Sunday, January 15, 2006

Everybody is a Tsar

Now that we've cycled through half a dozen fads since Hypercity, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the early 00s Force Tracks catalog. Everyone's got new crushes (James Holden I luv u boo). But I feel like FT, for a moment held up as being important as Kompakt by certain people, shouldn't go down in history as "Luomo's label." I'm gonna dedicate this one to my man Achim; keep yr head up homie, and everything will right itself eventually.

MRI - Rhythmogenesis: holds up surprisingly well, though after about the fortieth minute of itch and tickle and swirl I admit I had to switch on 92Q for a few songs just to remind myself what harmony was.

Crane AK - Pink Eyed Pony: as glassy and impenetrable as I remembered it, the equivalent of an Etch-a-Sketch being shaken back and forth at 130bpm, fine as DJ tools but sounding positively cavernous and blank now that everyone's all about the bongos and boogie basslines.

MRI - All That Glitters: much more varied than Rhythmogenesis, some of it sounding surprisingly wack now, though the best bits ("Deep Down South," "Tied to the 80s") are the spangliest, wooshiest moments in the catalog, house pieced together from each refraction of a mirror ball.

Data 80 - Data 80: is this forgotten enough already to call it a lost (minor....we're talkin topaz here, not a diamond) gem?--relistening to this made me fantasize about a parallel Nuggets-y universe where everyone flipped out over Discovery instead of the Yardbirds.

Dub Taylor - Detect: surprised by how vocal this was, rather deep house-esque (cue ILM conspiracy theory about this being why it didn't get much love from the blogs) but, if I hold myself to a certain standard of honesty, naught special really.

Benajmin Wild - With Compliments: ditto this, finely functional tech-house perfect for caulking the bathtub but not a mindblowing revelation...someone's gonna pop up in the comments box making a case for this and the Dub Taylor as the real FT gems in the now established, if hotly contested, HIAF style. (Vahid, call your office.)

But--and the reason for this post in the first place--the record I ended up enjoying the most is the one that has been erased in the great electro-house pogroms: SCSI-9 - Digital Russian. What a great record! Wholly unassuming dancefloor-pitched tech-house. No stylisitc deviations, cutesy vocoders, staring-into-the-eye-of-the-speaker minimalism, Nuphonic-cribbing drum patterns, or Italo. (Or, sorry, what are we calling it this week? Cosmic? Space disco? Bullshit?)

The sound of tracks like "Deep and Fax" bound up neatly in their titles: the swish of tech repetition married with the wombing glow of deep house. Not quite Blaze or Pepe Bradock, but c'mon...what do you expect from two cosmonauts transmitting from the tundra of the former USSR? SCSI-9 are doing the same thing today, right up to their excellent single on Kompakt last year, "Everything's Gone Green"-era New Order at modern club tempo.

Records like these are tough to write about. Someone like V. Delay obviously possesses some kinda "heightened awareness" to get all genius-not-scenius on yr asses. SCSI-9 would never try something like the smeared wax keytar solo on "The Present Lover," nor do they have Luomo's sense of texture, space, or ear for a pop hook. They're working from a basic set of assumptions about what should go into their records, basic enough to dare you to write about it without resorting to the cheap armor of other artist and label names.

I suppose here I should also mention the first Digital Disco comp, corralling nearly every leftfield house and techno move from 2000-2005: Data 80's cheeseball winking populism, Metro Area's classicist italo, Akufen's twitch-and-bump (remixed by Herbert), Luomo's proto K-house, Swayzak's wireframe minimalism, MRI's main room neo-trance, King Britt covering fuckin Nu Shooz for chrissakes. It's this unexpected multiplicity, especially on Digital Disco, that makes today's competing tribes (beardy space disco vs. goggle-eyed Germanic minimalism...fite!!) feel kinda deadlocked.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stuff I liked back in the day in being better than stuff I don't like now SHOCKER

1:04 PM  
Blogger j. said...

anonymous pussy being anonymous pussy shocker.

2:08 PM  
Blogger j. said...

as it stands, i like goggle-eyed german minimalism quite a bit, and i don't much like the beardy space-disco thing at all.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Nice post! Jess my favourite track on the Scsi-9 album is probably the awesome "Just Married", which I only really retrospectively fell in love with via a Koivikko mix. Tip! As they say. Also the first track is excellent. But I love "Mini" as much if not more, and hope they go all blissy etc. to the max on future releases. Tell me more about the recent 12!

I'm not sure if I'd reduce the current axis to minimalism vs space disco (e.g. Mathew Jonson vs Lindstrom). There's a lot of other potential axes like the one stretching from rave affectation ("Washing Up") to psychedelic prog (Border Community), sleek muscular tech grind (Misc, Sender Records) to kitchen sink clatteriness (Eulberg remixes) etc. etc.

2:39 AM  
Blogger j. said...

yeah i'll admit i was being needlessly reductionist for the sake of being rhetorical, but on the other hand, 2000-2002 does feel more expansive to me than 2003-2006 has. (which has had plenty of good music, don't get me wrong, just in drips and blurts rather than great gusting waves.) (i am also willing to concede that since 1999-2000 were my "getting into house" years, i have a little rose colored thing going on.) i think that villalobos "EP" is potentially as good as any dance record i've heard in the 2000's so far. (i was going to post about it here, but i ended up writing about it for pfork. ha ha and if you wanna talk contentious statements, wait til you see the last graf of that one.)

12:45 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Looking forward to contentiousness!

Maybe the issue is that the the "new german minimalism" is more purist than the previous version - something like Triple R's Friends used the rubric of "microhouse" (whether or not the music's makers like the term) to sorta tramp all over the shop stylistically - the preponderance of vocals cannot be overemphasized here. Whereas the newer stuff (Jonson, Border Community, Traum, Villalobos, Cadenza releases etc.), by dint of focusing on these long trippy instrumental tracks, feels more like a single unified aesthetic, even when you can quickly locate differences b/w producers' styles.

The time when "we" all jumped on board with German house was when it was reacting against its own minimalism, and so was constantly expanding outwards, towards pop and songfulness and multi-genre affectations etc. Whereas with the newer varient of minimalism it's almost like the reverse, you have a combination of some of the original players but also former techno and prog producers from all over the place plunging towards this heat death of German minimalism. It naturally flows from this that the relevant question is how long this gravitational effect will give the new minimalism the appearance of a large bright star, and how long before it starts to resemble a black hole.

One thing that stands in the way of the latter is that everything is all still so interconnected. How many purist "minimal" mixes have there actually been? Okay, so there's Villalobos who's too much an old stalwart to count, then I can think of Loco Dice's mixes and Kreucht & Fleucht and that's about it. It seems more common for people to mix Border Community or Mathew Jonson tracks etc. in with, say, anthemic electro-house and even space disco etc.

Eulberg obv another case-in-point, Kreucht & Fleucht may be the definitive statement when it comes to the new minimalism, but his stuff can also fit in with Tiefschwarz tunes, DFA tunes, the gimmick rave tunes, even breakbeat (have you heard his remix of "Issst" Jess?)!

1:48 PM  
Blogger hector23 said...

Some of the Eulberg stuff blows up so big when you arent looking. How about "minimal rave" as the new name to hang hats on.

I think the best thing about Digital Disco was how new that sound was at the time. A great album that led to many more great albums.

4:45 PM  
Blogger j. said...

i think my main problem is that none of the big sounding dance styles around at the moment are doing much for me. i lost interest in the dfa side of things somewhere in mid-2005. (when i get nth gen "dance rock" discs in the mail these days -- like the one i got today by "girls on film" who actually called their album danceteria -- i know how rock critics must have felt to get the latest pearl jam knock off circa 2006.) the disco re-edits/space disco/beard house thing really does nothing for me. (never really been able to get into the whole idjuts thing. theo parrish and moodymann and other, well, more soul identified re-edits artists feel like they inhabit a different universe to me.) i like the idea of border community more than the execution 75% of the time. (if anything the records arent big or anthemic ENOUGH.) kompakt seems to have settled into a comfortable rut that's still producing the goods but not really thrilling like it used to. areal never really clicked with me. get physical never fufilled the excitement i heard in the 2nd anniversary mix. (electrohouse in general i've always been pick n mix about, but you know that. tiefschwarz remixes, yay; everything else, eh.) wighnomy bros, eh.

i understand what everyone gets out of these labels on a theoretical level, and so i'm not necessarily knocking them, but when confronted with the physical evidence i'm always underwhelmed.

i like the german/minimal/k-house thing a LOT, but it's a lot to hang your love of a whole genre on. as soon as some bigger, more anthemic, more OBVIOUS thing crops up that i actually get some pleasure out of, i'm sure i'll be much happier.

6:43 PM  
Blogger j. said...

this all goes back to my occasional worry that jungle and garage "ruined" me for 4X4 dance music: that a tune has to be really fucking obvious and anthemic or really rhythmically intricate, swinging. (ideally both.)

a lot of times my love for house feels closer to my love for pop, that i'm cherry picking tunes because this one sounds better or this one has a cooler beat, rather than being seduced by the overal identity that comes with buying into a culture. even in its debased modern context, i still identify with dnb culture, all the accumulated hoo-hah that surrounds it, even (especially?) the stuff that doesn't make it into the grooves of the records themselves. while i obviously have a deep and abiding love for house music, it doesn't feel any different than my love for rock or rap. whereas remarc or hidden agenda or sileni mean something to me (maaaaan) in a way that michael mayer never will, no matter how much i dig his records.

maybe i really do need to have the beat broken and turned around for me to get really interested. it would explain my privleging of the perlon/villalobos axis, explain why i get more out of broken beat than kompakt these days.

or maybe i'm just turning into a soul snob like my mom as i get older.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where can one find this anthemic electro-house??

2:45 PM  
Blogger ambrose said...

digital russian is great! i would pick out just married and deep and fax as the killer tunes, but also kroi menya v pol bitu is wonderful. depp, swinging, lush and cheesy, in the russian style.

12:53 PM  
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