- Until two months ago, when Plus 8 25/1 quietly appeared on the shelves at Hard Wax, Richie Hawtin's most recent club record was 2005's The Tunnel / Twin Cities. A lot's changed since then. In 2005, minimal was in its heyday, and Hawtin was leading the charge. He'd spent the previous decade producing reams of seminal techno records (plus the odd house classic) under a dozen-odd pseudonyms, culminating in a string of game-changing mixes: Decks, EFX & 909, DE9 | Closer To The Edit and DE9 | Transitions. But from 2005 on, things were different. Hawtin maintained his manic creative energy but channeled it into things other than music: The Cube, the CNTRLS tour, ENTER. at Space Ibiza, sake. His DJ sets, once a paragon of the art form, began to feel aimless. And the idea of him as a producer became a distant memory.
"In the bank vault of electronic music, we all have our own little compartments," Hawtin recently told Electronic Beats. "Mine had been pretty empty... and I'm putting some new stuff in there." Throughout that interview, Hawtin describes From My Mind To Yours as having a laid-back, off-the-cuff creative process. He says most of the tracks were made without any plans for release—"Stretching," for instance, began as a sound test for a studio he was thinking of renting. The decision to make music again had come suddenly while he was on vacation at the beginning of this year. These tracks are the sound of him getting the hang of it again—clearing out the cobwebs, as he put it.
How worthwhile is that from a listener's perspective? That mostly depends on the listener. Hawtin is one of precious few artists who can lay claim to a classic sound—or several, really, from the spooky acid of Plastikman to the ravier style of F.U.S.E. Many listeners will be more than happy to have new material to dive into. For DJs, a package of 15 club cuts from six of Hawtin's alter-egos is buy-on-sight material. And to some extent From My Mind To Yours delivers on those fronts. The music is lean, crisp and effective in a mix. Even at home, tracks like "No Way Back," "Them" and "Gymnastiks" bring you to a place that's uniquely Hawtin's—cavernous, crystalline, at once sinister and inviting.
But something important is missing here. These tracks lack the verve and energy that always made Hawtin's records (and to some extent, all great techno records) so thrilling. It's hard to say why the F.U.S.E. classic "Substance Abuse" feels genuinely threatening, while "Close," one of the new ones, sounds like it's only acting tough. Or why Circuit Breaker's "Systematic," with all its rave hallmarks—big cymbal crashes, frantic half-melodies, backwards drum fills—seems to be overexerting to psyche itself up. At its best, From My Mind To Yours sounds like an homage to Hawtin's golden era. At its worst, it's a competent imitation of it.
This is more problematic for Hawtin than it would be for other artists. From the beginning, the idea of fresh, modern, futuristic sounds has been central to what he represents. From My Mind To Yours is no exception. "In keeping with the original vision of Plus 8," reads the press release, "we decided to celebrate the occasion by revisiting the very reason we started the label in the first place: releasing new forward-thinking music." Revisiting an old sound on an old label in order to be forward-thinking—it's hard to ignore the irony there.
There's no reason Hawtin couldn't come back as a producer. His utterly spectacular catalog proves he's got it in him, and From My Mind To Yours shows an earnest desire to get back in the groove (much more so than Plastikman's lackluster EX). But if he wants to step out of his own shadow, he'll have to develop a new, contemporary sound, one that's not only his, but his right now, reflecting an insatiable need to make music rather than just a commendable attempt at it. (For a model of someone who manages all those things quite easily, look no further than Hawtin's old DJ partner, Ricardo Villalobos.) What happens next is up to Hawtin. The cobwebs have been cleared. Now it's time to move forward.
01. Richie Hawtin - No Way Back
02. Childsplay - Stretching
03. Robotman - Simple Simon
04. F.U.S.E. - Them
05. F.U.S.E. - Close
06. Plastikman - Purrkusiv
07. Plastikman - Gymnastiks
08. Circuit Breaker - Systematic
09. 80xx - Creepr
10. Plastikman - Akrobatix
11. Plastikman - Cirkus
12. 80xx - Creatur
13. 80xx - Grindr
14. Plastikman vs. F.U.S.E. - EXpanded
15. R.H.X. - Xtension