ELECTRO - The Swedes, Please

Look toward Scandinavia to find 2003's most progressive electronic music. Really.

While electronic-music fans in America stopped, dropped and fell in love with the cocaine- and leg-warmer-fueled nostalgia of the electroclash scene in 2003, the homeboy tribal techno revolution raged globally; a pair of Brits created a Latin Project that inexplicably made my deep-house-hating ears perk up; a Scumfrog hopped to the top; and Underworld offered up the best of its best (which is to say, pretty much the best, period) on a two-CD set.

But first, let's revisit Sweden.

You know how every so often you walk into a club or a warehouse or your friend's apartment and you hear a track or style you've never heard before but you immediately have that my-mind-is-being-blown-and-it's-not-the-blotter-paper-talking feeling? Yes, you do -- like that first time you heard Tiffany's "I Think We're Alone Now" or, uh, Poison's "Talk Dirty to Me."

Take note, then, for Swedish techno may bring such a happy, forward-looking moment into your life in the very new future. While America's electronic-music hopes are crammed into a fanny pack, producers in Sweden are sampling, pointing and clicking their way toward a brighter tomorrow for electronic music. If Detroit techno heads went to a b-boy battle, cut the noise on the treble end of things, picked up a djembe, threw in some crazy break beats every now and again and did a backflip into a reverb tank, then bam! They'd be Bjorn again.

Super-clean production, whirling dub effects, hip-hop-style break beats mixed in with pounding four-to-the-floor madness, tribal hand percussion polyrhythms, and minimal melodies are hallmarks of the fledgling Swedish style.

Like their better-known peers in America, the Swedes are building on preexisting styles. But they're producing future music that will blow your mind.

1. Robert Leiner, "Breath" (H. Productions)

2. Samuel L. Session, "Off the Wall (Intensed Dub)" (SLS)

3. Robert Leiner, "Rastaman" (H. Productions)

4. Samuel L. Session, Core EP (SLS)

Elsewhere, we have an American and two Brits who have crafted superlative tribal tracks with styles that are distinctly their own yet are evocative of the Swedish sound:

5. Tony Rohr, "Purists Kill Techno" (Hidden Agenda; U.S.)

6. Michaelangelo, "Eminyea" (Labyrinth; U.K.)

7. Oliver Ho, "Sand Dune/Oliver Ho Mix" (Meta; U.K.)

P.S.: Unless you're out digging through crates every week or ordering up some platters online, it might be tough to find tracks from these cats. But you can hear some of their work on readily available mix CDs from Adam Beyer and John Kelley.

8. Underworld, 1992-2002 (V2): Celebrating 10 years of slipping light through the cracks, this two-CD set of electronic perfection has almost everything you need from the group's oeuvre: "Cowgirl," "Born Slippy," "Rez" and many more.

9. The Latin Project, Nueva Musica (Electric Monkey): Nothing sends me sprinting off a dance floor faster than the slightest hint of a Kenny G sax riff in a house track. Combining live recordings of Latin vocals and instrumentation with programmed beats and synths -- and without sampling any vinyl -- the Latin Project has created a compulsively danceable new sound that accents the strengths of their roots without diluting them. Thank goodness.

10. The Scumfrog, Extended Engagement (Effin): I'd never heard of Jesse Houk, a.k.a. The Scumfrog, when this two-CD set that features his original material along with wildly imaginative remixes of other artists' songs landed in my mailbox. Soon I came to love the Scumfrog in my headphones. For dancing, for listening, for chilling out, these vaguely house-style cuts are damn good.

 
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