~An article by The Silent Ballet Staff

30) Intrusion | The Seduction of Silence
United States

Echospace [Detroit]

If there is one city that's sprinting to be the first down the shitter, it's Detroit. Recent estimates have put as much as 50% of the working-age population in unemployment, and it doesn't look like relief is coming anytime soon. In spite of the city's economic hardships, Echospace [Detroit] has produced two of the finest albums of the year - Brock Van Wey's White Clouds Drift On and On and Intrusion's The Seduction of Silence. The former sports major crossover appeal, and the latter can tout being one of the best dub techno works of the year. Stephen Hitchell may be better known for The Coldest Season, a record he created under the Echospace moniker with Rod Modell. Since then, both musicians have branched off into solo projects, but Hitchell's Intrusion stays much closer to The Coldest Season's vision than did Modell's flop from last year. And while any artist that ventures down the dub techno lane will have to face the ghost of Basic Channel, Hitchell is one of the few who actually brushes it off and continues his jaunt to limited fame and relative fortune. (Jordan Volz)

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29) Kaito | Trust
Japan

Kompakt

Trust is a surprisingly straightforward release for the Kompakt label, which generally deals in more obtuse and minimal electronica. Kaito's latest blends together techno and trance, stays in a relatively optimistic and upbeat mood, and has no qualms about time warping back into the past. It's this blast of nostalgia that will hook in listeners who are seeking to revisit the grand ol' nineties, where this type of thing was an irresistible drug to ravers. In 2009, Kaito updates the technique ever so slightly to give it an appeal to the home listening crowd; by filling out his sound, Kaito instills the record with a sense of urgency and determination that was all too absent from the previous decade. Trust is nothing short of a small triumph. (Jordan Volz)

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28) Nosaj Thing | Drift
United States

Alpha Pup

In a completely revived LA beat scene, full of tasty producers and loop crazy heads, Jason Chung exploded onto the scene like a jumping white shark from the depths bursting through the surface with Drift. This nifty little record has a peculiar hip hop style filled with future funk synths and classical chord progressions played through them. In fact, Drift rocks like a house party full of Replicants from Blade Runner. Seeing Chung perform the album live at Decibel Festival was no disappointment, as the whole place came unhinged in head-nodding ecstasy. In a world full of doubtful futures, it is comforting to know that hip hop is in the capable and conscientious hands of Nosaj Thing, plodding ahead through space-time, one funky step at a time. (Gabriel Bogart)

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27) Midaircondo | Curtain Call
Sweden

Twin Seed

Lisa Nordström and Lisen Rylander Löve hail from Sweden, but given the sound of the music they create, one would be forgiven for thinking they're Icelandic. Not to pull out the Björk and múm comparisons needlessly, I'm fairly sure that Curtain Call hits a sweet spot in a manner not dissimilar from the Icelandic electro-sirens. And while it might seem odd to categorize curtain call alongside works like Intrusion and Data, it would also be a fallacy to declare the album free from electronica's wide net. The album is a amalgamation of pop, jazz, modern classical, and, yes, electronica that is truly inspiring in its ambitions and execution; here's a duo of ladies who are walking into a male-dominated niche and changing the rules of the game. In any case, Curtain Call is one of the best applications of electronica in an adjunct field, worthy of admiration from even the crankiest electro-heads. (Jordan Volz)

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26) Lusine | A Certain Distance
United States

Ghostly International

When I first read of the then upcoming new Lusine LP, I was crushed by reports of ‘poppy’ electronica and a shift towards commercial appeal over experimentalism. While A Certain Distance certainly has more commercial appeal than Serial Hodgepodge, this is a measurement relevant to documenting the speed of glaciers. As I noted in our review, the vocals are much more front and center on numerous tracks, but they are treated with such subtlety, care, and craft that the land of Britney Spears is still light years away. Maybe people were fooled by a more consistent up-tempo feel? Well, this set of ears wasn’t tricked. I rocked Lusine on the dance floor and headphones just as easily as Moderat or Paul White. Versatility like that has never spelled ‘pop’ doom for me. (Gabriel Bogart)

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25) Data | Skywriter
France

Ekleroshock

Data benefits from the rule of thumb that no electronica list is complete without a French house selection and this year the pickings were rather slim. This isn't to say that Skywriter is lacking, because it is a strong effort that has enough going for it to be included alongside venerable artists like Daft Punk and Justice. The album is a compact three-quarters of an hour's worth of dance floor hits, futuristic sounding grooves, and infectious melodies. David Guillon excels at instrumental and vocal-led tracks, varying his compositions enough to take the center stage or to flexibly allow for some singing. Many tracks are so energized that they almost jump off the disc and force the audience to start jamming along with Guillon, laying the foundations for what could become a knockout remix album. (Jordan Volz)

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24) Hudson Mohawke | Butter
Scotland

Warp

A debut that could only have sprung from a most confident and sure-footed artist, Hudson Mohawke leaps across genres with ludicrous ease. Building on the promise of a few singles and the Polyfolk Dance EP, the former DJ champion stretches and squeezes rhythms and bounces melody all over the top. Fans of SNES games will immediately identify with vast chunks of this, and Prince fans will be transported thanks to the contribution of singer Olivier DaySoul. It is almost impossible to sit through - first the head nods, then the foot taps, and sure enough one is careering around the kitchen propelled by the wonky beat, hoping nobody is looking in the window. But really, this is an album for communal listening - there is a party in the CD player and we're all invited. In this instance, Butter really can make one's life better. (Jeremy Bye)

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23) worriedaboutsatan | Arrivals
England

Gizeh

Throughout the course of a career, any band with a modicum of talent and ambition will begin to evolve and progress into something greater, and this process has begun with worriedaboutsatan on Arrivals. Born out of the creative hub of the Leeds instrumental scene, the duo has transformed itself from a post-rock with electronic leanings band into a fully blown minimal techno outfit, and with some style too. Arrivals is minimal techno at its best; packed with melody and originality, deep with subtlety, and flowing together seamlessly. From the steady dub of “Evil Dogs” to the upbeat melodies of “Pissing About,” every base is covered, with comparisons to the likes of Booka Shade, Rikid, Uusitalo, and GAS a testament to the quality and progression of worriedaboutsatan. (James Ould)

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22) 2562 | Unbalance
The Netherlands

Tectonic

Burial broke open the dubstep scene mid-decade, and since then a flood of producers trying to capitalize on the new market have come forth. Many of these artists haven't been contributing to the movement as much as they have been regurgitating ideas and sounds without improving upon them. But now, years later, several artists are beginning to step forward with enough experience and creativity to make some counters to Burial's signature blend. Dave Huisman, aka 2562, is one such musician. His 2008 debut, Aerial, sought to fuse the dubstep aesthetic with an atmospheric, Basic Channel-esque vibe, but ended up sounding flat. The idea of merging old and new was good enough to warrant a second try, and Unbalance gets the mix just right. Here the audience is treated to an sonic gem as the album has the energy of dubstep and the rich sound of dub techno. Nearly every track offered is top notch, making Unbalance essential listening for 2009. (Jordan Volz)

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21) Luke Vibert | We Hear You
England

Planet Mu

Luke Vibert has heard all our requests loud and clear and has responded with the substantially elaborate We Hear You, an album introduced to me by the rare, yet beautiful phenomenon when one becomes fascinated enough with the album art to listen to an album, only to find out it was an exceptionally wise decision. Beyond the friendly cacti greetings lies a gigantic platter of mixed electronica, fused with bubbling acid-house reminders and edgy hip hop samples to create a perfect blend to jolt us from our lifeless seats, recharge our batteries, and send us back into the world with a renewed self-awareness. On his latest from Planet Mu, Vibert displays a world without global economic fallouts or costly, out-of-control wars; instead, connecting rhythmic sonic pieces together - both old and new - he creates that distinctive Vibert sound that is always so damn enjoyable. (Brett Hayes)

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20) Moderat | Moderat
Germany

Bpitch

Collaborations are a key feature of electronic music; at times they become a sort of clash of opposing creativities, at others they’re but mash-ups of respective styles, and at very rare others they hit a sweet spot of compelling flow and true community. Moderat (Modeselektor + Apparat) thankfully falls into the latter category, in a way that makes all the different elements of the album, such as IDM, ambient, and dub, merge into an emotional, sensual, and intellectual bit of electronic music unlike any other released during the year. This is truly the work of a ‘new’ artist created by the joining of styles, and the coherent diversity of the result has set an example for future collaborationists to follow. (David Murrieta)

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19) Vladislav Delay | Tuumaa
Finland

Leaf

Oh, it wouldn't be a complete year with a release from Sasu Ripatti, would it? After 2007's excellent Whistleblower, Vladislav Delay has gone into the deep end of the minimal/experimental pool. Tuumaa is perhaps his least beat-oriented work, and although it finds a home on the Leaf Label, it might have been most comfortable amongst the misfits on the 12k imprint. Some will probably never appreciate Ripatti's unique perspective on music, but for returning fans, Tuumaa displays his compositional prowess once again. Although now incorporating a variety of live, acoustic sounds into his mix, Ripatti has never strayed so far from conventional sounding music than on this album. Most tracks retain the length of his previous work, but the general progression of the tracks is focused upon the idea that disparate sounds will slowly gravitate towards each other and coalesce into something recognizable. Thus, the music grows by inches, or "tuumaa" in Finnish, and Ripatti admirably pulls off the trick of advancing from point A to point Z unnoticed by the audience. Ripatti's career has been diverse and varied, but I don't think I would have ever compared him to the likes of William Basinski or Giuseppe Ielasi before. If nothing else, Tuumaa is a declaration that Ripatti will never stop challenging himself in new and thought-provoking ways - a trait that makes him infinitely lovable. (Jordan Volz)

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18) Lukid | Foma
England

Werk

The intricacy and subtlety of this album belie the relative youth of its creator, Lukid (or Luke Blair). On Foma, Lukid has more finely honed his craft of letting tracks be loose and groovy without succumbing to the youthful exuberance of trying to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the mix. With an assertive nod to hip hop, reggae, and loopy funk, Blair creates a record that is ass-shakingly nasty, yet all-too-blunted to give more energy than is necessary. So, it rides on an edgy path of being suitable for the dance club, but maybe just a touch mellow enough that this bass party is best thrown at home. Blair joins Paul White in providing clear and hard-hitting proof that, like the 60s British rock co-opting of American blues, the English take on hip hop is seriously dope. At the risk of offending many, I’d be ballsy enough to suggest that Lukid’s thumping bass party is much of what Flying Lotus really wishes to achieve. (Gabriel Bogart)

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17) Two Fingers | Instrumentals
Brazil/England

Paper Bag

Built of signature sounds from the Amon Tobin library, Instrumentals was extracted from the instrumental bits and bleeps of Two Fingers' debut effort. The combined effort of Tobin and Doubleclick dips deeper into the electri-fried sound of Foley Room, lending flavors of Tobin's early albums to the proceedings. Even when these tracks are stripped of their (sometimes) compelling lyricists and vocalists, they still have the steamrolling properties to leave one gazing over the tapestry of tweaked vocal samples, (foley) recordings, crushed noise, and some good old fashioned beats. Arguably, this is an extension plug to Foley Room for those who missed the (more danceable) edge on Tobin's last solo release, but in the end it's just good, clean fun with a plethora of sounds brought together in a novice - and sometimes remixed - blend of über-rhythmic, instrumental hip hop. (Jurgen Verhasselt)

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16) Ultre | The Nest and the Skull
England

Audiobulb

Acoustic guitar, whether sampled and tweaked or left in a clean, crisp state, is the muse for Ultre. Sweet and often simple guitar melodies compose the main concepts for The Nest and The Skull. Light and snappy beats compliment the bright textures of the guitar and abstract electronic experimentation rounds out the sound in a way that accentuates both the guitar and beats perfectly. The sound is slightly glitchy and the guitar is often manipulated in a way that leaves it melodic, yet disjointed, but always perfectly complimentary to the whole of the song. Each element of each song has a purpose, and every sound is keenly juxtaposed against another to create sublime, rhythmic mayhem. While the guitar is central to the sound of The Nest and The Skull, It is by no means the most important element. The rhythmic elements and transformable processing of sounds make this album truly stunning. (Greg Norte)

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