- As Richie Hawtin immerses himself ever deeper into sound technology, his music grows increasingly rigid. Microscopic edits obliterate all traces of funk, swagger and sweat in music that revels in its binary makeup. Of course this has been the agenda of techno all along: the realisation of Kraftwerk's man-machine fusion. The danger of this vision is that it can be somewhat alienating to us humans.
'min2MAX' is the latest compilation of M_nus tracks and this manifesto is obviously shared by Hawtin's label protege. Hawtin and his coterie are playing with permutations of 'minimalism' in techno: repetition, spare use of sound, uncluttered arrangements and an attention to fine detail. This last factor is the most prevalent here - tracks often burst with information, but the elements are tiny and the programming meticulous. 'Precisionism' might be a more apt tag.
As such, it sounds beautiful on your headphones. Gaiser's 'Scatter' hangs a backdrop of Pole crackle behind wafer-thin hats and tender fragments of melody. On Tractile's 'Unquenchable' wood-block percussion slips and slides as springs, fax signals and Risset tones vie for attention. On 'Baby Kate', Heartthrob weaves staccato bleeps around a harmonious bassline before tweaking and muffling them into different beings. Insects circle as reverb-dipped chords encroach on Berg Nixon's dubby 'Victoria Station', while Marc Houle fuses together delay, pinpricks and bleep bass equally successfully. Konrad Black, Troy Pierce and Niederflur, however, make little progress with their bland exercises, caught doggedly chipping away at unyielding granite. 'Twilite 7' from JPLS nods heavily to Alex Under's 'Balas de Paja Maja' but lacks its impish vitality and the track plods.
The ten-minute 'Orchidee' is a joy: Loco Dice lazily twirls ice cubes in a tumbler before he rewards your patience with mournful pads and jittery drums. The same ice cubes rattle through 'Have to Get Back' - but Wink's liquor is stronger and so are his drums. 'Magda's 'Staring Contest' is the heaviest cut here and it's a delight: bright bouncy tones, squeaks and no-nonsense percussion sound positively neon in this company.
Much of the album is as fragile as the glass and ice clinking throughout: cold and sharp. It recalls Mille Plateaux and early glitch - Stewart Walker's 'Stabiles', Sutekh, Auch and Snd - but has the structure and precision of techno. This attention to detail inspires awe and occasionally delivers a robotic kind of funk, but at this dosage I can't help feeling cold. I long for a trace of humanity, a footprint in the sand, an unexpected noise that slipped through the cracks. For the staunch digitalist there is much to admire here, but it's a lonely place to find oneself.
1 Heartthrob - Baby Kate
2 Gaiser - Scatter
3 Magda - Staring Contest
4 Konrad Black - Ginkgankgonk
5 Troy Pierce - GRVL
6 Wink - Have To Get Back (Non Vox Version)
7 Marc Houle - Simpler
8 Niederflur - z.B.
9 Tractile - Unquenchable
10 Berg Nixon - Victoria Station
11 JPLS - Twilite 7
12 Loco Dice - Orchidee