Audion/Ellen Allien - Just a Man/Woman

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  • I don’t want to say gimmick – it is a nice idea for an EP. Two sides: of the Atlantic, of the gender divide and of the record – kind of ‘Dear is from Mars, Allien’s from Venus.’ Four tracks: his, hers and each one’s remix of the other. And each with an idiosyncratic approach to production: Dear’s strumming, swirling giddy maelstroms of percussion and Allien’s sonorous, melodic siren calls to the circuits. It works too, or at least, it proves something I’d personally suspected for some time – Dear is very much a techno producer, and Ellen can’t write drums, but that doesn’t prevent her from penning great pop tunes. Like Ada, a lot of her tracks are indie tunes in silicon drag (and drop). The EP opens with the Audion workout ‘Just a Man’, and it’s a sweet Dear thing, borrowing techniques from the atmosphere of the recent ‘River Camping’ EP released under his False alter ego. The track begins with a very typical Audion-ish motif, where a brutal, jacking, rhythmic whirlygig is held at bay, just. The track then fades out, which clears a space for the melody (which is rhythmic) to settle itself into the swirl of the rhythms (which now begin to sound melodic). The track fades again, falling into the chasms of reverb sitting just behind the mix, then attacks again, until the ditty-like melody finally gets pulled naked whistling at the end. Allien’s mix of the Audion pins a chugging rhythm to a menacing, atmospheric melody that works best when Allien uses her own clipped, sampled vocals. There’s always been something endearing in the vulnerability in Allien’s use of her own voice, the way she leaves its tone recognisable even as she feeds it to the machines. I still haven’t made up my mind about Ellen Allien’s ‘Just a Woman’ – it’s either an extremely irritating, wannabe anthem suffering from Lame Hook’s disease or the standout track. The drums tap away in a loop that sounds static and brittle compared to Dear’s fluid, snakey workouts, but somehow after the second listening the ‘marking time’ approach seems to be intentional, foregrounding a slowly emerging synth melody that seems to want to say something before, five hundred and some beats in, suddenly breaking into song. There are great ideas here, but the piece seems like a sketch, or a track that could be remixed into a finished work equal to some of its unrealised concepts. Frustratingly, the Audion remix of ‘Just a Woman’ picks up almost none of the interesting melodic components, and while it’s another satisfying seven-minute Audion piece, there’s not much cross-communication. Chemistry within each creation, but not between the creators. That might be the failing of the EP, conceptually at least, and it’s a failing made strikingly apparent by the startling success of ‘Orchestra of Bubbles’, where Allien and Apparat seemed to be falling for each other – and I fell for them both. Both the artists here meanwhile, while showing their respective strengths and weaknesses, have talked past each other. There’s very little dialogue, and so, although there’s some interesting work, EllenAudion’s coming together seems only to have proved the ways in which they stand apart.