Allegedly “house” not “techno,” though the common denominator of this Brit duo’s entertaining mix-CD isn’t gospelized ecstasy; more like super-detached novelties (Negativeland counting down ’80s hits, LCD Soundsystem cataloging their record collection, Felix Da Housecat getting whiskers stuck on Röyksopp’s Nordic microphone, Chicken Lips freezer-burning Ciccone Youth, Louie Austen sniffing Tom Jones’s panties), as often blankly recited as sung. The two cuts with the most blood in their rhythm and voices are old: deep-cratered 1993 ragga-dub Rockers Hi-Fi; likewise Jamaican-souled and surprisingly un-science-blinding 1982 Thomas Dolby. In the company of serviceable bridges built from Akufen’s new-age clank and Mr. Oizo’s flat gurgle and Metro Area’s Chic bassline and März’s sunshining coda, Luomo’s sleepily sexless “Present Lover” almost passes for a song.
Black Forest-born Cologne nine-to-fiver Mayer says he prefers “records that are structured, that have a beginning/middle/end,” but the only one of those here is luftballon fraulein Nena’s Chicago-house-piano-woogied Westbam-collab Europopper “Oldschool, Baby,” rumored to have nearly been left off due to its supposed cheese factor, but the mix’s smartest track anyway (and still not as cute a comeback as Nena’s recently German-chart-topping Kim Wilde duet, “Anyplace, Anytime, Anywhere”). Ricardo Villalobos contributes a sweet tracheotomy vocal hook, though, and Thomas Schaeben some spoken words about a guy who likes car crashes, and M83 doodle a glitch cartoon and Le Dustsucker vacuum up dirt. As for microhouse being music’s true vanguard, the cuts by Richard Davis and Magnet sure do sound a lot like “I Feel Love” and “Trans Europe Express.” Not that that’s a bad thing.
Multitalented Berliner Allien sounds like Nena after too much art school, or Abba after screwing and chopping. But her finely diced forcefields have a knack for salvaging avant-classical pretension as tap-dancing popcorn, keeping hard beats light on their feet, finding relaxed space in busy-bodiness, drawing gentle warmth out of austere electroclash iciness, and removing wank from glitch. Last year’s supermelodic Berlinette repeated enough themes to feel like an extended single, and though on her new disc Allien remixes other people, it’s enough of a piece that it could be vice versa: You can’t tell the Pennsylvania sex-rappers from the Swedish darkwave goths. When Miss Kitten closes with an uncredited cover of the Misfits’ “Mommy Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight,” she could be both.