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Review: Ugly Duckling Taste the Secret

Label: Emperor Norton

Wow, what a fun record-perhaps the most entertaining and enjoyable release of the year so far. The overall sound and feel of Taste the Secret is straight out of the early '90s (and that's a good thing). Ugly Duckling don't use the golden era as mere window dressing-they exemplify it with witty rhymes and dusty production that's packed with breaks and fills that keep the beats from stagnating. Meanwhile, MCs Andy and Dizzy keep the fun-factor high from beginning to end, kicking skillful and hilarious rhymes. Read more » 

Review: Swamburger The Roots of Kin

Label: Eight Dimension

From the beat quality all the way up to the lyrics and delivery, this is a top-notch album. You could tell Swamburger was up for good things after his guest spot with BMF and Beef Wellington of Orlando's Eighth Dimension crew. The Roots of Kin seals the deal. Conscious rhymes and a quick delivery bring to mind groups like Binary Star, Zion-I, Digable Planets and early De La Soul, while Swam occasionally picks up the speed to rolling Outkast flavor. Funky guitars dominate the beats, which hint at an experimental electronic style. Read more » 

Review: The Gas man Remedial

Label: Planet M

Christopher Adam Reeves (a.k.a. The Gasman) apparently derives his recordings from cut-up old classical reel-to-reel tapes which he further mutates via a cheap PC. Around half his tracks have precedents in late-'80s/early-'90s rave, but Remedial particularly intrigues when The Gasman's music-making process produces ghostly aberrations not dissimilar to the reprocessed 1930s ballroom music on The Caretaker's Selected Memories From The Haunted Ballroom. Read more » 

Review: Splinter Group Blowing Down Blue Sky

Label: W.D.T.H.C.

While I'm about as technologically masterful as a toddler with a push toy' embrace, and am schooled in, theories of improvisation and experimentation. Which is frustrating when I enjoy artists like Splinter Group, yet have no idea how they created such intricate sound exploration. Basically, the process involved two members selecting beats to be programmed by engineer Wayne Peet, which were then fed back to the group to expand on as they envisioned. Each piece-anchored by Kaoru on vocals-is a marvel, building layer upon layer of sound to create a harmonious whole. Read more » 

Review: Rima This World

Label: JCR

Capable of the most abstract, contorting broken beat rhythms as well as straightforward-yet-immensely-soulful house music, Dominic Stanton (who produces as Domu) is currently at the top of his game. Teaming up with Enrico Crivellero (a.k.a. Volcov) as Rima, Stanton drops a luscious full-length sitting between those two extremes, with jazz fusion playing a major role. Silky vocals backed with mashed-up production meet angular broken beats, and the album drips with live performances from luminaries like Kaidi Tatham and Ian O'Brien; tracks are steeped in the Chicago/Detroit/London tradition. Read more » 

Review: Opiate Sometimes

Label: Morr Music

Opiate, the solo project of Thomas Knak (a Bj?rk collaborator and also a member of trios System and Future 3), only partially lives up to its moniker. The overall effect of the fuzzy fluctuations on the six-track Sometimes EP is sedative, but instead of dulling the senses, it reveals (on repeated close listens) an airy, intricate mesh of textures. Fitting the Morr Music modus operandi, acoustic overlaps form the EP's sun-speckled springboard. But unlike so many post-clicks 'n' cuts/glitch composers, Knak is ever so deliberate. Read more » 

Review: Arne Nordheim Dodeka

Label: Rune Grammofon

Now in his 70s, the uncompromising Arne Nordheim may be Norway's closest equivalent to Stockhausen. The 12 pieces collected in this beautifully packaged CD-standing out even among Kim Hiorthoy's typically beautiful design work-offer spacious musique concrete miniatures from the late '60s/early '70s. Defying the Norwegian trend of the time towards neo-folk classicism, Dodeka is strung through with an ambient spirit of hovering tintinabulation. In this, it comes closest to approximating a music box concerto of fluttering analog seagulls. Rarefied and beguiling. Read more » 

Review: Matt Elliot The Mess We Made

Label: Domino

Revealing a fondness for drifting in and out of sleep that he shares with My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields, Matt Elliott claims that most of his ideas are derived from hypnogogic or hypnopompic conditions-respectively, the partially conscious states of drowsiness experienced before sleeping or awakening. From this somnolence, Elliott crafts the most beautiful but unnerving recordings. Read more » 

Review: Broker/Dealer First Public Offering

Label: Asphodel

San Francisco's Broker/Dealer have quietly done their own thing for some time now, overshadowed by the Bay Area's better-known laptop stars. Best known for their releases on Cologne's Traum Schallplatten, First Public Offering sees Ryan Fitzgerald and Ryan Bishop combining the pop underpinnings of Giorgio Moroder, the tech-dub styling of Basic Channel and Force Inc, and the ambient wash of Kompakt in a way all their own. If it's not a reinvention of the techno wheel, it's certainly one of the most enjoyable minimal techno full-lengths we've heard in recent memory. Read more » 

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