Richie Hawtin - CLOSE COMBINED (Live, GLASGOW, LONDON, TOKYO)

  • The techno artist's live show attempts to debunk the "press play" myth, but succeeds without its unneccessary concept.
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  • Richie Hawtin's latest release, an audiovisual live set called CLOSE COMBINED (Live, GLASGOW, LONDON, TOKYO), continues the debate about what DJs actually do. It's flared up a few times, perhaps most notably in 2012 after Rolling Stone published a cover story on EDM superstar Deadmau5, in which he asserted that we all press play. Hawtin echoes the phrase in a description of CLOSE COMBINED's mission to "bring greater transparency to the art of DJing in the 'press play' era." But this response arrives too late to a stale debate. The visuals, which show his hands manipulating synths, sequencers and drum machines, are meant to help observers connect his knob turns and fader slides to their corresponding sonic output. But if you're not familiar with the machines in his set-up it won't make much sense. It's also boring to watch, like a megascreen trained on a guitar god's fingers on the fretboard. This angle is an especially awkward fit for techno because it pays lip service to traditional notions of musicality and physical instrument playing. Moreover, it encourages people on the dance floor to behave like passive concert-goers, all facing the stage and gawking at a screen rather than, you know, clubbing. (Granted, CLOSE COMBINED was filmed at concert venues rather than nightclubs.) The mix doesn't need a marketing pitch to justify its artistic merit. The hour's progression through 16 solo and collaborative productions (plus a few tracks from other artists) highlights a deep knowledge not only of the gear he's using, but of what makes a good DJ set—the latter is a key ingredient that's often missing from live techno sets. CLOSE COMBINED, though aesthetically uniform, sounds more like a DJ set than one long-winded song. It's 70 minutes of capital-T Techno set to bleep, tunnel, boom, chug, thunder and hammer. After a deeper, heads-down intro segment, Hawtin hits a high intensity and reaches mega-climactic moments at 30 and 60 minutes like clockwork. His palate is a mix of classic techno signifiers like interplaying woop-bloop melodies, satisfyingly bonkers acid lines and moody tonal sweeps. Occasionally, corny tactics get in the way. For instance, he replays the same pitched-down vocal of his younger self explaining his creative approach to DJing three times throughout the set: the start, the midway peak and the end. It's supposed to reinforce how creative Hawtin's approach is compared to "what everyone else was doing at that time—just playing a record and cross-fading and mixing into another record." Yet CLOSE COMBINED is remarkable simply for being a live techno set executed quite well. During other breakdowns, Hawtin makes effective, DJ-like transitions that aren't particularly groundbreaking but can take some practice for DJs to master, like the intense build-up around 46 minutes where he pulls everything out, bar by bar, until the phrase ends with a lone snare that disappears when everything rushes back in. To achieve this, a humble jock must only pit the phrasing of two records against each other and cut between the crossfaders at the right moment. Hawtin simultaneously controls every element and keeps them all straight in his head and workflow without missing a beat. Maybe that's all a good live set is: finer control over everything, and thus greater responsibility over directing the room's attention and energy. It demands knowledge, deployed in real time, of how a track should be structured, both individually and as part of a greater whole. CLOSE COMBINED, the product of an experienced artist who knows what he's doing inside and out, doesn't need the self-important rhetoric of pushing the artform forward to impress. When done well, a live set is impressive on its own terms.
  • Tracklist
      Audio Version 01. Rosper, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Artificial Technology) 02. Eme Kulhnek, DJ Emerson, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Rolling Explicitly) 03. Kaiserdisco, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Acid Trip) 04. Cortechs, Mental Resonance, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Core Resonance) 05. Mental Resonance, Edit Select, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Antennae Select) 06. Edit Select, Rocky Miller, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Disengaged Acid) 07. Cam Deas, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Spontaneous Exercise) 08. Charlotte de Witte, Lewis Fautzi, S.Sic, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (These Restless Drums) 09. Kuvoka, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Kargi Kontinued) 10. Ricardo Garduno, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Heartwarming Acid) 11. Dario Sorano, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Hybrid Acid) 12. Balthazar & JackRock, Dario Sorano, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Hybrid Empire) 13. Jen Series, ANNA, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (When I'm A Freakin Acid Dream) 14. Christian Hornbostel, AlBird, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Sensor Acid Overload) 15. Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Moving Forward) Visual Version 01. Rosper, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Artificial Technology) 02. Eme Kulhnek, DJ Emerson, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE combined (Rolling Explicitly) 03. Kaiserdisco, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Acid Trip) 04. Cortechs, Mental Resonance, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Core Resonance) 05. Mental Resonance, Edit Select, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Antennae Select) 06. Edit Select, Rocky Miller, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Disengaged Acid) 07. Cam Deas, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Spontaneous Exercise) 08. Charlotte de Witte, Lewis Fautzi, S.Sic, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (These Restless Drums) 09. Kuvoka, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Kargi Kontinued) 10. Ricardo Garduno, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Heartwarming Acid) 11. Dario Sorano, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Hybrid Acid) 12. Balthazar & JackRock, Dario Sorano, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Hybrid Empire) 13. Jen Series, ANNA, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (When I'm A Freakin Acid Dream) 14. Christian Hornbostel, AlBird, Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Sensor Acid Overload) 15. Richie Hawtin - CLOSE Combined (Moving Forward) 16. Ossa di Mare - Vague State Of Being 17. The Sprawl - From Wetware To Software 18. Richie Hawtin - First Times