n first glance, Irish minimal techno figurehead Donnacha Costello’s 6x6=36 project might seem a bit gimmicky, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This budget-priced CD compiles Costello’s recent trio of thematically linked singles: six tracks lasting six minutes each, written, recorded, and edited over the course of just six days, and released over the course of six weeks on gorgeously sleeved singles. Slavish collectors (myself included) lined up to grab the singles every fortnight to hear the latest installment, but now the Technics-less masses can hear the tracks in all their glory.
This isn’t the first time that Costello has released such a series of singles—his 2004 “Color” series was spread across ten singles. By shortening—minimizing, if you prefer—the proceedings this time out, Costello has achieved a greater unity of sound, even if the tracks themselves are diverse. For example, “6.1” and “6.4” are stomping dancefloor monsters of slightly different shades and densities, while “6.3” is full of giddy and repetitive loops that shift and tumble across each other in unity and disharmony. “6.5,” on the other hand, is the ultimate in minimal, consisting of nothing but a throbbing, undulating bass and a handful of hanging synth effects that could easily be played over any of the other tracks. (A project-in-waiting for enterprising DJs.) There’s a lot of space on the stripped and bouncy “6.2,” and a bizarre spoken word part over “6.6” (the narrator tells a story in a semi-robotic drawl, repeating the catch phrase, “Fuck it”).
Costello’s clicks and pops, clipped hi-hats, bounding bass loops, and sci-fi generator noises don’t repeat themselves enough to get tired but are sonically similar enough to spark cohesion. On the other side of the coin, one could easily take up a half hour’s worth of a DJ set playing these cuts exclusively and no one would likely notice that they were all from the same artist, instead deferring praise to an agile, well-versed DJ.
Despite the gimmickry, Costello really has given us the best of both possible worlds here—a set of singles diverse enough to work on their own, but thematically unified enough to work as a full-length album. Whichever format you prefer, the music is stellar. While I’m not pleased (and I’m sure I’m not alone) that the CD release wasn’t announced before I laid out in excess of $40 for the vinyl singles, it’s hard to argue with the results.