Dance: 'Santogold has a feel for songs that people can actually hum along to'

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The Independent Culture

Outside his native Paris, techno producer and filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is best known for the Levi's ad he created featuring a head-banging yellow puppet called Flat Eric. That, though, was 1999, since when his Mr Oizo alias has slowly faded from memory – in the English-speaking world, anyway – despite retaining a knack for clever dancefloor grooves like recent disco pastiche, "Patrick 122".

He's stayed busy, though, directing a feature film Steak (about a gang of Clockwork Orange-like youths in the near future) and composed his own electro-funk soundtrack, with a little help from Sebastien Tellier and rising remix star SebastiAn. Out on label du jour Ed Banger, there are winning vocal contributions from Tellier, who already has pedigree in film work, having supplied Sofia Coppola with one of his tracks for Lost In Translation, as well as much quirky play on Eighties disco and previous French soundtrack composers like easy-listening king Raymond Lefevre.

As with so many of the current French new wave, there's an apparently effortless sense of cool about Dupieux's genre collisions.

Brooklyn-based singer Santogold, by contrast, is no stranger to hard graft having toured this year with both Björk and Mark Ronson. Her new solo release "Creator" (Lizard King) shows it should be about to pay off, with the track's M.I.A.-like sassiness getting a vivid bass-and-percussion boost from UK remix specialists Switch and Freq Nasty, and addictive b-side "L.E.S. Artistes" showing a feel for songs that people can actually hum along to.

Like many riding the post-DFA/LCD Soundsystem wave, colourful London five-piece New Young Pony Club don't really do songs as such. They're more about looking good and striking poses. New single "Get Lucky" (Modular) does boast an irresistable bassline, though – especially when MSTRKRFT turn it up to 11 on the remix.

NYPC keyboardist Lou Hayter's new solo project, mysteriously named The New Sins, lacks that kind of instant impact. But the disarming and poppy "It Doesn't Work Like That" (Elastic) eventually insinuates itself just as effectively, thanks to a chorus which owes both St Etienne and the sound of late-Seventies New York.

No one, however, would describe it as challenging – unlike East Coast trio Black Dice, whose album Load Blown (Paw Tracks) is a raw collage of dub, techno and pure noise, by turns baffling and brilliant, as on the mangled acid house of "Gore", originally released as a 12-inch by DFA Records.

Equally cryptic are New York outfit Battles, whose mantric "math rock" has been one of the year's more pleasant surprises. Good remixes, too, with new single "Tonto" (Warp) no exception – the pick being a loose-limbed techno/jazz treatment by Four Tet.

It turns out that fellow Warp signing Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, also has the avant-garde in his blood. But even though his great aunt was Alice Coltrane, musically he's more hip-hop than be-bop, his debut Reset EP forming unlikely connections between the G-funk of Dr Dre and Autechre's glitchy electronica.

Warp made its name with glitchy electronica (see page 12), but has recently left the more experimental stuff to Aphex Twin's Rephlex operation and Planet Mu, the label started by Mike Paradinas in 1997 and now celebrating its 200th release with a compilation named – surprise! – 200. Paradinas's own slightly gawky techno features, alongside dubstep and drum'*'bass, but it's Scots DJ Neil Landstrumm (whose "Bleep Biopsy" references the early bleep-'*'-bass sound of Northern techno) and Ital Tek (with the haunting "Whitemark") who shine.

Rephlex continues to provide an outlet for bizarre noise generators like Polish-born DJ, producer and sometime Björk collaborator Bogdan Raczynski. His album Alright! is a gleeful sonic explosion of hyperactive breakbeats and spring-loaded techno.

Yet should their founders have a change of heart, both Rephlex and Planet Mu could disappear in a moment. Output, the free-thinking label producer Trevor Jackson created in 1996, imploded last year in a puff of acrimony. Yet the bitter title of his farewell compilation, I Hate Music, is no reflection on its content. Jackson may have complained he'd had the "passion and enthusiasm knocked out of [him]", but from early Four Tet to his own angular disco outfit Playgroup, he's left behind some truly great music.

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