Soundtrack (313)The Detroit Escalator Co., Soundtrack (313) (Ferox, 1996). Neil Ollivierra, known at earlier points in time as The Music Institute's promoter and the Transmat label's manager, has done his part to help curb record bin overpopulation, what with only two albums to his credit. Had he released his '96 debut on a higher profile label, it'd likely be regarded as an ambient techno classic, like Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92 or Global Communication's 76.14, instead of a cult favorite. Mostly beat-less, the album is nonetheless dynamically rhythmic and frictional throughout its 43 minutes, and it is often unspeakably gorgeous. (Reissued last year by Japan's Spiral label; you can hear the album's "The Inverted Man," along with several tracks from 2001's equally excellent Black Buildings, on the DEC MySpace page.)

The Collapse of Modern CultureUrban Tribe, The Collapse of Modern Culture (Mo’ Wax, 1998). Sherard Ingram has recently released a pair of fine albums on Rephlex, both of which carry in the tradition of Drexciyan electro-techno, but his first album stands out in almost every respect, unique as a Detroit techno album (in its unassuming wide scope) and as a Mo' Wax release (in its lack of overt indebtedness to late '80s/early '90s East Coast hip-hop production). Assisted by Carl Craig, Anthony "Shake" Shakir, and Kenny "Moodymann" Dixon, Ingram orchestrated an absorbing synthesis of ambient techno, IDM, dub, abstract hip-hop, and what would later develop into the trippier end of dubstep. Its impressionist moodscapes, suffused with deeply affecting somber undercurrents, make it the Weather Report or Jewel in the Lotus of machine soul techno. (Presumably out of print, though not difficult to find online.)

  • "Nebula"

  • "Low Berth"

  • "Transaction"

The Historically Troubled Third AlbumDis-, The Historically Troubled Third Album (Sonic Bubblegum, 1996). This Milwaukee band remains obscure enough to slip past the diligent rock gatekeepers at Trouser Press. The gist: brainy, tightly-coiled, Steve Albini-recorded post-hardcore -- abrupt tempo shifts, alternately brutalist and gentle rhythms, downer chords inspired by Danzig and AC/DC as much as Sonic Youth, the works -- with tuneless vocals full of deadpan humor, inside jokes, and wisecracks (when they can be made out, at least). To put it another way, the band sounded like Hum, only with the dreaminess replaced with itchiness. The title was prophetic -- the band did not make a fourth album. (Available on iTunes.)

  • "Hamartia, My Ass"

  • "Here's to Evil, Clink"