Ellen Allien
Berlinette
BPitch Control
2003
B-



in a recent interview, Ellen Allien was asked her thoughts on the possible imminent closing of the Tresor club. Posed simply as a question meant to elicit an answer that explained the relative importance of the club on Berlin’s musical development, Allien’s answer revealed something completely different. Her answer, to paraphrase, was “it doesn’t bother me that much because I believe that type of club will live on- and only become better in a new incarnation.” Far from biting the hand that fed her- the club has featured Allien’s DJing in the past- the answer that she gave to this innocuous question pointed directly towards Allien’s abiding ideology- movement at all costs towards bigger and better things.

Belinette is the musical reflection of this aesthetic, combining elements of the past and twisting them into a sort of futuristic funk. She is generally reverent of what has come before her, certainly, but it’s not something to copy- it’s something to improve and move away from. The best track on the album, “Abstract Pictures,” illustrates this easily: Allien’s modified/vocoded vocals begin as a choral progression, leading to the main rhythmic motif. Allien allows this building block to stand on its own for a short time, daring the listener to lose interest in her complex drum programming. Soon enough a undercurrent of melodic bass enters the fray- a scissoring counterpoint to the already precise drums. The chorus of the piece- a reprise of Allien’s introduction replete with the now introduced elements is a exultant mélange of avant-pop songwriting.

Much of the charm of this album lies in the seemingly complex drum programming that Allien brings to the mix. While it isn’t complex by the standards of the music that she spins in her sets- her recent Weiss mix featured Electric Company and Squarepusher blending serenely into the likes of Kompakt’s Closer Musik and Superpitcher- to the uninitiated listeners of most IDM these drums will sound frenetic and oddly programmed. It’s a testament to her superior ability, however, that Allien never loses on either account- dumbing down the drums for possible inclusions in simpler sets or veering too far into the avant-garde that skillful DJ’s can’t use her tracks.

Allien’s dizzy reliance, however, on the same sort of drum programming on each track does get a bit trying near the end of the album. It is clear that she is interested in pursuing this aesthetic to see where it leads, but one wonders if we could merely take the highlights- “Sehnsucht,” “Abstract Pictures,” and “Open”- and had merely a phenomenal EP, as opposed to a very good LP that borders on boring by its end. Nevertheless, for fans of micro-house and intricately detailed dance music this release will be a revelation and a promise of good things to come from the talented Allein.
Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-09-18
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