- Imagine sitting in a smoke filled room. The smoke swirls around you, enveloping you, pulling you in and permeating your skin, your clothes, your hair, becoming a part of you. In the loops and whirls you can see distinct forms and shapes, structures so solid you can touch. Yet when you reach out, your hand passes right through the smoke, grasping nothing. And then, as you put your hand down, the structures are there again, lazily and hazily circling around you. Welcome to Mikkel Metal's “Victimizer”, an excellent album of dub-tinged minimalism.
Europe may not be the first place that springs to mind when people think of dub, but ever since Basic Channel's groundbreaking dub infused techno releases in the early to mid '90s it has proved a fertile ground for the sound. Labels such as Chain Reaction (Basic Channel's successor), ~scape, and Echocord have explored electronic dub in different ways, from techno, to click, to ambient. Europe's dub tradition continues with Danish musician Mikkel Meldgaard, aka Mikkel Metal.
Meldgaard has already established his credentials with a series of 12"s full of deep aquatic dub for the Danish Echocord label. On “Victimizer”, his first full-length album, Meldgaard raises his dub from the bottom of the ocean and brings it a step closer to the dancefloor, infusing it with a number of distinct structures, styles, melodies, and an occasional 4/4 beat. It’s most definitely dub, yet dub reconfigured to fit with the Kompakt aesthetic. As such, it’s perfect for those who don’t normally listen to dub; let’s call it “Kompakt-stealth-dub”.
The opening track “Memories” sets the agenda, launching into a subdued shuffling pop song, complete with vocals from Meldgaard, that easily stands shoulder to shoulder with previous Kompakt pop productions from artists such as Superpitcher. It’s hooky and immediately accessible. Yet it’s also wonderfully gauzy and warm, as steam hisses, percussion echoes, and Meldgaard’s somber vocals tremble in reverb. This a pop song wreathed in smoke.
The “dub in disguise” continues with the second track, “Rain”; with its rolling drums, throbbing bassline, and 4/4 beat it’s an excellent piece of minimal techno and is perfectly suited for dancefloors. But like “Memories”, “Rain” is also tinged with delightfully narcotic dub textures, such as echoing metallic percussion, and warm production. “Hemper” slows things down with a leisurely nodding beat, a simple hypnotic looping melody, and a warm comforting misty haze of electronic static. The track gently rocks backwards and forwards, unhurried, offering shelter in its warmth. “Lurlun” brings in electric guitars over the top of a swaggering 4/4 beat, yet again laden with dub textures as the guitar chords reverberate and the percussion echoes into eternity. Meanwhile, title track “Victimizer” is shuffle-tech on codeine, swaying from side to side as Meldgaard’s vocodered vocals sooth and sedate.
Meldgaard is both diverse and consistent on “Victimizer”; moving through styles with ease, keeping his structures and melodies distinct and easily accessible, yet unifying the entire album with a dub sensibility that infuses everything with a comforting warmth. Which, of course, is what makes it such a strong album. This is an album to curl up inside, to let envelop you; you will indeed see structures here, but to get the most out of this album try not to reach out and grab them. Instead, let them swirl around you, breathe them in, and luxuriate in the warm smoky haze.