Thursday, March 13, 2008
Change your spots or keep them?
I've recently been listening to two new mix cds, Ellen Allien's contribution to the Boogie Bytes series on Bpitch, and Robert Hood's installment in the ever-growing library of Fabric mixes. While these cds appearing about the same time is obviously coincidental, put together they actually provide a really nice contrast. Before giving my thoughts, here are tracklistings for the two cds:
Ellen Allien - 'Boogy Bytes':
1 Agf Liniendicke
2 Vera In The Nook
3 Ricardo Villalobos & Patrick Ense Fizpatrick
4 Melon Nitzi (In My Mind, So Fine)
5 Andres Zacco & Lucas Mari Carbonela (Seph's Vidrionela Remix)
6 Konpiùta Christmas Fairytale (Moessap Edit)
7 Sozadams Eyes Forlon
8 Richard Seeley Juicy Vermin
9 Lucio Aquilina My Cube
10 Melchior Productions Don Juan
11 Friendly People Music Is Improper (Martin Buttrich Remix)
12 Sascha Funke Double Checked
13 Gaiser* Withdrawal
14 Kassem Mosse A1
15 Little Dragon Twice
Robert Hood - 'Fabric 39':
1 Monobox Silicone Fingers
2 Robert Hood Element 9
3 Robert Hood Who Taught You Math
4 Pacou X-Factor
5 Robert Hood Strobe Light
6 Marco Lenzi Taboo
7 Joris Voorn Fever (Rephrased)
8 Fab G* Bust The Vibes (Real Disco Mix)
9 Dan March Sand Dune
10 Robert Hood Element 3
11 Diego Mind Detergent (Robert Hood Remix)
12 Jeff Mills Skin Deep
13 Robert Hood School
14 Robert Hood Element 23
15 John Thomas Mr. Funk
16 DJ Skull Informant
17 Scorp One Side
18 Pacou All It Takes
19 Phase Mass
20 UK Gold Agent Wood (Adam Beyer Remix)
21 Solid Decay Legalize!
22 Robert Hood Element 7
23 Robert Hood Side Effect
24 Mion Drop The Filter
25 Scorp New Energy
26 UK Gold Agent Wood (Original Mix)
27 Robert Hood Still Here (Los Hermanos Remix)
28 John Thomas Pulp Funktion 2
29 Robert Hood The Greatest Dancer
30 Low-Life Exclamation
31 Robert Hood And Then We Planned Our Escape
32 Robert Hood Element 12
My initial reaction on seeing these tracklistings (one shared by my fellow ssgs) was that the Ellen one looked interesting, but that the Hood mix was much closer to 2000 than to 2008. I had been really looking forward to seeing what Hood would do with his Fabric mix and truth be told, the tracklisting left me most disappointed. Having now listened to both of these mixes, my opinion has shifted considerably.
Ellen's mix may have plenty of good tracks, but it sits together incredibly awkwardly. To take only the most obvious example, she goes from the warming, Ibiza-esque Melon moment to the cold minimal of Seph, which jars the ears and flatout doesn't work. The whole mix lacks direction and coherence - shifting from sound to sound but never getting comfortable or settled. The result is a really subpar mix. For someone with so much experience behind the decks as Allien, it is a real surprise how poorly put together this mix is. And considering what Ellen has been capable of in the past - such as 'Weiss' - it makes this mess all the more disappointing.
Rob Hood's mix, in contrast, clearly reflects someone who feels confident, assured and comfortable in his sound. This is balls out techno; there is no messing about. It is fast, furious, banging and there are most certainly no apologies made. It may not be particularly fresh or especially innovative, but for what it is, it is done excellently. Jacob Wright at RA gives a good summary of it: "If you’re already a fan there’s not much here that’s going to surprise you. If you’re not so familiar this is as a good an introduction as any to both Robert Hood and the classic second-wave Detroit style." Given my dismay when I had read the tracklisting, I was happy to discover that Hood's effort sounds so much better than the tracklisting may imply. The mix really feels like Hood is saying 'trends or not, this is who I am and this is what I do'. In a certain sense, this generated a real sense of respect for Hood. He is not clamouring and shouting about all he has done - desperately trying to stay relevant like the old detroiters like May - but he is asserting his identity.
Listening to these two mixes together, what struck is that both represent different ways two prominent djs have reacted to the way techno has changed in recent years. Ellen Allien seemed to really peak a couple of years ago when electro-tech was going strong and Bpitch was at the forefront of pushing that sound. As the more electro influenced sounds have been sidelined by the pings and effects of mnml, Ellen has attempted to shift her sound accordingly. What this mix seems to indicate is how poorly she has managed to make the transition (in this regard, her mediocre Fabric mix of last year was also suggestive). She is certainly not alone in struggling to re-adjust to the way the music has shifted. Hood's approach, in contrast, has clearly been one of 'business as usual'. His mix represents a refusal to bend or change, rather continuing to pursue the same conception of 'minimal' he has held since 'Minimal Nation' way back in 1994. While this means he perhaps may not be as relevant as he previously was (his recent track 'And then we planned our escape' suggests otherwise, though), it strikes me as the better option after listening to these two cds.
To be honest, I don't think I'll listen to either of these mixes much. Despite some really nice tracks, Ellen's is just not very good. Meanwhile, Hood's mix may be very well done for it is, but the sound he presents is one that does not interest me much anymore. Still, it has been an interesting process listening to them and considering how djs do/can/should react to the continually shifting sands of techno. And at the end of the day, perhpas the lesson is:
why change your spots when you can keep them?