Monday, December 14, 2009

quality, not quantity

well, it is getting to that time when charts and 'best of' lists appear for the year. i know pete has done some. to be honest, i'm not sure whether i have the energy or desire to. i certainly know i wont be compiling or publishing any lists yet, because 2009 hasnt ended. last time i checked a year had 12 months. it'll be interesting to see how dj sprinkles does in the charts, or whether he'll be forgotten due to the january release date.

anyway, what i might do if i have the motivation is offer some thoughts on interesting trends/developments etc in 2009. i can start writing this first one now because i doubt what i am going to say will be altered much in the next 2 or 3 weeks (unless any of these artists suddenly release a shitload of records, but i think it is a safe bet to presume they wont).

when i did have a brief think about some of my favourite EPs and tracks from 2009, i quickly noticed something. quite a lot were from artists who only had one or two releases this year. BUT. but the few tracks that did appear were such massive bombs the impact was far greater than a handful of EPs from many other artists.

probably the clearest example of this was function. as far as i know, he had only 2 tracks this year, his remix of miss kitten and the hacker, and the variance edit. can you tell me a techno track that has been more played, and has had a bigger impact than variance? there have not been many. i have seen this record in so many tracklists and heard it in so many mixes, but i am yet to get sick of it. i still get a shiver down my spine every time it drops.

pretty much the same could be said for function's label mate, silent servant. he has had one or two tracks on his split label with santiago salazar, plus his 'negative fascinations' EP on sandwell. and 'discipline' is my favourite techno track of the year hands down. my jaw dropped the first time i heard this record and like with 'variance', it still has a massive impact on me. also, mendez co-produced with camella lobo the tropic of cancer 10" on downwards, which is just quietly one of the best releases of 2009.

and then there is one of the biggest revelations of this year for me - oni ayhun. in 2009 oni only released one EP and a remix. just in these 3 tracks, though, are some of the most exciting and worthwhile sounds i've heard in 2009. in a year where i found plenty of music to get excited by, the B side of OAR003 hit me the hardest. there is nothing overly complex about the track, but much like donnacha costello's records, the impact comes from the reduced number of elements and the expert production. an impossibly beautiful record. much respect to oni. this is someone who has me excited about the future.

and when thinking about techno's future, in 2009 a lot of people realised kassem mosse is someone we should be putting our faith in. after a string of seriously good eps - which got us interested in him last year for a podcast - it was with workshop08 that people started to realise how special his sounds are. this was his only release in 2009 (i think), and that's just fine, when it is this good.

i could keep going, i am sure there are plenty of more examples - john roberts and tin man are 2 others that quickly come to mind. the lesson i take from this is the pretty obvious one: it is quality, not quantity that counts. this observation is all the more important at a time when digital technologies mean it much easier to make and release music. when combined with the considerable creativity and work ethic of many artists, there must be the temptation for some to put out more and more. even if m-nus completely fail to follow - or even understand - the concept, often there is definitely something to their formulation:
less = more.


  1. Nice words. Don't know if I'd agree with you on the Variance edits, but that school of techno has definitely imbued itself into our consciousness quite clearly.

    Speaking of releases, when will we see some new material from Henrik Schwarz? A remix or two would be nice in the coming months.

  2. regarding 'midtown 120 blues', i've been listening to/thinking about that one a lot; i, too, wonder how it will fare in 'best of 2009' charts.

    but maybe it's because i'm 22, and haven't been around long enough to become jaded, but the little jab against m-nus without any further discussion (ie something comparable to your reasoning for the tracks/producers you cited favorably in this write-up) seemed kinda lame. i know they put out a lot of stuff and i admit i haven't heard ALL of it (even from this year)... but the louderbach album definitely gets my vote for one of the best albums of the year (i can't get enough of those dark vocals and psychedelic sound production). and after a few listens, i also think the recent jpls album is a very strong release as well. while there is some crap mixed in, the label still puts out the occasionally GREAT release.

  3. if late 2008 and early 2009 was about "headfuck" on mnml ssgs, 2009 as a whole is definitely about the "function effect".

    For me, Fengler's Twisted Bleach and Samuli Kemmpi's No one can hear your echo in space had the "function effect" - also low output artists, highly listed.

  4. @ Brian: without being too drawn in to another conversation about m_nus, I would go back and listen to the 'Consumed' album by Plastikman.

    I'm not suggesting that Hawtin Inc. should keep reproducing this, but, I think, for some of the granddads and mums around this blog, there is a very strong feeling that Hawtin really bought the farm when he went digital/network/technology uber alles...

    ...again, this is just my feeling, but I reckon that, compared to their stuff from even 3 years ago, m_nus' current output is as boring as batshit. It doesn't move me.

  5. @ brian: regarding m-nus, agreed on the louderbach album. that is the first thing on the label i've liked in a long time. havent heard the JPLS so cant comment on that. what i would say is that if you havent checked the back catalogue of m-nus, definitely go back to some of their earlier releases. the label started around 98 or 99, and in 2005 they reached about 25-30 releases. since then they've had another 60 releases or so. for me it is not a coincidence that it is the early releases that are the strongest.

  6. ah, didnt see PC's comment. we are obviously of the same mind!

  7. For what it's worth, Sprinkles will be featuring prominently if Lend Me Your Ears gets a list of '09 highlights together (doubt we'd bother with a ranking in any case)...

    &, at the risk of being creepy, so will ssgs!

    Many thanks for some ferocious, memorable mixes & uncommonly thoughtful commentary this year! As mentioned before, it's been great to see the more experimental side of your taste...


    Julian / LMYE

  8. two things...

    the jpls album is, indeed, absolutely fucking amazing. love it all!

    you can't off-site link to images on discogs anymore. they removed that about last year.

  9. good to hear, eric. i sort of wish for a return to form for minus; as chris says, just look at their first 30 or so releases.

    marc houle is a good example of this. restore? amazing, it's still up there as one of the best minus releases i think. "bay of figs" was a great club track though the album was lackluster, and his releases after were both much more frequent and pretty awful.

    the main thing i can't stand about minus is their digital release bullshit. sometimes the digital version of a release has three times the tracks of the vinyl, which is pretty much always too much and all shitty. totally sacrifices quality for quantity. not to mention that for the past couple of years most minus releases have been terrible anyway, but i digress...

  10. yes, there's still plenty of m-nus stuff i need to investigate (can anyone name any other favorites, particularly from their 'early' era?) but i'm obsessed with *almost* anything plastikman-related. i'm VERY curious to see what 2010 holds for that project... some friends recently let me borrow a spare vinyl decks setup to get started spinning records, and on my first vinyl purchase in years, i came across a consumed/pakard 12" (bootleg?) that made my day, pakard being probably my favorite electronic track of all time. if anyone cares, the other records i purchased were the huckaby/intrusion 'starlight' remixes and helical scan - I/II...

    speaking of which, does anyone have any thoughts on the new monolake album? i've only given it one admittedly improper listen, so i must withhold judgment for now.

    but yeah, this jpls album is something else; i really want it on vinyl...

  11. @ eric: booo discogs. i lack the motivation to fix it right now. i am a bad blogger.

    @ brian: check the theorem releases for sure. amazing shit. and the dj minx EP. and 'sink the ship' from false. everyone loved 'decompression', i was never completely sold. some of the early stuff by run stop restore was good too.

  12. that dj minx ep really has nothing to do with m_nus save for richie playing it a lot and the junky remixes of it that came out.

    its originally on women on wax, and the other three tracks on that version are far superior that the garbage m_nus edition.

    as for good ol' m_nus stuff...

    always theorem. some of the best out there, and way ahead of their time. old plastikman, the concept series, the split with steve bug (that i cocindentally used on my first ssg cast), the old i.a. bericochea records and cd's, the first three neiderflur records, and a couple random ones in between, like the first heartthrob, first run.stop.restore, and the one track on the actual jakshun ep are all fantastic.

    after really tapers off in to shit.

  13. oh, add the first gaiser ep, and "seeing through shadows" by locodice to the list of good things.

    and i'm a huge jpls fan. love, love, love his stuff.

  14. @ Brian. I'm a big fan of I.A. bericochea's rA release on m-nus. the B side has one my favorite bass-lines of all time.

    @the ssgs: a bit off topic, but why didn't you guys like the new Margaret Dygas release on perlon? I realize it may not have been classic perlon sound, but I thought the A side was one of the best and headiest tracks of the year.

  15. @ brian: totally on board with the aforementioned suggestions made in the last four comments.

    a few more worth checking>
    again, anything at all by gaiser, imo.
    'min2max', w/ the bonus record is a pretty solid collection.
    false 'river camping' has long been a favorite as well as magda's 'stop'...especially b2 on that release. sick.
    barem is also a pretty talented producer on the label and others, check him out period.

    happy holidays everybody!

  16. btw: midtown 120 blues got first in the ra top 20 album list


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