Mark Houle
Restore

M-nus
2004
C+



ichie Hawtin’s M-nus imprint has been firing on all cylinders of late, sourcing and releasing some of the finest Techno of the last couple of years. Released last summer, man of the moment Mathew Jonson’s “Decompression” was singular and vital, and justifiably went on to become a massive club hit worldwide. Recent releases and remixes from Akufen, Ricardo Villalobos and the Plastikman himself have maintained this high standard and added further ammunition to the already smoking M-nus cannon. This legacy, combined with Houle’s previous work as one third of Run Stop Restore, really had me very excited about the prospect of eleven new tracks of quality Techno.

Restore gets down to business right away with the, ahem, appropriately titled “Business.” It’s dangerously deep, kicking off with some soft drum pads and a looped, one-note bassline. Houle periodically drops the drum pads in and out of the mix, reinforcing their reappearance each time with a new element. A solid kick drum, a crisp hi-hat, some subtle echo effects: each makes an appearance and, more importantly, each counts. While neither the sounds nor structure used in the construction of “Business” are new or even surprising, Houle’s obvious production talent and mastery of the low-slung funk make the track a runaway success and the funkiest thing I’ve heard in an age. Coming to a club near you soon, if not there already.

The following track, “Demor,” begins in a remarkably similar vein to Plastikman’s “Hypokondriak,” one of Techno’s purest explorations of the kick drum. But here, as the muted introduction starts to unfold, Houle expands the track by adding a dulled keyboard refrain to the mix, resulting in a sound not a million miles from that of some of the earliest Chicago House tracks—it’s dark and effective.

The analogue retro-funk of “Pepper” picks up the pace and spirit, particularly when the double whammy of clap and hi-hat hit home. But when Houle steps outside the box for the first time and tries his hand at something different, as he does with “Talk To Me Baby,” it’s not as assured. That track is a mildly unsettling piece, reminiscent of some of Emmanuel Top’s less successful acid excursions. The constant throbbing and accompanying loose, jazz-tinged ride cymbal seem at odds with each other, resulting in an uncomfortable listen for the handful of people likely to ever hear this. From these depths, however, rises the Moroder-like funky phoenix that is “Clock Width”. It’s on a par with the afore-mentioned “Business” when it comes to its danceability, but there nothing like what Houle saves for the climax of the album. Both “Has To Do” and “Sheep” are masterpieces of minimalism, the latter seeming to hearken back specifically to Plastikman’s 1997’s Sickness EP.

The result? Restore doesn’t live up to my initial, somewhat misplaced excitement. M-nus is known primarily for its 12”, not album, releases and I guess this type of music is easier digested in that format. A trimmed down Restore would have made an incredible four tracker, or a super mini-album, instead of merely an above-average album. The tracks on this collection are meant for the dancefloor and are going to sound their best when chopped up, mixed and used as components of a mix. On its own, it has neither the content nor the construction to command attention over eleven tracks. Far from a journey, Restore seems stuck in a rut, but one that I sometimes wouldn’t mind losing myself in.



Reviewed by: Simon Walsh

Reviewed on: 2005-01-19

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