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The XLR8R Office Top Ten Album Picks, July 23

Valgerir Sigurdsson Ekvilibrium Bedroom Community
Valgerir Sigurdsson is an Icelandic producer, so it’s no surprise (at all) that he composes lush, vocal IDM. What is shocking is how painstakingly fresh his take on the genre is. Any given track may contain lo-fi acoustics and tons of layers, while another is all ethereal strings and textured noise. It’s no surprise Bjork, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and Coco Rosie are enlisting Sigurdsson’s well-honed skills at the production helms.

Various Shir Kahn: Maximize! Exploited
When you think of Berlin’s music scene, electro-house isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. Shir Khan is here to change that. With his first proper double-disc DJ mix, he proves he’s got the chops to transfer a weekend’s worth of Ed Banger energy into 49 impeccably mixed tracks. Keep your eyes on this guy.

New Young Pony Club
Fantastic Playroom Modular
Almost three years have passed between the first 7” release of NYPC’s “Ice Cream” and Fantastic Playroom, the UK quintet’s long-awaited debut full-length. Not much has changed. Indie-dance is still huge, and NYPC is still at the top of the heap with its catchy blend of new wave and synth-funk.

Kronos Quartet
Pieces of Africa Nonesuch
This neo-classical string quartet has had a prolific output over the last 25 years, but its 1992 release, Pieces of Africa, still remains one of the group’s most powerful and exciting (and accessible) albums. Working with a variety of African composers, Pieces is at turns percussive and melodious, melancholic and celebratory, but it’s always enchanting.

Sleeping States
There the Open Spaces Misra
Markland Starkie’s background with noise experimentation shows its face in some subtle and interesting ways on his debut album. There the Open Spaces is essentially a minimal and melodic singer-songwriter LP, but electronics and found-sound layering give Starkie’s voice and guitar the sublimity it deserves.

Daniel Menche Bleeding Heavens Blossoming Noise
Even though it feels like noise-pioneer Daniel Menche puts out a record every month, Bleeding Heavens is utterly heavy. Clean, resonating, sonic blasts paired with distortion à la Sunn 0))) makes Bleeding Heavens one of the most triumphant noise records of the year. With records this terrifying, it would be great to see a Menche release every week.

Various Kompakt Total 8 Kompakt
When a new Kompakt Total compilation arrives here at XLR8R command central, no one high-fives or yells “dude!” No one even talks. We just throw that puppy on, lean back, and fall in love with techno all over again. Melodic, minimal, peaktime–these two discs have it all, and it’s first-rate.

Teenage Bad Girl Cocotte Citizen
Electro is the best when it’s good and gritty and Teenage Bad Girl fits the description (despite the group’s not so killer name). This Paris-based duo puts Digitalism and Guns ‘N’ Bombs to shame, with the most distorted synth lines and anthemic house rhythms this side of hell. Citizen Records is fast becoming the leader of the new French revolution.

Modeselektor Happy Birthday!  B-Pitch
Berlin-based Modeselektor has finally returned with its sophomore full-length, and it’s epic. Happy Birthday! is part grime, ghetto-tech, French-pop, and just about every other banging genre imaginable. The production is clean, the beats hit, and Thom Yorke and TTC make guest appearances, so you know it rips.

Titan “West Coast Tour” Titan
This New York-based prog-psych clan’s debut instantly made it into the XLR8R top ten last January, and in homage to the group’s forthcoming West Coast tour, Titan is back in the mix. When was the last time you heard a shredding synth solo up close and personal? Exactly. California is about to enter another dimension.

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