June 12, 2007

Gudrun Gut - In Pieces

Nobody has old-school West Berliner coolsie cred like Gudrun Gut. The ex-Einstürzende Neubauten/Malaria member and current Monika label boss has finally released her debut solo album I Put A Record On, a gauzy/wonky/smoky fug of beats, breaths, and sweet nothings. It’s a treat, but it pales in comparison to this EP of remixes. In fact, for me the past while has nodded to 2007 being the “Year of the Remix EP”. Hmm. It’s a measure of how connected Gudrun is that she’s got not just one, or two, but three luminaries to remix her work. For the price of one piece of wax you get a Voigt/Burger remix, a Pole remix, and a Dntel remix.

Voigt and Burger straighten things out in inimitable Köln style, sticking a one-note piano sample from the original in between some dubby soundplanes, and then placing the vocal in the middle of the whole she-bang. It’s a dead-simple track, but punches above the weight of its elements with direct, emotive force. If you’ve ever seen Michael Mayer do his dance behind the decks (youtube it if you haven’t), this is…well, this is what the dance “sounds” like. Pole’s mix stays with the groove and feel of the original, but adds a farty bumble-bee synth note and some of that Polescape magic. But as accomplished as both of these mixes are, it’s the Dntel one that’s the heartwinner. Layering lots of found/field sounds in the background, Tamborello brings Gudrun out of the haze and into the sunshine for something like an electronically rendered Breeders tune. Tender anthems, tracks, and insect vibrations – it’s all here volks. Get it while the getting’s gut.

Monika Enterprises / MONIKA 54
[Peter Chambers]

May 3, 2007

Daso - Absinthe EP

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Daso Franke? Well, yes, I believe I have, actually. His music has all the swelling space and moody flourishes associated with that overused term (I’m guilty too) “ambient,” but damn if it doesn’t move as well. Back again with another solid three-tracker, Daso serves up a great creepy-crawly thumper in standout “Thujon” on the A-side. Eeky insectoid noises devouring your spine while an irresistible beefy pulse works your legs? I’m in.

“Louche” starts the flipside off in very tasteful form. In fact it might be a bit too tasteful, and though undoubtedly warm, it’s also a shade too Spartan to really liven up the legs or tickle the ears. Those lovely noises come back into it with the spacious, gorgeous “La Fee Verte,” which ends the EP. More of a texture than a melody or a beat, it’s nonetheless exactly the kind of track that seems to scrape out your ears with a spoon, leaving you supple for the next breath of wind to come and sweep you along. Tasty and refined. Make more tracks now, please.

Connaisseur Recordings / cns 013-6
[Mallory O’Donnell]

April 18, 2007

Digitaline - Anticlockwise

Everybody understands the ominous descriptor “pleasant tasting” on the side of a bottle of cough syrup. Worlds away from delicious or even merely tasty, “pleasant tasting” was always my childhood harbinger of squashed insects, never adequately masked by all that sickly sweetness. On first listen at least, Digitaline draws a parallel squiggle (and boom-click) with sound: Anticlockwise is the very definition of pleasant-sounding.

Yes, it’s the dreaded minimal, returned-repressed as high-tech background music. Strangely though, that’s also the strength of this release—while none of the tracks reward the close scrutiny of headphone walkabouts (and indeed, through some strange trompe l’oeil, it’s almost impossible to focus on these tracks) they bubble away beautifully in the background, almost minding their own business. This is the minimal your domesticated machines make in and for themselves.

It feels pointless to describe these tracks for their landmarks, but the landscapes they all commonly describe are filled with slow-fading loop ideas, melodo-textural themes that roll in, wiggle around, and then (after a few minutes) are either joined by a new plateau, driven onto other pleasures, or faded out again. Interestingly, the duo’s live set (available here) works in exactly the same way, totally confounding any expectation you might have that music should “go somewhere.” It’s unashamedly pointless, pleasant music, no question—but like online chat, there’s a great undirected, non-purposive quality in it.

Cadenza / Cadenza 14
[Peter Chambers]

December 15, 2006

Insect O. & Sören Matschiste - Dschoanna


Another solid German four-tracker from a new label - is there no end to this? Though distributed by Kompakt, Etui is an unknown to me, and these spooky-yet-warm dubs slide somewhere in between the trancier end of Kompakt and the graceful tones of the Traum / Trapez axis. The A-side consists the shuffling title track and its’ slightly crunchier rework, “In Bed With Dschoanna,” a dark, pounding piece of subtly-hued minimal trance. The flip heats up considerably on “Da Ist Noch Sand,” adding more defined drums and a wobbly bassline, yet retains the delicate aura (especially on the tickling, bright synth line woven through the midsection). “Sommer and Sprosse” ends things on a bright, early-80’s-inflected note, contrasting solid kicks with slurred pads and funky layers of percussion. The slight vocal samples scattered across the EP assist the deep, humanistic electronics in justifying Etui’s slogan of “emotions for the dancefloor.”

Etui / ETUI 004
[Mallory O’Donnell]

March 10, 2006

Tiefschwarz - Fly

Sounding better alone than it did on Tiefschwarz’s disastrous crossover album Eat Books, “Fly” is still a rather by-the-book electro-house number, based mainly on a honky synth patch, mechanical organ pads, and a plodding beat. It’s way too flaccid to entertain any thoughts of being introspective or anthemic, and Tiefschwarz are sounding like a mainstream imitation of themselves here. Steve Bug’s “Cause There Are Too Many Traffic Signs” remix on the flipside is an arthropod’s delight. Can you imagine the ironic delight Mr. Bug takes in reshaping the main hook in “Fly” into a waspy, detuned insect? It adds a much more distinct sound to the track, but just like the original, it’s an invertebrate, lacking any backbone to propel the track anywhere.

Four Music / Fine / 8287678734
[Michael F. Gill]