t first it's hard for me to imagine Upsets Ducks being used for dancing. I mean, I've felt that alchemy before, where physically encountering the music at proper volume in a dark and sweaty room consecrated to moving your ass makes even the most unassuming jams take on dimensions you couldn't imagine in your most feverish headphone dreams, but Sebastian Riedl's long-playing debut under the Basteroid name is too captivating in its insular, rough-and-smooth way to imagine listening communally, let alone dancing. The opening “16 Steps Away from the Stars” especially soft shoes its could-be-huge raft of interlocking burbles, melodic stabs, and static washes into something that seems to be continually turning away from the listener into somewhere more private and inaccessible; sure enough, having to be the pursuer just makes the attraction of the track fiercer.
Which isn't to say at all that Basteroid sounds difficult or obtuse or dull; each track here packs all the “cloudbursts, breakdowns, and big hooks” that Peter Chambers summed up as the hallmarks of Areal's sound in Beatz by the Pound semi-recently. The artist and record that Riedl's work here summons unavoidably to mind for those of us who are happy observers but not necessarily devotees of techno is the Field's From Here We Go Sublime. But as good as that record is, the title is maybe even more appropriate for Upsets Ducks (although I wouldn't want to lose Riedl's sense of humor); Axel Willner's opus, although great, opts for the in-your-face sparkle that makes his name so appropriate (think field as ground versus object, not plot of land) whereas the sneakier apogees of Basteroid get to the same heights by rougher, subtler, more sublime means.
Once Riedl hits the late period trifecta of “Pulsador de Alarma”/“Allright”/“Un Dos Windows” it's clear that although he's not so headphone-pointillist as Willner he's at least his match in crafting snarky, sneaky movers that don't so much burst at you as slyly insinuate themselves into your hindbrain. Like a lot of listeners normally so devoted to the Word, or at least the Voice, I can't say I can actually hum any melodies even after weeks of devoted (obsessive?) listening, but I do find its steady, building pulse threading its way into more and more of my waking life.
Even as the construction of this album apparently disturbed the waterfowl outside his studio (especially the buzzy, grainy “Attention: Upsets Ducks,” I'd imagine), though, Riedl was crafting a near seamless 70 minutes that deserves to rival Willner's big debut for the affections of those who normally listen to things with guitars in them (given the man's reputation amongst the Beatz by the Pound crowd and the ridiculously high uniform level of quality here, I assume I don't need to worry about preaching to those guys).
I lack the technical or genre vocabulary to communicate to the diehards the difference in technique between, I can only talk about emotion: The Field is more like the sensation of sunshine on your face, a train ride to a new city, leaning in to kiss someone; Basteroid evokes instead the feeling of finally leaving work for the day, walking alone through your city late at night, falling asleep to the muted sound of the party next door. That the former is more obviously, maybe even aggressively 'good' as a set of signifiers is true, but there's at least as much space (if not more) in my life for the latter. Riedl is definitely still capable of tearing up a dancefloor but he along with his contemporaries have finally learned the hard lessons of techno's rich history of trying to make albums: How to craft an experience beyond that of getting up and moving, while still allowing the latter response. The result is rich and compelling enough to warrant repeated listens even from the neophytes.