- Latest on Minus is a parody track from Marc Houle, which attempts to take the piss out of the trend towards pitched down vocals in minimal techno ('RU OK?' 'Charly', 'Can You Relate?', '25 Bitches', etc.) Maybe this is a gimmick that is totally played out in the Minus camp - 'Techno Vocals' surely got a release because it made Richie laugh - but I actually quite like the trend. There's a hint of gangster blackness to it (the lyrics are often black slang), not a bad strategy for nerdy white laptoppers, and the results are also often dissociative and dread-filled, which is a useful mood to add to the bag of tricks. (Villalobos used a pitched down vocal brilliantly on his unnerving remix of Shackleton's 'Blood On My Hands', which somehow conveyed the out-of-body horror of September 11th by combining the intoned phrase "When I see the towers fall..." with toppling over techno.)
But pitched down vocals are most often associated with Minus, and surely every demo they get has them these days, so what better way to kill a trend than make a joke out of it? Unfortunately, the only funny thing here is that some people will end up buying it because it is on Minus. The lyrics of 'Techno Vocals' are embarrassingly trite: "Why are all the vocals pitched down so low? This is the way we make tech-no." Duh. And yeah, it sounds as Dr. Seuss-like as it reads. I think it's too late for this gag anyway - I reckon Jay Haze, ever the contrarian, has been laughing at this trend for years by pitching up his vocals, and, unlike 'Techno Vocals', the results have been genuinely decent and soulful too, not just comedy records (check 'Ride the Pony' for evidence).
But this record is lame not just because the lyrics aren't funny. The music on both sides has a plodding, thrown-together-on-Ableton feel to it, built from bass guitar plonks, unappealing synth twitters and done-to-death minimal tropes that are as grating as they are amateurish. All part of the joke, I suspect, tossed together to make Richie laugh until he chokes, but it shows contempt for Minus fans to release it.
But who knows? Maybe the lyrics are in jest but the music is actually serious. Given the ho-hum quality of Houle's recent output, it's a distinct possibility (I reckon he should borrow the gear he made 'Borrowed Gear' with again.) If so, the joke is on him. Or on Minus. After all, sonically this record is actually not too far from the way they do make techno nowadays.
A Techno Vocals
B On It