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The Rubber Room
Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan / Speicher 26 / Roman Fluegel / Nathan Fake / Und
The Rubber Room column is a weekly look at recent and notable releases that don’t fall into the rubric of traditional reviewed material—namely 7”’s, 12”’s, 3” CDs, EPs, cassette-only, DVDs and MP3-only releases.
Animal Collective and Vashti Bunyan
[Fat Cat, 2005]
The backstory is well-known by now, but needless to say the return of Vashti is a welcome one and the Animal Collective do it justice. Opener “It’s You” is a mood meditation that constantly builds crescendos only to fade them, while the title track builds something more traditionally coherent from acoustic guitars and backing vocals that sounds like a perfect pop song from another universe. “Baleen Sample” is the most traditionally avant-garde track here, eschewing pop for a droning sort of minimalist sound-cloud and “I Remember Learning How To Dive” caps it all off with its naïve strum and the feeling that EPs don’t get much better than this.
The much heralded meeting of Matthew Jonson and Kompakt is typically underwhelming, another example of the propensity for microhouse to offer up disappointment in the records that are expected to be mind-blowing and to offer up hits in the unlikeliest of places. It’s not bad, by any means, but “Dirt Road and a Boat from Soundwave” lacks that essential Jonson feeling. Blame it on co-producer The Mole? You can’t imagine anyone else recommending the inexplicable addition of overdriven drums that march into the mix at the six-minute mark. They gradually find their way into the smoothness that once permeated the proceedings, but it’s a climax that hardly holds a candle to previous Jonson moments. When this edition of the Speicher series is outshined by a side from Axel Barthsch, who essentially writes the same song as side one, but with a bit more testosterone and style, and you have yourself a number of people asking what the hell happened.
[White Label, 2005]
A lot has been made of the possible annoyingness that “Gehts Noch?” seems to hold. The comparisons to Alter Ego’s “Rocker” aren’t far off, in that you can tell that this one is going to be used in nearly every DJ set for the next six months, if not longer. The melody, a repeated stuttering acid squeak that ends each 16 bars with a satisfying conclusive solo, veers carefully on that line between massive and annoying, but laudably plods along in the same way for its seven-minute length. The B-side Moguai remix is a bit beefier, but misses out on some of the original’s charm for that very reason. Because the squeal is accompanied so well, it takes away from what Fluegel wanted us to focus on in the first place.
Nathan Fake’s newest 12” probably won’t receive many of the accolades that more sexy and flashy tech-house records do, but it’s hard to imagine a better functionally useful, but also completely singular thing that’s come out on Traum this year. The highlight comes in the form of “Coheed,” which features the repeated line, “I talk all night / You talk all day / But you don’t know what will come your way.” What makes the track is the simplistic four-note bassline that recalls M.I.A.’s “River” and the best of Ada. Acid-freakout “Undoing the Laces” and the complex Isolee-indebted opener “Dinamo” aren’t slouches either. Recommended.
Huh. The microhouse “Losing My Edge”? Let me back off of that and say that the narrator going on over the repetitive backing seems to be interested in fashion design, going all Gil-Scott Heron every time that the name Max Fields comes up in the course of his dialogue. A perfect mid-set build-up, this one defies easy description. “Toverfee” works a loop of a orchestral record starting up as its main melodic theme, amid pounding bass and that same crazed narrator making the odd appearance. But it’s B-side “Ambivalente” that comes as a real surprise, ditching the dude and trading him in for some Lawrence or Superpitcher-at-his-romantic-style moody tech-house. Definitely a weird one.
By: Todd Burns
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