CRACKHAUS Spells Disaster (Mutek_Rec) Rating: NNN
Crackhaus are a couple of Montreal techno guys who, when they work together, tend to get a bit silly. The worlds of minimal techno and micro-house aren't exactly known for their sense of humour, and that perceived self-importance and seriousness have kept some listeners away. So why not have a laugh once in a while? This collection of songs isn't really laugh-out-loud funny, but it's hard not to grin when the swinging, glitchy house of Hee Haw On See Saw shifts slowly to reveal slivers of harmonica and country-flavoured acoustic guitar. Stephen Beaupré and Scott Monteith are clearly having fun doing things most techno producers would think were too stupid to try. Unfortunately, the hoedown house moments are easily the best, which leaves a bunch of tracks that won't excite anyone who's heard a couple of micro-house albums, along with four remixes by other artists, none of which stand out.
ELECTRIC GYPSYLAND 2 (Crammed) Rating: NNN
This is the second in a series of remixes and reworkings of Balkan bands by several producers and musicians. Some of them have worked with Eastern European influences before (Balkan Beat Box, Oi Va Voi), and others are just known for being musically adventurous (Animal Collective, Buscemi, Nouvelle Vague). The original tunes by Taraf de Haïdouks, Koçani Orkestar, Mahala Raï Banda and Zelwer are included on a bonus disc that offers an interesting comparison. Many of the remixes differ wildly from the originals but retain that eclectic fusion-folk quality that makes Roma music what it is. As with any compilation of remixes, some work out better than others, but the good easily outweigh the so-so here.
FUCKPONY Children Of Love (Get Physical) Rating: NNNN
Fuckpony is a new collaboration between American-in-Berlin Jay Haze and Swiss-Iranian-in-Berlin Samin, in which they take the minimal techno of their current home on a trip through dance music's early history of outsider disco and proto-house. Hold off on the cries of no more 80s revivalist dance music for a minute, though. There's no way you'd actually mistake any of this for what it's paying tribute to, since the production is resolutely modern. When those familiar minor-key piano vamps come in, they evoke that 80s mood, but they're filtered and treated in the way a synth stab might be on a modern minimal techno track. Techno for people who like classic house, or house for techno heads either way, it works.
LAURENT GARNIER & CARL CRAIG The Kings Of Techno (BBE) Rating: NNNN
The Kings Of series assigns pairs of heavyweight DJs to compile a tribute to the music they're both best known for. In this case, Garnier is a veteran DJ who was partially responsible for the introduction of Detroit techno and Chicago house to Europe in the late 80s, while Craig is from Detroit and started his career at around the same time. Techno heads should beware, though, as these are more mixes about techno than they are mixes of techno. Garnier chooses to go through a bit of a history lesson on Detroit's legacy, running through the Stooges, Aretha Franklin and the Tempations before making his way to the drum machine era. Craig, on the other hand, seems to have taken the opposite route, chronicling the weird European synth-disco and industrial bands that would end up influencing the development of techno. An educational addition to any eclectic record collection.
SQUAREPUSHER Hello Everything (Warp) Rating: NNN
This is Tom Jenkinson's 10th album as Squarepusher in as many years, but even his most committed fans would likely agree that he produced his most exciting material in the first five. He still doesn't sound like anyone else, but there's little here that wouldn't fit right in on 97's Hard Normal Daddy good news for those unimpressed with his recent work, but not exactly a sign of overflowing creativity. If you haven't encountered Jenkinson's strange world of jazz-fusion-hardcore before, this is a decent starting point, and if you're more into the jazz funk than the digital hardcore, this is one of his less abrasive outings.