Sunday, July 23, 2000
Tim's Friday Spins

V/A - Chain Reaction... compiled

LFO - Frequencies

The Blue Nile - Peace At Last

Klute - Total Self

Doolally - Straight From The Heart

Blackstreet - Another Level

The Church - Starfish

Piano Magic - Bliss Out

Aphex Twin - I Care Because You Do

Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP

Right now I'm listening to the '98 Chain Reaction compilation - excellent stuff indeed. My favourite track is still the first (both in its track placement and release), Scion's "emerge0", which demonstrates the label's general modus operandi as well as anything - monotonous four/four beats, an incredibly minimal, amusical acid line and subtle textural manipulation is pretty much all. It's not too far away from the more minimal styles of techno and trance actually, but really it's like an old acid house track stripped of any concessions to the "song", where the pleasure sensations produced by the texture and the groove are somehow remapped across the divide on the Cartesian map, bypassing the body and feeding straight into your headspace.

Actually my favourite tracks are actually those which I could conceive dancing to, like Pelon's postively funky "No Stunts" (CR-10), so titled I imagine because of its straightforwardness. These sorts of tracks are both soothing and insistant, the groove tugging at your body to move even as your brain shuts down. It's the kind of thing I'd love to hear played in a club.

It's the groove which really distinguishes this from other forms of minimalist trance and techno. Chain Reaction's output usually centers its experimental urges around an insistent house groove, which if nothing else the body recognises to be fundamentally different to a techno or trance rhythmic matrix. Techno, with its hard percussion loops, seems to create an aggressive interaction between the dancer and the beat. When I go to clubs which play straight techno I literally feel like I'm hurtling myself into the first beat and then getting pummelled backwards by every subsequent beat in the bar.

The distinction from trance is a bit more problematic, as trance's rigid 4/4 obsession is basically derived from house anyway. But trance removes the destabilising aspect of house's refracted pulse which places different emphases on different beats, instead streamlining the rhythm so that every beat is like a step forward - which produces the sensation so often associated with trance of being "on a journey".

A lot of this also tied up in the bass line and how it interacts with the beat. In a house track it is often the bassline which tells your body which beats are important, but in trance the bassline is a separate entity, instead providing a harmonic counterpoint to the melody. Some of the later CR releases, such as Continuous Mode's "Direct Drive Mode 1" (CR-17), tend to blur that line by using basslines closer to acid trance than acid house, in the process losing some of that wonderful distinctiveness (minimal acid trance is everywhere).

The unique feeling that house creates - of starting on the beat and then circling around it before returning (hence the temptation to shake yo ass in the meantime) in some sort of pushmepullyou arrangement - might seem lost in music like this, which doesn't seem particularly danceable. But I think house's continual four beat climax-release grooves produce a desire in the listener to always return to that first beat and hear the measure again; in a sense, the tensions of the groove tease the listener's ear and their body with the prospect of withheld pleasures.

This makes the prospect of listening to incredibly simplistic, unchanging ten-minute soundscapes like these so much more inviting than the endless battery or drilling of minimalist techno or trance. Of course I'd always just assumed that I wasn't incredibly interested in any minimalist dance music, so maybe on the strength of my attraction for this I should reinvestigate it all. Any suggestions?


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