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Seattle Techno All-Stars

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With little fanfare, Seattle has become a techno hotbed. Label bosses worldwide fire off urgent e-mails demanding music from several mild-mannered folk (some of whom are featured below) who fire up their laptops in the 206. The releases surveyed here testify to this city's status as a haven for the thinking dancer's beatmaker, and these vinyl slabs are powerful incentive for you to finally buy that turntable. Without further ado....

BRUNO PRONSATO, Read_Me EP (ORAC)

Meet Seattle's answer to Akufen and Pantytec. Whether or not those names make any sense to you, you need to check out Read_Me by Bruno Pronsato (you may also know him as microsound mangler Bobby Karate). The title cut is peak-time techno that gets hectic with the rhythmic switchbacks, crisscrossing leopard purrs for texture, and caffeinated glitches, all of which Bruno wreathes with ghostly halos of female vocal phonemes. "Silver City" brandishes tough-as-calculus experimental techno with viral glitches and more vocal ectoplasm to put you in that coveted psilocybin mind state.

As a bonus, L.A. producer Eight Frozen Modules abstracts "Silver City" into an Aphex Twin-esque cubist nightmare (ca. Windowlicker), stretching and granulating most of Bruno's 0s and 1s into digital Silly Putty. I haven't been this disoriented since I tried to navigate Bumbershoot. (By the way, labels such as Canada's Cynosure, France's Circus Company, and Oakland's Tigerbeat6 have shown an interest in Bruno/Bobby's music; 2004 could be his breakthrough year.)

DJ Friendliness: 4/5

Headphone Sweetness: 5/5

Web: www.orac.vu

JEFF SAMUEL, Blap EP (Poker Flat); Lya EP (Trapez)

Cleveland, Ohio, transplant Jeff Samuel's resumé gets another impressive upgrade with his debut for Germany's Poker Flat (run by the redoubtable Steve Bug). "Blap" reminds me of a lot of refined, brainy mid-'90s British electronica with its glassy, yellow-orange synth melodies and jaunty Roland 303 squelches. The stealthy, bobbin' bass line and judicious use of reverb ice this mid-tempo techno cake. "Get It" brings more hip gnosis through the accrual of small quirky sounds that coalesce into a low-slung, minimal tech-funk charmer. The brilliant, choppy "Lya" reflects Samuel's Germanic precision and less-is-more-than-enough approach. "Kluppa" is even better, percolating tech-house buttah that has the relentless momentum of an elite marathoner striding downhill. Like all of Samuel's work, it's tidy and effective, and that's why intelligent DJs like Triple R (see the Friends mix CD on Kompakt) love him. You should, too.

DJ Friendliness: 4/5

Headphone Sweetness: 4.5/5

Web: www.pokerflat-recordings.com; www.traumschallplatten.de

LUSINE, Push EP (Ghostly International)

Jeff McIlwain's heavy credentials include full-lengths on IDM-ish techno strongholds Isophlux, U-Cover, and Hymen, and upcoming remixes for the Shitkatapult and Schematic labels. His debut for Ann Arbor, Michigan's Ghostly imprint finds him at times shifting into slick clubbing mode, but don't expect cheesiness from this subtle master. Push's title track proffers propulsive technoid funk with lush, minimal synth pads and recessive Schematic electro genes (for that crucial bit of weirdness). This nocturnal urban-driving muzik would sound ill while navigating Detroit's famed riverfront artery, Jefferson Avenue. "Slapback" further reveals Lusine's debt to tense, clipped Detroit techno (à la Kenny Larkin's mid-'90s heyday), with beats like harsh slaps to the face. EP closer "Excess" contrasts an urgent, abstract rhythm with an ultra-chilled synth motif of solemn beauty. As the kids say, the man diversifies with panache.

DJ Friendliness: 3.5/5

Headphone Sweetness: 4/5

Web: www.ghostly.com

CARO, Super Contact Danse EP (ORAC)

Let me introduce to you Caro (Randy Jones), Seattle's dance-music scene's Renaissance Man. He runs ORAC Records; he holds a DJ residency at ROBO.trash; he developed (with S.F. genius Kit Clayton) Jitter, the visual environment for the audio processing program MAX/MSP; he built the patch that Radiohead used for their live visuals on their last tour; and, oh, he makes killer tracks in his spare time. The follow-up to 2002's Città alla Notte EP, Super Contact Danse, proves that Jones hasn't lost his touch for engineering sonic bliss. Randy sings like Super_Collider's Jamie Lidell, which means he's yet another Caucasian who can convincingly channel Prince in his sly soul-man guise. "Super Contact Danse" falls somewhere between early-'80s N.Y. electro and stiff Brit funk from the same era. Phatter-than-Afrika Bambaataa kick drums tattoo your ass and transport you to the diminutive Purple One's "Erotic City" while a Kraftwerkian mensch-maschine intones the title. It's absurdly simple and effective. "Shining" comes off as classy tech-house, but with a disturbing, distorted-to-hell vocal sample ("I can see your face shining") submerging things to bad-tripsville. Beneath Jones' geeky computer-wiz exterior there beats the heart of someone who makes Barry White seem like a prude. Who knew?

DJ Friendliness: 4/5

Headphone Sweetness: 4/5

Web: www.orac.vu

DAVE SEGAL

segal@thestranger.com

 

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