Apparently I was the only one who felt disappointed by 2006's The Body, the Blood, the Machine. Even while recognizing the care in their craft and understanding the slower tempos, the Thermals are a band I still prefer fast and nonchalant. That's how they come across on this ace four-song freebie from an indie-rock site that aims to amass a library to rival the BBC Session archives. The session includes two songs from the last album, a cover of the Wipers' "Misfit," and best of all the great vinyl rarity "Everything Thermals," their version of "Hey Hey We're the Monkees": "The Thermals go right to your head/The Thermals have sex in your bed."
Do you like minimal techno best when it reaches furthest, when it evokes bodies in motion rather than hard drives on the fritz, when it occasionally (whisper it) has some singing? That fits as a bare description of Swiss weirdo Kalabrese. His Rumpelzirkus was one of the most admirable dance albums of last year, which is a polite way of saying I wish I'd enjoyed it more. Yet his recent edition of the world's best podcast—the weekly DJ sets from the dance world's Pitchfork—is seamless and addictive, slipping between Chilean folk music, Kalabrese's own deeply weeded tracks, and the vintage Detroit techno of Kevin Saunderson. The beat and mood are consistently lush and sparse, building a continuous line that takes some 52 minutes to build and wriggle its way to an actual anthem, Efdemin's "Just a Track" ("If house was a nation, I want to be president"). It's followed by Henrik Schwarz remixing Camille into what might as well be Ambien. All of it fits perfectly.
I still like Play plenty. 18 had a couple decent songs. Hotel? Zilch. Now Moby is set to release Last Night, said to be his return to dance music, teasing it with this eight-minute toss-together of various bits from the new disc. This method robs the songs of their natural vibrance, I'm sure, though the fact that the restrained wah-wah guitar licks he's been overusing since Play are what stand out in the mélange isn't a good sign. (Neither are "Alice" or "Disco Lies," the two singles.) But for the last minute and a half—wow: fast piano licks, looped samples of screaming divas, dance-your-ass-off high-hat hisses. This is what Moby does better than anything else; if it sounds half as good at full length as here, I'll be amazed.