Posts Tagged ‘minimal techno’

Marc Houle – Drift (Minus Records)

October 9, 2010

For Juno Records

Minus Records mainstay Marc Houle returns with his new full-length album, Drift, and continues to further refine his sound. Written in Berlin during the bleak winter months of 2009, Drift stands apart from anything Houle has released to date. He’s stripped away much of the wackiness and playfulness that has become his signature, for a more dark and cold aesthetic. Houle’s sound has never been one that is easy to classify, as he’s always been a bit left of centre when it comes to techno – he doesn’t just write dancefloor bangers and/or head-bobbing numbers for home listening, yet his music has always fit comfortably both in and out of the party.

With tracks “Seeing in the Dark” and “Drift” one envisions the darkest Berlin club – an abandoned warehouse in a cold grey industrial neighbourhood, or a claustrophobic basement rave in a dilapidated building in Detroit, seem to suit these tracks just fine – where night has long since switched over to morning, but the kids seem compelled to continue as long as the party allows them.

Those tracks and the 7-minute “Melting”, are perhaps the moodiest compositions on the album, driven by Houle’s subtle use of analogue synths and rumbling bass. Drift all but abandons the quirky use of 8-bit sounds that Houle seemed to love so much in his earlier releases, yet what is interesting with Drift is that he has replaced those sounds with guitar. Opening song “Inside”, which I imagine would be an amazing track for driving on the Autobahn, as well as “Sweet”, “The Next”, and “Hammering”, feature processed guitar lines that hint at new wave and dark wave and are a great addition to his sound.

By the album’s last track, “Hammering”, there seems to be some light in the grey winter, the sun has peeked its head after months of absence, and the old playful Houle peeks his head out as well, closing with a guitar-based track that is funky and jazzy and reminiscent of Tortoise. Drift is undoubtedly a cold and dark album, but Marc Houle is as hot and bright as ever. Check it.

Marc Leclair – Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes

July 14, 2010

An absolute and understated classic from Marc Leclair, “Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes” was released in 2005. Leclair is probably best known for his work as tech-house wizard Akufen, but with “Musique” he tapped into something special, and overall it exceeds his work under the Akufen moniker, because it’s much broader in scope and so much more subtle in execution. Yes, I love “My Way”, and when I first saw Akufen play in Detroit in 2002 with Luciano and Dandy Jack at The Works, I thought I’d witnessed the future of techno music. I remember smiling and dancing non-stop and being proud that he was representing Canada and MTL, the city I would move to a year later. And for awhile, Akufen was indeed the shit — his tracks were meticulously produced, uber-groovy, and they bumped hard and heavy — but he was never able to match the grandeur and finesse of “My Way”. His releases afterwards fell flat or felt samey in comparison.

Yet with “Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes” he tapped into a whole new vibe. Leclair seamlessly meshed the ambient with the minimal, and the organic with the digital to smashing effect, and tossed in the conceptual aspect of his wife’s (and 2 friends) pregnancy to go along with it. The album features nine tracks, one for each month and begins almost clinically with “1er jour”, a collaboration with Rechenzentrum featuring very dark and digital programming, presumably signifying the child’s conception. By “64e jour”, the album begins to warm up, with organic ambience and Steve Reich inspired piano patterns. The next two tracks feature the sounds of water, rain, thunder, and begin to slowly open — as if he’s trying to recreate the experience of the nascent child growing in the womb. By “150er jour”, Leclair’s aesthetic palette expands exponentially, adding in guitars, loops, glitched beats, and by the end of the track a soft rolling 4/4 beat.

The album slowly unfolds and evolves from quiet minimal ambience to full on Akufen-inflected tech house by the album’s last track, “236e jour”. The baby is being born, it’s amazing and joyous, and you can’t help but wanna get up and dance. Throughout, Leclair’s knack for production is flawless, and as an album its flow is perfect in execution. I have fallen asleep countless times to this album, but I have also put it on many times as the precursor to a great night out. “Musique Pour 3 Femmes Enceintes” is truly a fantastic electronic album and one that needs to be listened to by more people. It’s never too late to check it.

Peace.

Pawel – Pawel [Dial Records]

March 6, 2010

 

 
Co-founder of Dial Records, Paul Kominek, has finally released a full-length under his Pawel moniker. The self-titled long player was years in the making, but well worth the wait, because it’s a surprisingly tight and refreshing collection of smooove tech-house beats reminiscent of Audion, Theorem, and his Dial buddies Sten and Pantha du Prince. This album grows on me with each listen and has been a daily staple on my playlist for weeks now.

Tracks like “Coke” and “Dawn” get things cooking with that classic Kompaktesque four on the four vibe that’ll have you up and groovin’, until he slows it all down with “Mate” — a beautifully atmospheric and subdued composition marking the album’s middle. Kominek then turns it right back up with “Muscles” and “Crillon”, the disc’s heaviest hitters, and closes shop with two excellent tracks: the emotive and pulsing “Kramnik” and the fantastic, vocally-charged, “Wasting My Time”, which may actually be the album’s highlight. Kominek’s music fits nicely in the space left open on Dial after Pantha du Prince’s departure to Rough Trade, and with Pawel’s debut sounding as true as it does, Pantha need not be sorely missed.

Check it and dance to it.
 


 

Luke Hess – Light in the Dark

June 12, 2009

luke hess

Luke Hess has just released his proper debut “Light in the Dark” on the fantastic Echochord imprint. Having cut his teeth in Detroit and refined his sound over the last few years working with the likes of Omar-S and other emerging dub techno producers, Hess’ debut pays homage to the Detroit minimalism of Theorem and Plastikman and Basic Channel’s deep techno of the late 90’s. And although at times some tracks sound eerily close to the artists he’s paying respect to, overall I think the album totally works.

This is 4/4 techno that is dance-floor oriented, but it’s also heady and reflective. It almost feels as if Hess is trying to recreate the glory days of Detroit techno, before DEMF, when sketchy warehouse parties and the City Club were the places to go to drop pills and sweat and dance and just lose it to the craziest, darkest, bass-heavy, four on the floor techno you ever heard. And unfortunately, I think this is where the album falters. It doesn’t go far enough. Yes, the production is crisp and technically some of the finest dub techno I’ve heard since “The Coldest Season”, but by looking so deeply into the past, Hess never really moves his sound forward. If anything “Light in the Dark” reveals his potential, an artist with skill and style, but one who still needs to carve out his own niche, and continue to refine his own sound.

Luke Hess is one to watch out for in the coming years, and his debut album is definitely worth checking out. Peace.

Edit: Also check out the Ignite the Dark Remixes (Mikkel Metal, cv313, and Marko Furstenberg). Dynomite!

Marc Houle – Minimal masturbator

May 16, 2009

marchoule

Minus Records artist and uber-nerd Marc Houle composes music for broken Atari’s and landfill Moogs, while still making us humans want to shake various parts of our anatomy in lewd and exciting ways. Marc knows how to control the ebb and flow of a dance floor. He knows how to keep the bodies on the floor.

It’s difficult to describe, but Marc’s music has a sort of dark wackiness to it. Yes, it’s minimal, yes it occasionally has that old-skoool Detroit feel, yes it is playful and fun, but there is a grey shadow hovering just above it all. It’s a solid juxtaposition of real emotion in a supposedly emotionless genre of techno. 

Check this track from his “Sixty-Four Week 3” release for a perfect example of what I mean:

Lovely ain’t it? My friend Mat calls this track a “burner”, and I think the term’s fitting.

Over the last few years, Marc has been working very hard on his live show and seeing him play at Footwork in Toronto a few months back, it was clear he is both a superstar in the studio as well as in front of a crowd of sweaty 4/4 loving freaks. The question remains as to why he is not playing at MUTEK this year?

Be Marc’s friend! Go see his show. Buy his records. Kiss him on the cheek.