BENJAMIN BOLES'S Top 10 discs
1 akufen My Way (Force Inc) Montreal-based sample mangler Akufen's debut album blew away critics the world over this year, for good reason. He possesses a special knack for constructing playful, bouncy techno out of fragments of random radio samples and successfully walks that thin line between academic experimentation and pop accessibility.
2 metro area (Environ) Metro Area make pretty synthesizer disco, refined and reworked into something much more substantial and emotive than it has any right to be. Sometimes unfairly lumped in with the electro revival, they're actually the perfect antidote to the style-over-substance attitude that has accompanied most recent 80s-inspired music.
3 swayzak Dirty Dancing (K7) Some were turned off by techno duo Swayzak's adoption of elements stolen from the dreaded electro-clash monster, but closer listening reveals an album that should act as a wake-up call to the new new wave. Instead of reproducing the clichés, they've married their inventive and very contemporary production style with deadpan vocals and electro-pop melodies, deftly sidestepping the whole distasteful retro-80s issue.
4 murcof Martes (Leaf) Murcof raided his collection of minimalist classical music to come up with a haunting micro-techno album that stands in a class of its own outside of the rest of the clicks 'n' cuts scene. Mexico may not be known for its electronic music, but if this is any indication of what's going on down there we should be hearing more soon.
5 soul center Soul Center III (Novamute)
Soul Center is Cologne-based electronic artist Thomas Brinkmann's take on funk. Warping bits and pieces of old soul records, he crafts a charmingly quirky sound that throbs like techno but feels warm and comfortable like house.
6 algorithm Composure (Force Lab) Toronto expat Algorithm deconstructs the back catalogue of the Force Lab label through a complicated process of editing, processing, layering and re-layering, inspired in part by Richie Hawtin's Closer To The Edit experiment. In doing so, he reworks the clicks, gurgles and bleeps of artists like Kid 606, Sutekh and Safety Scissors into a sprawling minimal funk workout.
7 norma jean bell Come Into My Room (Peacefrog)
Multi-talented Detroit saxophonist, singer, keyboardist and producer Norma Jean Bell's first full-length album easily lived up to the promise of her hugely successful single, I'm The Baddest Bitch. Although the version contained here is quite different from the original, the album as a whole carries on in the adventurous spirit of soulful Detroit house.
8 schneider tm Zoomer (Mute) A surprisingly addictive album of folksy bubble-gum pop crossed with sputtering electronic rhythms. If Beck and the Boards of Canada got together to jam, it might sound like this.
9 dj kicks playgroup (K7) UK hiphop pioneer Trevor Jackson pieces together an eclectic and fun DJ mix that veers from disco-techno to dubbed-out new wave to twisted post-punk funk. While a good portion of the disc is made up of old tracks, this isn't a retro mix. It also features some of the brighter names in contemporary dance music.
10 deadbeat Wild Life Documentaries (Scape)
Oceanic digital dub from one of Montreal's finest. While obviously influenced by the sounds of German artists like Pole and the Chain Reaction camp, Deadbeat takes things closer to actual reggae as well as getting plenty weird and ambient.