Lena Willikens - Selectors 005

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  • "To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings," the late neurologist Oliver Sacks once wrote, "we need to transcend, transport, escape… in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings." Lena Willikens is dedicated to this idea. She compared her 2014 RA podcast to "feeling hallucinogens without taking some," and to a mythical serpent that might "let you forget about the body you're trapped in." Willikens' DJing is usually described as psychedelic, but she gets that feeling across in an unusual way. Whether she's playing slo-mo acid, EBM burners, weird techno or hand drumming tracks, her selections have a sludgy consistency. The tempo rarely goes past 115 BPM, and the lows and mids have a grimy churn. Selectors 005 is typical of Willikens' sound. "Oil," by Le Matin, is an obsessive tribute to another substance her DJing often evokes: "I like it very much, h-m-m-m-m," goes the vocal, "oil is the best thing I ever drank." Willikens describes the compilation as a "little trip through the dunes"—towLie's "Conan," for example, sounds like a 16-bit video game version of that landscape. Some tracks, though, transport you to other kinds of places. JASSS's drowsy vocals on "Little Lines" hang over synths that whizz by like F1 racecars. "Tribal Dose," a percussive mid-'90s roller by DoseZero, has birdsong and loon calls, though it's tougher than the average Fourth World excursion. The compilation's seven unreleased tracks include a few slow-burning bombs. Anatolian Weapons' "Disillusioned" is the sort of epic, chewy acid cut that Andrew Weatherall would wear out (that's also true of the excellent "Morning Star (Dub Mix)," a 1996 track by Richard H. Kirk's Sandoz alias). On Borusiade's "Night Dive (An Exercise In Indulgence)," things get truly unhinged—a falling six-note synth pattern, descending amid jets of steam and pinball-lever toms, summons some fairground nightmare. On tracks like these it's easy to imagine a dance floor tipping into delirium, their defences worn down by hours of Willikens' patient, chugging builds. Other highlights are scrappy gems from Willikens' own collection. Sysex, AKA Heinrich Tillack, released three EPs and a compilation on Plus 8 in the '90s, and one of those tracks, "Deep Space," makes the cut here. He mostly made pumping acid and 909 tracks, but "Deep Space," with its screeching synths and comical melody, hardly sounds like a Plus 8 record, or like much from that era. On the other hand, the Chekov-edited "Voice Of Command," from the Canadian industrial band Varoshi Fame, is from 1987, and its squeaky-hinged beat seems about as old. With most other tracks here, you can rarely tell by ear where, who, or when they're from. The compilation works well as a listening album, with a couple exceptions. "Minima," an arid clap track by Parrish Smith, sounds like a good Cómeme B-side, but it'd be easier to appreciate in a trippy blend. The same goes for Vromb's "Amalgame," a k-hole techno cut of ocean-deep sonar pings that stretches on for a bit too long. Then again, Willikens hasn't built a reputation for playing nice and easy records. Some DJs would think twice about dropping tracks like these: they might be too slow, too deep, too weird. However accessible Selectors 005 is or isn't, there's no denying how clearly it communicates what Willikens is about, and the sort of out-there places she's willing to take you to.
  • Tracklist
      01. JASSS - Little Lines 02. Garland - Sepses 03. Sandoz - Morning Star (Dub Mix) 04. Vromb - Amalgame 05. Le Matin - Oil 06. Anatolian Weapons - Disillusioned 07. Parrish Smith - Minima 08. Varoshi Fame - Voice Of Command (Chekov Re-Edit) 09. towLie - Conan 10. Sysex - Deep Space 11. Borusiade - Night Dive (An Exercise In Indulgence) 12. DoseZero - Tribal Dose