Monday, December 17, 2007

We Were Never Mnml (Inpress column, December 07)

Here's a stone cold paste of my monthly column for Inpress:

Wow, we made it to December without destroying the planet… oh hang on… Well, our ‘leaders’ made it to the end of the Bali conference and signed an agreement to start talking about an agreement to start talking about a decision to start making a roadmap that would mean (at some unspecified point) doing something (non-binding, of course) to stop raping the planet, so… hooray? ‘But seriously’, am I the only one who’s been feeling irrationally upbeat over the past few weeks? Maybe it’s the weather and the apparent end of the fly plague, who knows, but everything seems pretty peachy at the moment. I’m sure it’s only a temporary lull, or maybe it’s ‘Christmas cheer’. No doubt most of you have been spending the past week or two compiling lists (mental or actual) as a way of trying to get a handle on 2007’s hysterical torrent of releases while trying to work out what kind of year it was musically, and for the groove in particular. I’ll tell you: 2007 was the year in which Samim’s ‘Heater’ was the big ‘mnml’ track… hmmmnml…

But one other thing that’s struck me (or made me scratch my head) about this year is how well Shlomi Aber, Radio Slave, Dubfire have charted this year, and over a sustained period of time (which puts to sleep any ‘flash in the pan’ type alibi). I don't know about you people out there, but I find two out of three of the artists just mentioned deeply, deeply boring – especially Dubfire. I don’t hate it, but I certainly can’t like it – okay, so it ‘works’, but can you actually say you ‘love’ this music? What’s to love? The divisive ‘Ribcage’ reaction may be over, but now Ali is charting with two or three other tracks ‘Road Kill’, ‘I feel Speed’, and about a dozen remixes.

Anyway, now that I’ve got the grumbling over with, I thought I’d spend some time lingering over a few under-exposed gems from the past twelve months. These were all EPs/tracks that might have missed a few peoples EoY lists but that I think have enduring value. First cab on the rank is Jackmate’s ‘Interspherical Tensions’ EP released on Philpot a month or two ago. The B2 ‘Boots’ is easily one of the most exciting minimal techno tracks of the year for me. It’s only four minutes long (a third of your average Dubfire track!) but it’s a wee hand grenade, with more explosive drama, more kinetic energy and more hardsprung tension than most contemporary tracks in a similar vein. The break is fantastic – there’s this rolling filter with a kind of Doppler effect that just keeps churning over and over itself until it trips into the dropping kick. Great stuff, especially when played by a DJ in danger of eating his face while cueing it… but that’s another story.

Next contender is Maximilian Skiba’s ‘Beginning’ EP, which is some harder electroid techno with a whiff of amyl nitrate, if you dig. Earlier in the year in my review for Beatz, I described it as “tooth-loosening machine electro that kicks harder than a methed up drag queen in a burst of jealous rage” and I’ll stand by that. The B2, ‘Goodbye C64’ is also a really nice, weepy, sentimental anthem for all you wusses out there.

Speaking of wusses (and drag queens, for that matter), I only just recently picked up the remix EP of Terre Thaemlitz’ ‘She’s Hard’, which has got an amazing ‘float house’ (as opposed to ‘floater house’) Thaemlitz re-rub on the A, and a killer upbuilding Max Mohr mix on the flip. Like a lot of stuff on Mule this year, this EP is pure class all the way – in fact, for all those who are nostalgic for the good old days of Kompakt, Mule have been quietly bearing the torch for us jaded ex-fans (from a pokey office in Nakameguro), releasing convincing minimal, Balearic, disco, dubby tech and ambient house records with a consistency that shames most of the higher profile European labels. Label-owner Toshiya Kawasaki also appears to have a knack for getting ‘the right people’ on deck for the remixes at the right time. Not least of all was his roping in DJ Koze, who turned out an outstanding remix of Lawrence’s disturbingly titled ‘Rabbit Tube’ EP, Lawrence’s second best EP of the year after January’s stunning ‘Friday’s Child’, also on Mule. Nobody but nobody writes a sad, beautiful synth melody like Lawrence, and ‘Friday’s Child’ is one of the best. I wish I’d had more time to consider my ‘Top 20’ list before voting in the polls for the sites I write for – this should have been right up the top of the list. Still on Mule’s dick for another few mentions, ‘Shrimps of Portofino’, the B2 on Marcelo Giordani’s ‘I’m not Bladerunner’ EP is a very, very cool Italo influenced tech-house track with the drums mixed all round the ceiling. Lastly, Minilogue’s ‘Ghost’ EP was another great long, tripping tech-houser. The duo’s proggy predilections always kept me away in the past, but this was the EP of theirs that won me over this year.

I can’t really say it was ‘under-exposed’ (considering that Burridge stuck it on his ‘actually not stinky’ 3CD Balance mix earlier in the year), but Jacek Sienkiewicz’s ‘Good Night/Good Luck’ EP on Cocoon was undoubtedly one of the more interesting EPs released throughout the year. Sienkiewicz is just totally off in his own world with the design of his productions – they’re weird, they’re mesmerising, and they work, mostly. Another deadset weirdo who did some interesting stuff this year is Pepe Bradock. ‘Rhapsody in Pain’ ended up being the unlikely success (if you haven’t heard it, it’s on Sven’s ‘Sound of the Umpteenth Season’ mix and it’s actually a sound-collage of people screaming in pain), but ‘Sakura Incident’ was the subtle warmer of the cockles of this heart.

Also, a quick heads-up for the weekend coming up. Patrick ‘Hard as Fuck’ HAF is coming to town this Saturday to give Melbourne a lesson in electrobass, Detroit classics, deep techno and whatever the hell else. HAF’s productions and DJ sets get props from all the UR movers and shakers. Check ‘Southern Outpost’ for links to HAF’s DJ sets and so forth and you’ll hear why. If you’re up to see an Australian DJ with some serious, serious chops (with no disrespect implied to any of the several dozen very fine DJs in this city who are usually far better than the internationals) who makes records that respectable international DJs actually play, you could probably do a lot worse than checking out this party. I hesitate to say it’s gonna be a night of ‘real’ techno (and play into the whole stupid Detroit mythmaking crap that's so irritatingly prevalent in Melb.), so maybe I should say that it’s gonna be a night of ‘good’ techno, leave it at that, and look forward.

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