By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
One of the funnier musical moments of the year can be found on Dominik Eulberg's singles collection, Heimische Gefilde. Each track features a spoken interlude by Eulberg, who appears to be on a nature walk. "Is that a Moog synthesizer?" he asks himself; "Nein," he responds, detailing instead an indigenous bird's song. (Trust me, it sounds funny in German.) He points out other distinct birdcalls, their chortles and twitters mimicking the sound design (or is it the other way around?) that garlands his club-bangers, as natural as could be. It helps that the guy doubles as a park ranger.
Eulberg's second full-length, Bionik, however, straps his nature-boy tendencies to a shiny beast of club sound. Dense and floor-friendly, yet nuanced, this is easily one of the year's finest dance discs, at once progressive, pounding, and trance-y, always mutating and exhilarating. "Autopfoten" drives to a feverish climax thrice, with each breakdown retaining all the velocity of a krautrock beat. "Haifischflügel" and "Rückenschwimmzipper" deliriously up the ante: The former percolates, sizzles, then introduces a female coo that elevates the track, while the latter's beat is both quicksilver and breakneck. No matter the sleekness, Eulberg preserves all his froggy chirps, gurgles, and slushes in their rightful habitat.
Not to find a silver lining in General Pinochet's baleful junta in Chile, but a generation on, the exodus of Chilean intellectuals no doubt fuels the boon of European techno. Ricardo Villalobos remains the paramount example of that cultural exchange, but fellow countryman Lucien Nicolet is up there, too. His sumptuous remix of Mali singer Salif Keita is ocean-deep, while the roster on his Cadenza imprint features a fine selection of producers from little-known hot spots like Romania. Contemporary & Classics, a two-disc set marking the label's first appearance in digital form, acts as a trifecta of Luciano's talents: producer, mixer, and label head.
Cadenza's 12 inches feature gorgeous sleeve art: fractals, flowers, and fronds at play. A shape not unlike a clutch of dried tobacco sprawls across the packaging hereinside, one disc compiles six double-digit-length sides (a shame there's not room for the flips), while the other features a recent DJ mix. Always, minimal yet myriad sounds cohere in Luciano's productions: "Orange Mistake" (with fellow producer Quenum) makes bass wobbles, Darth Vader breaths, and cicada clicks work via an unexpected keyboard zag. N.S.I.'s "Max Binski" resounds like some weird piano recital. And how Quenum & Lee Van Dowski's "Extension" comes together beggars belief: You can hear the forest as well as the leaves.