Various Artists
Microfunk – Klickhouse


confession: microhouse is a genre that has rapidly taken over my heart and playlist. Surprisingly, it hasn’t become a stale listening experience because unlike many electronic genres, microhouse is a process. Instead of focusing on an aesthetic or sound, the genre is constantly rejuvenated for this very reason. And after four years or so, it’s becoming clear that this genre is here to stay. With exciting detours into areas of music that are decidedly non-academic (see: Luomo’s The Present Lover), microhouse has been able to constantly reinvent itself every few months. With the release of Microfunk – Klickhouse it’s entered in to an intriguing phase, however—now we have a “greatest hits introduction”, allowing the genre to become stultified by its own history. Any compilation that showcases the successes of the genre, by definition, helps kill it—whereas something like Kompakt’s Total series appears to be a statement of a particular year, a compilation of Microhouse would appear to uphold hegemony and forget the experimental spirit I find in my favorite microhouse records.

Featuring a couple of heavy-weights, Microfunk begins with Matthew Herbert’s remix of the Akufen track, “Deck the House.” The rolling bassline and blasting unrecognizable micro-samples use negative space to enhance their insane catchiness. The element of silence achieves a new meaning within a genre maximizing the smallest of sounds. Flirting with silence, in fact, becomes a motif throughout the compilation (see Boxtype’s “Spin” and JacksonElectrics’ “Kontaktabzug”). Matthew Mercer’s “Secrets” notably underpins the madness of church bells and oddly tweaked vocal samples with its hushed disintegration.

The culmination of this fascination with silence is one of the new tracks for the compilation—Jackmate’s “Tapeworms.” Starting with a 4/4 bass rhythm, which recalls the beginning of Basement Jaxx’s “Breakaway,” “Tapeworms” gradually uses glitch, along with the conversational vocals of James Kakandi. The vocals let the song avoid the pitfalls of a more academic experimentation and give a certain singer-songwriter vibrancy that has been explored recently by Ricardo Villalobos and Matthew Dear.

Many tracks have a tendency to carry over the minimal techno fixation with dub atmospherics, at the expense of losing the ability to explore beyond these strictures. Jan Jelinek appears to be the exception to the rule, and his entry, “Love to Love You Baby” reaffirms this. The playfulness within dub techniques is never content to be ridden out, but instead, a constant twisting of the smallest elements into incredible sound-scapes. Sadly, Alka’s “Gema” falls prey, as well as Broker/Dealer’s “Boots & Pants.”

Microfunk collects a lot of the great releases from the past couple years (with the majority being in 2002), and thankfully avoids a sacrificial cohesion. Nonetheless, the compilation doesn’t have the same playfulness found in some microhouse mixes (Mayer’s Fabric 13 and Franzmann’s Superlongevity come to mind). This is expected from a singles compilation—great moments, but incredibly difficult to sit through the full 2 CDs (over 2 ½ hours).

Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-02-13

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