Michael Mayer is techno's tasteful tastemaker. As one-third owner of Cologne-based Kompakt Records, he wields extraordinary power in the electronic-music biosphere. Although this DJ/producer has his detractors, most critics and the techno illuminati think he's a positive force. But we're here to assess Mayer's mixmaster skills, not his business acumen. Immer 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to his ballyhooed Immer mix (2002). That disc showcased Mayer's deft touch with warm, bubbly minimal techno and soft-cushioned microhouse. It proved he wants to move crowds not just physically, but also emotionally, and he did so with cuts showcasing alluring melodies and percolating rhythms. Avoiding technical flamboyance, Mayer stresses his selections' inherent quality, which is consistently high. Immer means "always" in English; hence Mayer chooses tracks for these mixes that never fail to enchant. Labored over for a year, Immer 2 embodies the paradox of intimate, big-room techno. The disc possesses a graceful stylistic arc, starting with Basic Channel–like thrumming intensity, shifting into quirky, extroverted mode, deviating into an exhilarating cosmic-disco segment, detouring into morosely melodic house, swerving into euphorically suspenseful tech-house, and then finishing with SuperMayer's remix of Geiger's sui generis avant-trance epic "Good Evening." Aiming for timelessness rather than timeliness, Mayer hits the sonic sweet spot time and again. DAVE SEGAL
Love Your Abuser
If you are a young man in America, one of the best ways to express your rage about everything is by picking up a guitar or a pair of drumsticks and banging away until the knot in your stomach and the lump in your throat disappear. But what if you are part of that perfect family, that conflict-free town, and/or that equitable society? What kind of music would you make then? I could only imagine that it would sound like Lymbyc Systym, and that Tempe, Arizona, from whence they hail, must be heaven on earth.
Lymbyc Systym are patterned mostly after that weird post–Postal Service jump into electronica that you can't dance to. They sound a lot like the Album Leaf. They make beeps and boops with keyboards and a laptop. All of the beeps sound like the cutesy is turned up to 11; all of the boops sound like the adorable needle is in the red. There is a mix of real and fake drums—they sound like jazz improv.
Lymbyc Systym are like a ball of lint from the dryer—soft and mostly gray, but with patches of color here and there. There is nothing hard or jarring. There is nothing controversial, except maybe their lack of vocals, which in these days of pop can be seen as risky. But otherwise, it's not really worth wasting your time with unless you want to envision a perfect society. And how boring is that? ARI SPOOL
International Sad Hits Volume One: Altaic Language Group
Whether providing the lugubrious low end to the Vaseline-lensed slow-dirge brilliance of Galaxie 500 or else curating the despondent side of surrealist writers with their chary Exact Change book imprint, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang know well that universal state of sadness, and plumb its heartrending depths often. No doubt referencing More Sad Hits, their debut as Damon & Naomi, their subsequent world travels have turned them on to singer-songwriters who also trade in slowly strummed plaints, resulting in this collection.
Scientifically subtitled Altaic Language Group, the disc alights on four troubadours from Turkey, Korea, and Japan. Scarcely known outside of their respective borders, the career arcs of Fikret Kizilok, Kim Doo Soo, Tomokawa Kazuki, and Mikami Kan are surprisingly similar: sharing a profound love of poetry, state censorship of their lyrical concerns, a period of reclusion, and a return in midlife to the public (and wider acclaim).
Sonically, the music here belongs less in the world-music section, hewing closer to singers like Tim Hardin, Joni Mitchell, and Van Morrison. The nylon strings and puffs of harmonica that garland Kim Doo Soo's "Bohemian" (a controversial classic that both inspired a suicide and prevented one) could be mistaken for one of Neil Young's most despondent nadirs; the tortured baritone and histrionics of Mikami Kan on "Never Before" recall Tim Buckley. Such wails delve into the blurriness of tears, the notes attesting that "if you feel it from the singing, it's probably in the words." No doubt the lachrymose undertow here translates in any tongue. ANDY BETAVans