Plastikman
Closer
Mute
2003
B+



only connect….Live in fragments no longer.”

It’s the beginning of autumn. The end of a long summer- years for Richie Hawtin, who broke up with his long-time girlfriend before the recording of this album. And, as deliberately isolationist as the first words of the album sound (“I guess this is a good place to start…inside my head, I guess that’s where everything starts and probably ends”), Closer is exactly what the title entails- a yearning for, above all else, connection.

“Ask Yourself” begins this seventy-five minute journey with the plaintively naked voice of Hawtin relating the quote above, littering his speech with “I guesses” and “you know’s”, reflecting his relative unease. After a minimal introduction we encounter a blast of white noise and a voice that is much clearer and much more impassive, letting us know that he “hear(s) everything/Those aren’t voices in your head/Those are just the echoes of your indecision”. It’s a portentous moment all around. The voice comes out of nowhere after the shocking introduction of static, but who is it? Is it Hawtin grown up? Is it Hawtin talking to his ex-girlfriend? Is it Platikman? Is it the superego? Is it someone else entirely? It doesn’t matter- “ask yourself”.

The eerie moods evoked by rhythmically pinged pitch bent sonar is explored near the end of “Lost”- and then into the beginning of “Disconnect”, which first features Hawtin’s vocals again. Here, we have the first minimal techno break-up torch song delivered, of course, under the veil of vocoder. Moving from “enjoy(ing) the pain” to wanting to “disinfect and sanitize” his brain to the final solution: “disconnect my brain…disconnect my pain”.

From here, again, Hawtin unleashes three tracks of paranoid and inventive production, riding jerky rhythms and uncertain sounds making up the background- smears, rising and falling bass, missing drum hits, song titles like “Ping Pong”, “Head Case” and a Twilight Zone Mix of “Slow Poke”. “Ping Pong”, for example, accurately does what it title implies- a lower mixed bassline rides just behind the main device, sometimes coming into focus at key points, at most times remaining just blurry enough for the listener to wonder exactly what the hell is happening. Less of a track (although it’s certainly not bad as one) than a chance for Hawtin to amaze the listener, “Ping Pong” and its predecessor “Headcase” make up the brunt of the micro-house on the disc, placing Hawtin firmly again in the leagues with the masters of the genre.

On the last three tracks of the album, we have the loss of the self-assuredness of “Ask Yourself”. “Mind Rewind” finds the vocoder running out of gas, as a mournful melody plays out beneath the rhythmic base. It is the memory of a long lost relationship, the beginning of acceptance that all is now gone- that the past has to be remembered, but also kept separate from the future. And the double shot of “I No” and “I Don’t Know” reflect this sentiment production-wise and lyrically quite easily. In the end, Plastikman doesn’t know- perhaps the only thing that is known for sure here. And, the tracks, while pulling from the past efforts of the Plastikman oeuvre- Consumed and the Concept releases- it also points towards a future, however bleak and uncertain it might be. Because, of all the tracks here, “I Don’t Know” may be the crowning achievement- the acceptance in this ten step program.
Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2003-10-23
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