Sunday, December 18, 2005

Blackdown soundboy end of year review: Philip Sherburne

Philip Sherburne’s year in techno 2005

“First things first: put as much stock in my proclamations as you wish, but know that they're above all personal. I've been lucky enough to travel a lot in the past several years, to many countries on four continents, though often - ironically - in pursuit of music from a very narrow, and northern-oriented scene. (For those of you who don't know me, that'd be techno - as minimal as you like, thanks.) But at the very least my travels (and I wouldn't discount "traveling" on the internet via blogs and newsgroups and private filesharing communities) has reminded me of the limits of my perspective. I listened to very little that wasn't techno this year; I lost interest in grime almost as soon as its emphasis shifted from producers to vocalists, and I'd be hard-pressed to name you the title of a single tune from this year, outside "Midnight Request Line" (which may turn out to be dubstep's big crossover hit — shit, even Ricardo Villalobos reportedly played it at Fabric). But I can't deny that grime/dubstep and whatever else it's mutating into is clearly, based on what I hear from its supporters, doing things that deserve merit. A few years, my top 10 list would have been a good split between techno, grimey sounds, and more esoteric things; this year, I agonized that my "Critical Beats" column for The Wire was, with a few exceptions for "action" and R&B, pretty damn techno (and white). I had no choice to go with what I knew.”

“The techno and 'ardkore continuums keep branching out, like they always have. For those of us who remain committed to "electronic music," "dance music," whatever you want to call it, but retain particular allegiances to certain styles, I think it's important to step back from the big picture and admit that we're not experts in any larger sense; we can only know what we seek out. And for all but a few extraordinarily curious, perseverant, canny and intelligent writers and listeners, the further we travel down a certain rabbit hole, the harder it gets to hear the thumping in the other tunnels.”

“Having supplicated, allow me to evangelize for a moment. Techno really did pick up considerable speed this year, both within the scene and, more surprisingly, in American indie-mainstream media and even the UK prog house scene (which, perhaps realizing the imminence of its aesthetic bankruptcy, decided to invest in German properties). When I say "techno" I really mean what goes variously by the names "electro-house," "minimal," and "minimal techno," though the categories be fluid and the descriptors thin.”

“The year began with ubiquitous club tracks like Tomas Andersson's "Washing Up" and Roman Flügel's "Geht's Noch," and ballooned to enormous proportions with the psychedelic neo-prog of Border Community artists Nathan Fake and James Holden. M.A.N.D.Y. vs Booka Shade's "Mandarine Girl," crowned "track of the summer" in Ibiza this year, served as the caulking between those two slab-like styles, along with tracks like Einmusik's "Jittery Heritage," rocketing tight riffs into faraway orbits. Acid maintained its cruising velocity, sometimes serving as welcome throwback club filler, and sometimes morphing into surprising forms. (Les Visiteur's "Drop it Like It's Hot" mix sits somewhere in between those two poles.) And retro leanings swelled in the graceful, machinic work of Sleep Archive and his increasingly numerous followers.”

“None of this stuff is really minimal, despite the fact that most of it wears the tag on its sleeve (not Get Physical so much, but oddly, some of their shit - like half of Chelonis R Jones' album, for instance - is far sparser than half of what came out on Kompakt or even Perlon this year). The stuff that used the smallest sounds was bigger and busier than ever (and sometimes, as on Dominik Eulberg's remix for Hell, hid some serious dynamite strapped underneath its sleek, Dior Homme-proportioned vest). Rhythms got stickier, pricklier and more syncopated than ever. Micro-edit experts like Eulberg and Robag Wruhme stuck out, but there were morsels of pure rhythmic inspiration to be found everywhere: Guido Schneider, Matt John, Anja Schneider and her Mobilee label, Alex Smoke, Onur Özer… I could go on, but my apartment has no heating and it hurts to flip through records. (I sort of kid, but this is also a new development, at least for me: despite the ubiquity of certain names, there were more new and unknown-to-me talents this year than in ages, to the point that I could no longer keep artists, titles or labels straight in my mind — they all just blurred into that faceless techno supersystem that they aspire to, beyond identity. Say what you will about the flow of Hawtin's DE9|Transitions mix CD, which spun hundreds of track snippets together in an inextricable mesh; in exploiting the post-identity phase of the best current techno, he tapped into something. Ironically, of course, Hawtin and his most recent press photos represent the peak of celebrity, as far as this scene goes, so who knows exactly where this leaves us.)”

“In 2006 I expect to be writing a lot about the line. Even as techno has fractured internally this year, its overarching scope has become more unified, whether in the trancy melodies of Wruhme's mix for Triola or the neverending undulations of Sleep Archive. This new direction occurred to me while I was writing the press sheet for Ricardo Villalobos' Achso EP for Cadenza (thus full disclosure, etc. etc.). In recent years, even as Villalobos has launched himself into the stratosphere of "superstar DJs," his productions have run deeper and deeper underground, til they feel like water trickling through rocks and loose soil. On Achso, drums disintegrate at will and even looped percussive sequences never seem to stop mutating; but amidst so much chaos emerge long, meandering lines - stringed instruments, voices, pure sourceless sound - that snake unimpeded through the (d)evolutionary ruckus around them. Villalobos is a master of this kind of double intensity, but he's not the only one pursuing its path; Isolée and Lindstrom, for example, are burrowing similar holes through disco. And while acid throwbacks and jock-rock coke-techno and ballsy rave bombast will assuredly continue to reign on floors in 2006, I suspect that this thread will continue to bind things together in unexpected ways, drawing techno ever tighter into a Cat's Cradle of productively conflicting energies.”

Philip Sherburne’s top tech 10 for 2005

Isolée “My Hi-Matic” (Playhouse)
M83 “Teen Angst (Luciano Remix)” (Mute)
Motiivi:Tuntematon “1939” (Freundinnen)
Triola “Leuchtturm (Wighnomy's Polarzipper Remix)” (Kompakt)
Nathan Fake “Dinamo” (Traum)
Matias Aguayo “Drums & Feathers” (Kompakt)
Hell “Follow You (Dominik Eulberg Remix)”
Tori Alamaze “Don't Cha” (Universal)
Les Visiteurs “Snoop's Acid Drop” (white label)
Paul Kalkbrenner “Tatü-Tata” (Bpitch Control)

For more of Philip Sherburne’s writing check his Pitchfork Media column or his blog

4 comments:

dubway said...

very good as always.
thank you very much Mr Blackdown.
i wish this continues through all year..

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