ELLEN ALLIEN, MODESELEKTOR, ANDREW KEVINS
After successive album-length explorations of dance music’s poles—2005’s severe Thrills and 2006’s lush Orchestra of Bubbles—ELLEN ALLIEN has dropped another game changer: Sool, released on her own Bpitch Control, is electro stripped down to the bone. It’s also her most adventurous album since Berlinette, the 2003 breakthrough that put minimal techno fans on alert—Cologne, it turned out, was not the center of the universe. The new record is marked by Detroit-style deep-freeze foreboding—space bells twinkle till they beep and splatter, beats ride alone for measures at a time, Allien’s vocals come in quarter-second percussive snips—but even when the music is at its most minimal, she throws in details that make it rich, nuanced, and feminine. In Europe, Allien is an icon with cred—like Ian MacKaye if he were more like Beyonce—and her DJ sets are pure star power. Thom Yorke cited her work (as well as that of labelmates Modeselektor) as the primary influence on Radiohead’s Kid A.
Macho, meaty, and aggressive isn’t exactly the current trend in Teutonic beats—the Berlin techno scene MODESELEKTOR hail from is dominated by plinky austerity—but the fact that they’re odd men out at home has probably helped America catch on to them. (The Thom Yorke cameo on 2007’s Happy Birthday! must’ve helped too.) Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary’s acid-rave pasts can be heard in their love of extreme dynamics—from deep shuddering bass to 909 squelching—but they throw all kinds of pop detritus into the mix too. Miami booty bass, synth pop, the crunchy end of dancehall, laser bass, old-school cornfield rave, nods to the KLF’s finer stadium-techno moments, shuffling post-Cologne-ial beats, percolator time, Jean-Michel Jarre soundtracks, and nu-school IDM get rolled together into one totally bangin’ whole.
Andrew Kevins opens, Modeselektor plays second, and Ellen Allien headlines. 9 PM, Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 312-226-7600 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Jessica Hopper