Techno's days of rampant innovation are over—at least until someone combines it with crunk (crunkno?), computers become vastly more powerful, or some genius fuses it with Madagascar's indigenous music. Nowadays, the genre progresses by infinitesimal increments. If its artists aren't reinventing the wheel, they're merely adorning it with flashy new rims or supplying it with more durable treads.

Yet, despite the dearth of dazzling advances, quality techno abounds; trying to keep abreast of it all will drive you into debt—and possibly into the loony bin. Germany's Areal Records is one hotbed of exciting techno developments (hear the Bis Neun and Bi Sneunzehn comps). Kompakt Records' younger, chubbier sibling, Areal is a frisky upstart in techno's overcrowded bazaar. Areal artists typically add playful shadings of darkness and healthy layers of baby fat to microhouse's gaunt frame, giving their 4/4 bumptiousness more bounce to the ounce, to quote Zapp.

Metope (Michael Schwanen) is Areal's solid workhorse, consistently grinding out floor-friendly tracks with heavy payloads. A master kraftsmensch of the mirthful, girthful groove that you don't want to end till sunrise, Metope brings welcome weirdness and friction to techno's often tidy rhythmic grids and tonal palettes. Check out his new Kobol album for proof of these maverick tendencies. For example, Metope embellishes the pell-mell beats on "Nashville" with what sounds like an old pickup truck's door hinge flapping, and then festoons synth pads around it based on those rusty, metallic tones. Fresh. "Alm Realm" imaginatively combines cute, Morr Music–style synth airiness with subtle electro rhythms. Much of the disc's remainder will surely bring smiles to DJs like Michael Mayer, Triple R, and Superpitcher (a Kompakt artist who's spinning with Metope and Ada at Chop Suey on Monday, October 17).

If Areal harbors a breakout star, it's Ada (Michaela Dippel). The fair-haired producer/vocalist has tasted pop stardom, but she turned her back on its gaudy trappings in order to plow a more fecund furrow in techno's underground soil. On her 2004 album, Blondie, Ada sings like a cool-browed diva, but her tracks possess a lithe grittiness and a tender yearning that prove you don't need to spend years sweating over a warm PowerBook before you can mine tech-house gold. Seductively pumping tracks like "Cool My Fire (I'm Burning)," "The Red Shoes," and "Livedriver" stand up with Ellen Allien's finest work. Sumptuous covers of songs by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Everything but the Girl also increase Ada's chances of busting out of the underground.

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Superpitcher (Aksel Schaufler) also possesses the potential to escape the laptop ghetto; he's one of the sweetest producers of techno to which you can woo potential lovers (a small field, but still). He's no slouch behind the decks, either, as his Today mix disc proves. In keeping with his own production style, Superpitcher prefers to coquettishly seduce dancers onto the floor (and into the bedroom) rather than pummel them into submission. Today charms like a subtle perfume of lustrous melodies, purring textures, and gently throbbing beats.

segal@thestranger.com

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