- It's effective on the dance floor, but have we reached the limits of this lean, acid-flecked techno sound?
- There are two ways to think about "Dash" from Etienne's latest EP for Vera and Alexandra's Melliflow label. It opens with a banging kick, a guttural growl (think Cookie Monster on ketamine) and swung percussion falling somewhere between bongos and panpipes. By the time a worming 303 enters, it's hard to imagine this track not working. Like last year's excellent double-pack, it's an effective tool, chunky enough for peak time and funky enough for the afters. But that effectiveness might be part of the problem. A less generous listener might make the case that this sound—electro inflections, wonky acid lines, etc—is becoming a bit too paint-by-numbers. This isn't Etienne's fault (his early "Dez" was a blueprint and remains a high watermark), but it points to how the most interesting music operating within the new minimal continuum is now employing different reference points.
The vibrato synth of "Shroud" loosens things up, but the template feels the same. The drums and 303 dominate while some high-end noodling low in the mix offers signatory weirdness. "Perception" works differently. It's a hollowed track with cavernous dub wallowing over an anxious arpeggio. But still, this is a trick Etienne has used before. "Ksmn," however, inverts the formula of "Dash" and "Shroud" while remaining floor-focused. A haunted synth line patters across skittering and rolling rhythms while the track expands over a crystalline synth hook, whistling that sounds like ghosts blowing the rims of wine glasses, and a dosing of wispy strings. The record's A-side will rightly receive a fair amount of play, but it's "Ksmn" that demonstrates Etienne still has new ideas.