Saturday, July 17, 2004
Angus likes Rex The Dog's "Prototype" and Justus Kohncke's "Timecode", and I enjoyed his description of them as "glitterball-friendly". It's the kind of thing one can only say after having listened to lots of fuzzy tech-house and microhouse, because these records are by normal standards fairly distant-sounding. They are big, they are anthemic, but there remains a sense of steely abstraction - it's not by accident that the front cover of Kohncke's Zwei Photonen depicts a glass skyscraper at night. And yet "glitterball-friendly" feels right. These records - to which I'd add Ada's amazing "Lovelace" - feel like they're coalescing into some sort of fusion of disco and tech, only perhaps not the most obvious kind. All three strike me as explicitly emotional records: the bubbling acid in "Timecode" feels like an irrepressible gush of love or joy rising through your nervous system; The forward propulsion and sheer largesse of "Prototype" imagines the excitement of first seeing a metropolis etched out against the skyline, the overwhelming sense of euphoria, displacement and freedom. Best of all is "Lovelace", with its by turns prickly and forlorn melodic motifs, gentle siren calls and warm bass churn, combining the evocations of the previous tracks and adding an astonishingly light gossamer web of sadness: the first thing I thought when I heard it was that this is the record actually playing in the background of The Streets' "Blinded By The Lights".
There's a couple of reference points I can think of for these tracks, such as Underworld's occasional blast-off into synth-laden anthemia (e.g. "Cups" if it didn't hold to such a strict division between its lush house and rave apocalypse sections). But mostly - and most curiously - I'm reminded of Orbital getting physical: "Lush", "Impact", "Spare Parts Express","Nothing Left" etc. In part, it's the interwoven melodic and harmonic complexity at work, and the fondness for shiny, rubbery post-electro synth sounds. As well, there's the way these tracks move quite openly between different melodic or sonic motifs, always "tracky" but in a maximalist fashion, denoting an attempted architectural grandeur whose tackling of the big emotions is never subtle. For "microhouse", it's definitely "big room" material, but this stuff is too rife with sedimentary material from the best dance music of the last few years (especially its most tuneful moments: French house, Metro Area-style nu-disco, electroclash, Kompakt techno-pop etc.) to be a simple capitulation into grayscale tech-house or prog house - and indeed, if you listen to an c. '93  Orbital track and, say, most of Guerilla Records' output at the same time, what leaps out is how drab and uneventful the latter often sounds tunewise, for all the fancy dubspacious arranging at work. At any rate, I'm all for this trend towards open-armed and open-hearted anthems - please let me know if you're aware of any others in this vein!


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