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Top 10: Booka Shade, Benga, The Death Set

Booka Shade
The Sun & The Neon Light
Get Physical
Release Date: Summer 2008

Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger ought to write the score for a spy film or crime drama. We always knew the German duo and longtime members of the Get Physical imprint were masters of making suspenseful tech-house. The Sun & the Neon Light finds these two manipulating tension even more as the album climbs from gentle electronic whispers to sub-deep basslines, frantic tempos, and haunting organs, all of which climax two-thirds through the album before settling back into a minimal, thought-provoking denouement.

Benga
Diary of an Afro Warrior
Tempa
Release Date: Out Now

Are you sick of XLR8R.com covering dubstep yet? Too bad. We have even more love for it in this week's Top 10, although I question pigeonholing Benga into a single genre after listening to this album. The 21-year old über-prolific producer offers much more than dark, dubby beats on his debut long-player, which ventures into noise, electro, and even a little R&B territory. Saxophones are not an instrument one immediately associates with dubstep, but including them here is just another example of why Benga’s a step ahead of his contemporaries.

Waldeck
Ballroom Stories
Dope Noir
Release Date: Out Now

The 1920s are, admittedly, a time in music I don't know much about, but listening to this album perked my interest. An ode to that era, Ballroom Stories finds Viennese producer Klaus Waldeck making polished, cocktail-hour rhythms that call to mind speakeasies, Duke Ellington, mobsters, and flapper dresses. And the album doesn't feel like some knock-off imitation of a bygone era. There are shades of electro and dub snuck into the composition here, thus ensuring the album's place among contemporary music. Fans of nu-jazz and downtempo, take note!

Foals
Antidotes
Sub Pop
Release Date: April 8

It’s hard to tell if Foals are still considered “up-and-coming,” what with drummer Jack Bevan jumping around in the new Burberry ad. But what we can say is that the band’s first single, “Cassius,” establishes these Oxford chavs as dedicated–and pretty–rockers. Their indie-club predecessors (like Bloc Party) no doubt impact the group’s jittery, danceable appeal, but Foals offer a little more post-punk edginess to keep them from tailgating an increasingly clichéd genre. Taryn Harrington

Bad Dudes
Eat Drugs
Retard Disco
Release Date: April 22

These guys epitomize the SoCal weirdo-rock scene better than any other band I've seen in a while. The chugging guitars, omnipresent hooks, frenzied drums, and sweetly crafted melodies all retain an eerie, futuristic feel, perfect for dancing or taking drugs to in some Echo Park dive bar. An added bonus is that you can actually sing along to the lyrics in many parts of the album. Just be careful not to let the title track’s chorus get stuck in your head–that happened to me last week and it’s still in there.

The Death Set
Worldwide
Counter Records
Release Date: April 22

The Death Set doesn’t sound like they do drugs–they sound like they do energy drinks, Slurpies, fluorescent-colored candy, and piles and piles of sugar. Strung out on sucrose, this Sydney/Brooklyn/Baltimore-based outfit plays punk music that buzzes with distorted synths, guitars, and drum machines. The band’s sound owes a lot to Brooklyn noise-punk heroes Japanther, but its songs fit just as well with the frenetic mash-ups of Girl Talk or Bonde Do Role. Being that the members are on a mission to play as many shows possible–where they get really sweaty and jump off of things–it’s recommended you pick up a copy and learn all the words before they get to your town. Wyatt Williams

Various Artists
Ambient Not Not Ambient
Audio Dregs
Release Date: April 29

The word “peaceful” comes to mind when trying to describe the city of Portland, Oregon. Peaceful bridges, peaceful rain, peaceful trees, peaceful waterfalls; the word works for describing almost everything about the city, and this compilation fits right in. Audio Dregs spent a couple years on this release, collecting a thematic range of vibes from an “extended family” of Portland artists and their friends. E*Vax (of Ratatat), White Rainbow, Am/Pm, Yellow Swans, and Lucky Dragons (among plenty others) contribute mellow tracks of mostly electronic bliss to this collection. Psych-blues songstress Valet steals the spotlight with a breathy, climatic track. Wyatt Williams

The Lines
Memory Span
Acute
Release Date: May 27

They might have toured with The Cure and Bauhaus, and created a sound comparable to Joy Division, but the sad truth is that The Lines were virtually unknown during the five years they recorded and performed music. Lucky for all of us post-punk fans, Carpark affiliate Acute Records recently got ahold of the band's material and is set to release a series of reissues, the first being this, a collection of Lines singles and EPs recorded between the years 1978 and 1983.

Dirt Crew
"Mindforce"
Dirt Crew
Release: Summer 2008

As with most Dirt Crew recordings, this single is ready made for the dancefloor of a dark, moody club. Hypnotic synths and minimal percussion roll over one another, accompanied by an eerily realistic fog horn sound. For the flip-side, Kabale und Liebe added some tribal drums to a stripped-down remix version of the track, and if a techno song can get XLR8R.com's rich-media editor to bob his New Era cap-clad head and yell "Uh!", you know it's a winner.

XLR8R Podcast
Web Office Tune-Off
Download

The Web Office Tune-Off was born of a disagreement arising amid the XLR8R.com staff, which involved fighting over whether they would listen to hip-hop or indie rock, and ended with a certain managing editor drop-kicking a couple plastic cups at the head of a certain rich-media editor. They made nice though, and prepped this multi-genre mix of their current favorite tunes, from Xiu Xiu and Boys Noize to Crookers and Ghostface Killah.

Above: Booka Shade in Melbourne, 2007.

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