THE BEST OF TECHNO, VOL. 1
Various Artists (Priority 1420)
One of the problems with trying to draw a bead on the "techno" scene is, as the liner notes to "The Best of Techno, Vol. 1" admit, "Most people don't know what it is, and of the ones that do, each has his own interpretation." So rather than quibble over which acts or what singles are included in this compilation, it makes more sense simply to consider the music itself: one dozen electrobeat ear-blasts, each one bracingly minimal, with melodies that rarely extend beyond a few robotically repeated notes, and rhythms that are subtle as a sledgehammer. Yet the best tracks -- "Gaza" by Andromeda, "Disco Therapy" by Trance Media, "F.U." by Fuse -- are entrancing despite (or, perhaps, because of) their abrasiveness.
Various Artists (Columbia 48526)
Reggae may have been born in Jamaica, but it's now a near-global pop style, as the singles collected on "Dancehall Reggaespanol" make plain. Although the sound on most of these tracks is pure Kingston, their actual point of origin is Panama, where dance hall reggae (the Jamaican answer to hip-hop) is all the rage. And while some performances borrow heavily -- Arzu's "Amor," for instance, is little more than a Spanish-language update of Gregory Isaacs' "Night Nurse" -- the best stand on their own, from native efforts like El General's "Pu Tun Tun" or Rude Girl's "Que Lo Que Es," to collaborative efforts with Jamaican stars, like Little Lenny ("Punnaney Tegereg") and Sugar Minott ("Real Ragamuffin").