Rome Rome (Thrill Jockey) Another bunch of Chicago instrumental "rockers" who made a record I enjoyed nearly as much as Tortoise's Millions. Dubby, gentle, attuned to the joys of the melodica.

Clara Rockmore The Art of the Theremin (Delos) The queen of the theremin (as you know from the recent documentary Theremin) coaxed exquisitely nuanced classical music from the ol' box-o-tubes. A 1987 set, newly available, featuring Ravel, Rachmaninoff, and plenty of Tchaikovsky.

various artists LTJ Bukem Presents Logical Progression (FFRR) Drum'n'bass's reigning king (until Goldie leaves Björk in the bedroom and gets back to the studio) produced music with an attractive, chilly elegance.

SquarepusherFeed Me Weird Things (Rephlex import) Perhaps the most freaked out drum'n'bass of the year, a death match between fusion grooves and the Almighty Computer. Ultimately, it's a draw.

various artists Axiom Dub (Axiom/Island) A murkier, rootsier set of modern dub than the Macro Dub Infection series; Sly & Robbie, Mad Professor, Dub Syndicate, the omnipresent Bill Laswell, and more.

various artists Live at the Social Volume 1 (Mixed by The Chemical Brothers) (Heavenly/Deconstruction import) "Setting Sun" sounded awesome on the dance floor, but this rocked my crib. With Eric B & Rakim, Crooklyn Clan, Meat Beat Manifesto, and New Orleans' Eddie Bo in the mix, plus all sorts of other breakbeat data fragments, it's one of the most ass-kicking DJ sets ever.

various artists Incursions in Illbient (Asphodel) and Necropolis: The Dialogic Project (Knitting Factory Works) Two dark, burbling sets from DJ Spooky and his illbient peers: Sub Dub, Byzar, Ben Neill, and more. The latter, a mix-down with the Subliminal Kid presiding, wins by a dreadlock.

The Future Sound Of LondonDead Cities (Astralwerks) Harsher and more cinematic than its predecessors; an apocalyptic soundscape.

PhotekThe Hidden Camera EP (Astralwerks) Beatwise, maybe the most engaging drum'n'bass record of the year. Jazz drummers take note.

various artists A Robbie Hardkiss Mix: Mixed Messages, various artists A Scott Hardkiss Mix: Yes, various artists A Gavin Hardkiss Mix: Weekend (all Hardkiss/Moonshine) Ecstatic techno-house club mixing, times three.

various artists A Journey Into Ambient Groove 3 (Quango/Island) Maybe my take is colored from watching the sun rise to this (with a spliff, in the back of my car) at Wisconsin's Even Further Fest last year, but it remained my favorite set when I wanted ethereal, jazzy space grooves.

OrbitalIn Sides (FFRR/Polygram) Though slow at points, this ever-shifting set reaffirms their status as one of the most inventive acts in mainstream techno--sort of an oxymoron, but not really. "The Box" even made it to MTV.

various artists Pure Abstrakt (Shadow) Mad, blunted jazz on a trippy-hop tip. Worth it for DJ Cam's mystical joint "Lost Kingdom."

Badawi Bedouin Sound Clash (ROIR) New dubs built in part from old dub samples, Bedouin Sound Clash with a stone hypnotic Middle Eastern groove.

Omni Trio Haunted Science (sm:)e) Moody drum'n'bass.

Spacetime ContinuumEmit Ecaps (Astralwerks) Ambient techno that often gets (gasp!) funky; check the woody bass line on "Kairo," one of the year's great electro singles.

various artists Macro Dub Infection Volume 2 (Gyroscope/Caroline) More genre-hopping space dubs. Weirdest track: Will "Palace" Oldham's backwoods warbling gets sent to Jupiter courtesy of British dubmasters Ice.

Future Loop Foundation Time and Bass (Planet Dog/Mammoth) Drum'n'bass with a dub-crazed, worldbeat-ing sensibility.

Underworld Toughest in the Infants (Wax Trax!/TVT) The most overhyped techno act of '96 strikes me mostly as New Order with less style and fewer hooks, but they get points for the 15-minute drum'n'bass suite "Kiteless."

INDEPENDENT LABEL CONTACTS: Thrill Jockey, P.O. Box 476794, Chicago, IL 60647... Asphodel, PO Box 51, Chelsea Station, NY, 10113; [email protected].. Knitting Factory Works, 74 Leonard St., NYC, NY 10013; 212-219-3006... Shadow, 111 E. 14th St., #338, NYC, NY, 10003;
212-206-1017; [email protected]..
Rephlex, P.O. Box 2676, London
N11 1AZ, England; [email protected].. Astralwerks/Gyroscope/Caroline, 104 W.
29th St., 4th Fl., NYC, NY 10001;; Heavenly/Deconstruction, 72 Wardour St., London W1V 3HP; [email protected] ... ROIR, 611 B'way, #411, NYC, NY 10012; 212-477-0563... Delos, Hollywood & Vine Plaza, 1645 North Vine St., #340, Hollywood, CA, 90028; Sm;)e, 740 B'way, NYC, NY 10003; [email protected].. Hardkiss, 2215-R Market St., #836, SF, CA 94114; 415-558-9203... Mammoth Records, 101 B St., Carrboro, NC 27510; [email protected])

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