddenly sounds like one of the most humanistic songs yet recorded, passionate in its elegant sorrow -- Walls takes a simultaneously familiar and unsettled path. While the continuing impact of disparate strands of music -- the fallout of My Bloody Valentine and its many imitators, the electronic obsessions of Warp, the stadium-ready melancholy of early Radiohead and its own horde of followers -- has resulted in a 21st century computer music of crushed sorrow; on Walls, Apparat transcends the downbeat limitations of the incipient form with astonishing grace. Read more >>

UntrueBurial - Untrue
Burial, the self-titled debut album by an anonymous dubstep producer from London, proved one of the more surprising success stories of 2006. It was voted Album of the Year by the influential experimental-electronic magazine The Wire and was fawned over by a long list of other media, from Mixmag to Pitchfork. Upon the release of Untrue, the second Burial album, the cycle of acclaim appeared likely to repeat itself. While Untrue isn't likely to win many, if any, Album of the Year honors (in the wake of the debut's acclaim, the novelty of Burial lessened considerably), the album's arguably even better than its predecessor. Untrue finds its anonymous producer streamlining the varied approach of his debut, resulting is a uniform collection of tracks that are subtly evolving variations of each other. Read more >>

AndorraCaribou - Andorra
As Dan Snaith became an accomplished producer with his Manitoba and Caribou albums of the 2000s, the breathtaking vitality of his early work gave way to music that may have been more accomplished, but was never as interesting or as fun to listen to. Andorra is just the kind of break with the past that he needed after 2005's relatively lackluster The Milk of Human Kindness. His first album on Merge, it's less a collection of innovative sounds and productions (like The Milk of Human Kindness) and more an album of songs, united by his motivations and desires. These tracks are first and foremost songs -- and not just because Snaith is singing a bit more. Read more >>

I Put a Record OnGudrun Gut - I Put a Record On
Since Gudrun Gut has been a fixture in Germany's experimental and electronic music communities for over three decades -- performing with Malaria! and founding the Ocean Club collective and her Monika label along the way -- it's a little surprising that it took so long for her first solo album to arrive. However, I Put a Record On is well worth the wait, full of impressionistic tone poems about the strange ways that desire, dreams, and memories work. "Move Me" opens the album with a collage of ticking clocks, gasping breaths, shimmering accordions, and shout-outs to Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces" that manages to be shadowy, elusive, and urgent all at once. Gut's music nods to Berlin's thriving minimal techno scene (and her friend and Ocean Club collaborator Thomas Fehlmann mixed some of these tracks), but I Put a Record On branches out in unexpected musical and emotional directions. Read more >>

KalaM.I.A. - Kala
Kala and Arular are similar in that they are both wildly vigorous and wholly enjoyable albums, generous with blunt-force beats, flurries of percussion, riotous vocals (with largely inconsequential lyrics), and fearless stylistic syntheses that seem to view music from half of the planet's countries as potential source material. But Kala nearly makes Arular seem tame in comparison, magnifying most of its predecessor's qualities as it remains bracingly adventurous. While it certainly sounds like a second M.I.A. album, nothing about it is stagnant. Made in piecemeal fashion while located in several countries, Kala involves a few co-producers: U.K. "dirty house" producer Switch is the primary collaborator, while Baltimore club don Blaqstarr, Diplo, and Timbaland assist M.I.A. on one or a couple tracks each. Read more >>

Fabriclive.36James Murphy & Pat Mahoney - Fabriclive.36
File under Indie Powers Used for Good. For the 36th volume of its Fabriclive series, Fabric tapped LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Pat Mahoney, a duo that has been DJing together for roughly a year and possibly perplexing a fair portion of the audiences by not relying on the kind of rhythmic post-punk that has informed their own music. Fair enough: the path from "North American Scum" to Donald Byrd's Isaac Hayes-produced "Love Has Come Around" (included here) is a lot less direct than the path from "Losing My Edge" to the Fall. Mixed with a Bozak -- a standard early mixer used with the basic two-turntable setup -- and aided when needed by the Logic program, Murphy and Mahoney's set tends to have the feel of an on-the-fly gig with occasionally imperfect beat-matching and the sound of actual vinyl being spun. Read more >>

WalkaboutOptimo - Walkabout
Presumably mixed in a featureless Siberian bunker by Optimo's JG Wilkes -- his partner, JD Twitch, might've been incapacitated at the time, sprawled across the bunker floor, his brainpan scoped by abrasive rhythmic sounds shooting off the walls -- Walkabout contrasts considerably with the Scottish duo's previous commercial mixes, 2004's bewildering How to Kill the DJ, Pt. 2 and 2005's tripped-out Psyche Out. In spite of its varied sources, including burbling acid house, bone-dry minimal techno, early electro-pop, frayed and highly frictional goofball house, willfully alienating electronic sound sculptures, and even a sparse guitar piece, context makes the whole program sound industrial. Evident by looking at its tracklist, with names like Throbbing Gristle, Suicide, and Black Dice, the disc is not designed to please a crowd, or even the average individual in search of a pick-me-up or a good time in the traditional senses. The set clangs, clanks, pings, buzzes, and sears, and its rate isn't even close to steady, so it's not even for masochistic dancers who like their pummelings served nonstop. Read more >>

This BlissPantha du Prince - This Bliss
This Bliss, the second full-length album on Dial Records by Pantha du Prince, is stylistically typical of the Hamburg-based label's brand of dark, icy electronic music, variously described as ambient techno, microhouse, or even post-minimal (none of these tags incorrect). Like its predecessor, the wondrous Diamond Daze (2004), This Bliss is highly evocative. Each track is distinct, often in terms of rhythm if not the actual sounds comprising the productions (e.g., the signature chimes), yet the overall mood of the album is subdued and indeed blissful. The effect is hypnotic; like driving on the expressway into a snowstorm at night, you can feel the underlying propulsion of the car and hear its constant rumble, yet at the same time, a fuzzy sense of comfort can easily overtake you as the snowflakes dance betwitchingly in your headlights. This Bliss invites a cascade of such analogies, its enigmatic cover art well-fitting. Read more >>

Back to MineRöyksopp - Back to Mine
Most entries in the Back to Mine series allow the artists to investigate their wide but dabbling tastes in influences -- a bit of dance, a bit of alternative, some roots in '60s pop or soul perhaps, and maybe a stray nugget from something obscure like Krautrock or dub or rockabilly. The other volumes usually come from true DJs or, rarely, those with something special to say. Regardless of whether you enjoy Röyksopp's vision of polished downbeat pop, the duo's interest in post-disco and Euro-dance pays major dividends here for those looking to hear something beyond the usual Klein + M.B.O. or Alexander Robotnick singles. The vast majority of the tracks hail from that magical time (1978-1984) when disco, new wave, and synth pop were colliding with fantastic results, especially considering the quality of these obscurities, from the cold Teutonic harmonies of Harry Thumann's "Sphinx" to the warmer Italian-lover sound of Pino d'Angio's "Ma Quale Idea." Read more >>

Attack Decay Sustain ReleaseSimian Mobile Disco - Attack Decay Sustain Release
Producers of dance music (or any music, for that matter) can innovate all they want, but without great songs and excellent productions, they'll never add much to the canon of great records. James Shaw and James Ford, who make up Simian Mobile Disco, are a pair of producers who may not innovate very much -- their chosen field, acid house and acid techno, are relative dinosaurs in the genre -- but they impress much more with the excitement and energy of their productions and songs. There haven't been half a dozen other dance records since Daft Punk's Homework that carry such a raft of great productions, or balance so well what it sounds like to put on an excellent club night within the confines of an LP (especially one that's barely longer than 30 minutes). Read more >>