- Tech-house is an odd scene because it tries to cross-pollinate and unite two strands of dance music that tend naturally to gravitate away from one another – the headlong speedy rush of techno and the slinky warmth of house. On the other hand tech-house has its own very particular aesthetic of endless hypnotic grooves and an avoidance of the rollercoaster ups and downs that typify most other DJs sets.
Connaisseur pretty much epitomizes the modern strain of tech house in that the ‘tech’ part in their equation is minimal techno, and the ‘house’ part is Innervisions-esque neo-deepness. For this, their first compilation, there is one disc of new tracks on which the songs fall at various different points along the spectrum from ‘tech’ to ‘house’.
At the techy end there are some real big peak-time tunes. Plasmik’s ‘Sanatorium’ uses a powerful US-style bassline married to housey but edgey-sounding and paranoid chords to create a very nasty but very dancey combination. You could imagine Tenaglia playing this in a parallel universe where he was still good. Jochen Trappe takes a more electro-y route with ‘Monte’ but it has a strong jerky appeal. The biggest tune is probably, however, Daso and Pawas’ ‘Crawl Around’. It’s fast and pounding with pulsing trance bass, nagging percussion and a Stephan Bodzin feel to the production. However it’s distinctly sweeter in approach than Bodzin with a very direct and very trancey melody taking centre stage.
At the housier end there are some really idiosyncratic tunes: Girresse and Erb’s ‘How’ uses an indistinct vocal snippet layered up with bells and soft tones to build up to a trippy oscillating climax. It’s captivating and completely unexpected and might be played by Dixon if he were feeling experimental. Estroe and Zoexenia’s ‘Can’t Forget’ is equally unusual with its Matthew Herbert-goes-to-Cologne vibe, but perhaps a little less successful as the fascinating intro gives way to a slightly cheesy vocal.
Where the compilation is less successful are the tunes that sit in the middle of the spectrum, neither one thing nor the other. Pele’s ‘Mars Marijh’ has a fantastic rolling bassline that you could imagine featuring in a Remarc production from ’93, but nothing else happens in the track so it can’t sustain interest for its entire length. Ripperton’s 'Zugunruhe' is more successful in that it uses only a few simple elements with bass figuring heavily again, and builds effectively to a jacking if not anthemic peak.
And this leads us to Patrick Chardronnet’s mix, which is the disappointing part of this compilation. There’s such a diverse wealth of styles here which could have made for a very varied and interesting set, particularly when combined with the Connaisseur back catalogue. But Chardronnet somehow manages to make all the tunes he chooses sound very similar (and indeed he noticeably avoids the housier side of Connaisseur, which is arguably the more interesting one). The mix is, frankly, not terribly exciting – although it might qualify as ‘hypnotic’. I suspect this is because too much tech-house all together can become a bit of a gray mush, a bit like ‘fusion’ cuisine. One needs to leave nuggets of pure house and techno in the dish to make it truly worthy of a gourmet’s attention.
In the final analysis the cross-fertilisation of different styles that Connaisseur are purveying clearly gives rise to some great moments, but also has the risk of becoming a little bland as the mix CD demonstrates.
1 Ripperton - Zugunruhe
2 Pele - Mars Marijh
3 Afrilounge - Tribute
4 Estroe & ZoeXenia - Don’t Forget
5 Girresse & Erb - How
6 Jochen Trappe - Monte
7 Plasmik - Sanatorium
8 Daso & Pawas - Crawl Around
9 Kollektiv Turmstrasse - Tristesse
10 Mark August - Minor Detail
CD2 mixed by Patrick Chardronnet
1 Patrick Chardronnet - Intro
2 Ripperton - Tainted Words (Plasmik Rmx)
3 Plasmik - Pitch It
4 Pele - Childhood’s End
5 Ripperton - Zugunruhe
6 Sebastian Roya - Compresion (Rekleiner Rmx)
7 Simon Baker - The Fly
8 Pele & Shokh - Thumbs
9 Daso & Pawas - Crawl Around
10 Rekleiner - The State of Things (Hemmann & Kaden Rmx)
11 Kollektiv Turmstrasse - Tristesse