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Mika Vainio In the Land of the Blind the One-Eyed is King

Label: Touch

With this, his fourth solo album, Mika Vainio journeys through rather different musical terrain than in the past. Best known as one half of Pan Sonic, Vainio's signature sound is that of his custom-made analogue synthesizers, with their incisive treble tones and penetrating sub-bass. Vainio opts for a less hermetic approach here, working in a more collagist manner using field recordings, the sound of crackling vinyl, and other non-synthetic sounds in addition to his trademark synths. Read more » 

Unagi Unagi

Label: Kimosciotic

Wow, for once a music journalist proves he can hold his own when creating the same music he criticizes. The startlingly good debut album from San Francisco's Unagi (a.k.a. Brolin Winning, who writes about hip-hop) is the kind of album you want to crank up extra loud on a sunny spring or summer day, nodding your head along to the warm, soulful hip-hop beats while enjoying the company of friends and Northern California's finest herb. Read more » 

Stateless The Art of No State

Label: Freerange

The Stateless project from Sweden's Andreas Saag picks up where Swell Session, his housier project for Hollow Records, left off, with a collection of lush, jazzy house and R&B. It's not a surprise to find this on Freerange-Stateless's glossy production and slight '80s tinge fit right in with Jimpster's most recent work. Nu-jazz-phobes might at first be put off by the ultra-lush production, fattened up with swollen synths, horns and Elsa Hedberg's swooning vocals. Read more » 

Sleepwalker Especial

Label: Especial

After a noted (and now scarce) single on Kyoto Jazz Massive's Especial label, Sleepwalker drop a corker of an album, one which may seem a bit anachronistic to the casual listener. Raspy, Rollins-esque saxman Masato Nakamura leads a group that includes keys player Hajime Yoshizawa, bassist Tomokazu Sugimoto, and drummer Noboyuki Fujii in a session closer to combo-driven pre-fusion jazz on '60s-era Impulse label release than anything one usually finds in these pages. Read more » 

Sharpshooters Twice as Nice

Label: Light in the Attic

Mr. Supreme and DJ Sureshot have deep-in-the-crates reputations that precede them, but make no mistake: this is not an obscure-vinyl wank-off. Instead, Supreme and Sureshot focus on production, fusing the best loops with live instrumentation in an appealing way. Most of the cuts are mid-tempo, groove-oriented affairs-minimalist, but not minimal. The Achilles heel is that the composition isn't as good as the production. While most songs feature terrific loops and grooves, they don't really go anywhere, and without progressions, even the best beats can become torpid. Read more » 

Rework Fall Right Now

Label: Playhouse

With members of the Stuttgart-based four-piece Rework hailing from both France and Hungary, you should expect something a little different. With Germany's Playhouse label involved, it's pretty much guaranteed; it hasn't landed it's reputation as one of house music's most consistent and innovative imprint overnight. Rework's debut, Fall Right Now, merges the standouts from three previous EPs with all new works, and their amalgam of effervescent electronic grooves and spiky song writing still bears intriguing fruit. Read more » 

RF Interno

Label: Odd Shaped Case

The debut solo album from Berkeley, CA-based Ryan Francesconi works as a soundtrack for pensive, pondering times, that lets the mind drift from rigidity and schedules. A lofty, deeply atmospheric ambient musical work, Interno combines an assortment of electronic textures with classical and acoustic instrumentation such as the cello, violin, flute, clarinet, horns and guitar, and brandishes Balkan music as a major influence. It's a soothing, contemplative yet exploratory effort-especially surprising considering Francesconi's career as a computer programmer and application developer. Read more » 

Penny The Clockforth Movement

Label: Plague Language

Penny fills an enormous void in hip-hop: sexy feminine lyricism that's as aggressive experimental as it is easily accessible. With a clean delivery like Ladybug from Digable Planets, she could just rely on the watery-smooth grain of her voice, yet she finesses the beat with all types of twisty intonations, changing paces with the quick flip of a word. Her style is steeped in Anticon weird abstraction-which, as always, teeters on falling flatly pretentious-but it's her matter-of-factness that suggests, like a DoseOne, she really might be that strange. Read more » 

Ollo Sleeper

Label: Creative Vibes

I have one party trick: I'm good at picking up dialects. Not your obvious Cockneys or Alabama twangs-I'm also good at musical dialects. Or so I thought until I heard the Swedish band, Ollo, two DJ production partners named Alex and Lars. Sleeper is atmospheric, with a slight pop sensibility and a heady dose of jazz-a bit of moonless night with a touch of sun glinting off the snow. Read more » 

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