Music in Brief

Hug is the alias of Swedish techno wunderkind John Dahlbäck, who issued a number of impressive sides before reaching legal drinking age. Dahlbäck only recently turned 21, but his new Hug album Heroes (Kompakt) harkens back to the most twinkling of early-to-mid-'90s techno. He favors clean-lined synth patterns split between agreeably thunking bass and mid-range lines, and aqueous, spiraling crescendos in the high range. He also manages to be cute without being cutesy, as on "Birds," in which a manipulated vari-pitch portrays the title creatures, or "Tiny Stars," whose snack-sized percussion overdubs (twinkling hi-hats, truncated electro-tom woos, clicking beats) and mock-dramatic synth fanfare evoke a modestly gorgeous night sky… B+

Gui Boratto also makes awestruck synth music for the Kompakt label, whose co-owner, Michael Mayer, helped remix Boratto's track "Like You" (along with Superpitcher) into one of 2006's biggest club anthems. But Boratto, who's from Brazil, aims his new Chromophobia a little less directly at the dance floor. That doesn't mean anything so misguided as bringing in fifth-rate jazz chanteuses to moan about astrology; instead, Boratto is more interested in using rolling house rhythms as starting points instead of means in themselves. Blipping keyboard shuffles like those that begin "Scene 1" and "Mr. Decay" soon seem to open out to something blurrier and more diaphanous, thanks to their expanding-contracting surroundings; the blips themselves don't budge, nor do they have to. The eight-and-a-half-minute "Beautiful Life" is the only overtly anthemic track here (its rise-and-fall synth and filtered vocals sounds like a cross between Daft Punk and epic trance), but it brings an already lovely album to an ecstatic peak… A-

Amon Tobin is also Brazilian, but he's made his name with drum-and-bass, not house music. Released 10 years after his impressive debut, Supermodified, established his dark, cinematic template (unsurprisingly, he's probably most famous for his work as the soundtrack composer for the Tom Clancy-based videogame Splinter Cell 3), Foley Room (Ninja Tune) might be his darkest work yet. It's his least predictable and most processed-sounding album, which is funny considering that his source materials include some of the oldest instruments around: field recordings of ambient sound, harps, Wurlitzer organs, and the like. (The Kronos Quartet even guests on the opening track, "Bloodstone.") But it's also very playful: "Big Furry Head" crosshatches treated guitars, zigzagging test-tones and laptop noise, and the occasional percussive belch. B+

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