Saturday began with a visit from a distributor friend who brought round a copy of the new ECM album, and pretty good it is. Review forthcoming, but I reckon V and L have nailed what could have been an utter snorefest, and isn't, completely, or unintentionally. Villalobos has been increasingly headed in this chamber direction anyways, so its hardly the coup its been made out to be, and the music can certainly be said to retain the ECM aesthetic, while adding aspects of the duo's own thinking-tinkering techno. It's adequately varied while projecting a clear vision, but I'd perhaps have liked to see them stretch further afield for source material than their limited selection. It's also marginally more exciting than ECM at their most exciting, hardly the label's objective, but in terms of mood, ambiance, sophistication it's on the mark.
Two discs is a lot to digest, and perhaps not entirely necessary, but I'm sure they've hundreds of hours of decent music discarded too. Plenty to explore though, so value for money for those beyond the ECM devotees thinking of shelling out. Keep the dancing shoes in the cupboard, and get the beard manicure ready.
Surgeon: Breaking the Frame
I've never been a fan of Surgeon's output, too damn heavy and fast for my old bones, but the hyperbolic press fluff for this, his first LP since 2000's Body Request, had me curious. It's certainly a departure from straightforward techno, whilst clearly an extension of what Surgeon's been doing all along. What remains is that relentless forward drive, given greater urgency ironically in those tracks devoid of overt rhythm.
Its here that Breaking the Frame works best, Surgeon creating a kind of anti-ambient: beatless electronic textures which feverishly jerk, throb and scream rather than drift. There's no chance of passively listening or dancing to these, aside from performing a kind of punk-ish St Vitus dance, as one would during Surgeon's live sets when he plays Whitehouse records, I guess.
Basic Channel have always been an obvious reference, but tracks titled 'Radiance' and 'Presence' make it concrete. Both employ the kind ceaseless gaseous flow that whorled through the entire BC catalogue, without any of the space: here it's all densely packed, and firing with energy, the former crashing waves into a kind of 2-step lunge (above), the latter stretching Ikembe chatter over cicada whine, everything toppling and collapsing.
The intensity and techno basis reminds me of some of Porter Ricks' beatless tracks:
Anthony Rother: The Machine Room
Surprised this hasn't received more press. Rother's an electro purist, recording as a host of aliases including PSI Performer and Family Lounge, and responsible for the first bit of electro I ever bought (aside from my adolescent purchase of the Escape from New York soundtrack), 1999's Simulationszeitalter
Machine Room then is hardly a thematic departure, but musically it is, somewhat: Rother drilling down into the core of his machines and coming up with much amorphous vapor, confused arpeggios and lonesome, dusty pulses.
13 The Machine Room - Part XIII by Anthony Rother (Official)
Could this be an electro analogue to Stott's Pass Me By?, a vision of 'post-electro' stripped of its rhythmic base and highlighting the used, abused, and obsolete matter within?
Resolutely and impressively bleak sonically, the cliched subject matter remains, most unpleasantly presented in the pseudo conept-album / 'rock-opera' framework:
The music is based on a story of a factory worker who supervises and controls the machines in a huge steelworks.
His thoughts and dreams have been infiltrated … the machine is everywhere he goes.
No youtube links but certainly worth checking:
Anthony Rother – The Machine Room [PS08/120]
Falty DL: Make it Difficult
Know little about this dude and what he's about, but I like it. Kinda house, but bucking at its constraints, making for unusually snappy, sinuous-yet-dense, brittle music. This is probably about as current and cutting edge as house can get, sticking dubstep and Chicago on top of eachother, pressing the 'quantize' button, and letting the loose ends hang out.