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Ahead of the Beat

Electronica is getting a welcome jolt from eight newcomers whose strong debut albums augur well for the genre's future.

November 25, 2001|STEVE BALTIN | Steve Baltin is a regular contributor to Calendar

New talent is the lifeblood of a cutting-edge genre. So while rock, rap, pop and country are relying on their traditional stalwarts to bring in the fans during the all-important holiday sales season, electronic music is choosing the two months leading up to Christmas to introduce some of its best and brightest hopes for the future.

These eight acts, most of whom have released their debut albums in the fall, may turn out to be the Moby, Chemical Brothers, Portishead or Paul Van Dyk of the next wave of electronic music. Along with such artists as Simian, Suv (a member of Roni Size's Reprazent crew who has just released his debut solo disc, "Desert Rose"), Italy's DJ Spiller and Bleachin' (a band to watch out for next year), the freshman class of 2001 assures us that the pulse of electronic music will continue to beat strong.

Avalanches: The five-man Australian collective's debut album, "Since I Left You," on XL Recordings, is earning high marks for its invigorating use of samples and its stylish, genre-crossing sound, which ranges from the "four on the floor" techno of "Flight Tonight" to the laid-back soul of the title track. With "Since I Left You," the Avalanches go straight to the top of the 2001 freshman class.

Bent: It takes a special person to find the beauty in anything. Nottingham, England's Simon Mills and Nail Tolliday each have that gift. Together as Bent, the duo has turned that trait into "Programmed to Love" (on Ministry of Sound), a quirky, enticing pastiche of samples from some of the worst records the avid collectors could find. Dug up from the dregs of garage sales and thrift shops, "Programmed to Love" finds the duo proudly turning garbage into art. As Simon says, "It's a lot more challenging to use middle-of-the-road crap no one wants anymore to make interesting records." What the two have accomplished goes beyond interesting, and novelty, to become high-quality music. From the wafting acoustic strains of "Cyclons of Love" to the playful "Welly Top Mary," Bent's sound is one of a kind.

Bosco: Following in the tradition of such French electronic acts as Air, Daft Punk and Cassius, Bosco brings a playfulness to its house-y synth beats on its debut album, "Action" (Atlantic), starting with the computerized vocals on the opening track, "Satellite." As Weezer is geek pop, Bosco is geek techno, and proud of it.

The Broadway Project: If Dan Berridge made pop music, he might be the subject of a TV movie of the week. Four years ago, he came down with chronic fatigue syndrome, and reluctantly moved from London to the seaside town of Worthing, where, lacking the physical strength to do much else, he began working with a sampler. After three EPs made with that device, Berridge has crafted the remarkable "Compassion" (Eighteenth Street Lounge Music), a profoundly humane work that features a mix of rich instrumental soundscapes (not unlike Moby's ambient work from "Everything Is Wrong") and intermittent vocal tracks that are like lullabies for the soul. One of the finds of the year, "Compassion" has more heart and soul in one song than most artists create in a lifetime.

Detroit Grand Pu Bahs: Owing as much to Howard Stern as the Chemical Brothers, this Detroit duo brings some welcome humor to the genre on its debut, 'Funk All Y'all (Jive Electro), even if it is crass. Beneath such Maxim-ready lines as "Bend over and say cheese" (in the ridiculous "Dr. Bootygrabber") though, the pair brings some high-energy beats, a la disco and funk, that have already scored them a club hit this year with "Sandwiches."

DJ Colette: The Chicago native doesn't technically qualify as new, but after relocating to Los Angeles last year, she is a new entity to L.A. dance fans. Recent sets at Giant and the Monster Massive rave have her on an upswing that is likely to continue with the release last week of her debut Netttwerk Records album "Our Day," a mix CD that features tracks from Angel Alanis, DJ Skip and Wolf N Flow, among others. While only the intro, "Feelin' Hypnotized," and "Sexuality," a collaboration with Home & Garden, are credited to Colette, she makes every track her own with her songbird vocals and free-form lyrics. The former opera vocal student is not the first DJ to sing over the tunes she spins, but few do it with her unique style.

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