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Making it Minimal
Make Your Transition
by sam butler & craig burton
Supposedly 2005 is the year of electro-house, riff-techno and, even better, 21st century proto-retro-futurism…? Bollocks to that. That’s just what lazy journalists and confused Germans who spend too much time blagging their way through VIP rooms and dropping too much money on garishly colored records from twatty record shops want you to believe. 2005 has been an incredible year for minimal techno, and there has been something special for everyone.
In any musical genre you have several major artists you hold on a higher plane. Richie Hawtin is sitting very comfortably in that seat with the upcoming release of his third ‘mixtape,’ DE:9 Transitions. As M_NUS label owner, Hawtin has benefited from having an electrical engineer as a father and has spent much of the past decade pioneering the way electronic music is produced and played live. Hawtin is pretty serious about technology, and he has the haircut to prove it. In his latest interview with the Slices DVD-zine, he enthuses about the possibilities of downloading loops in a club during his DJ set. He also predicted the demise of vinyl and turntable mixing, to a mild scoffing from myself and others as a 12” record spins pleasantly next to me. His new mix is incredibly wide ranging, including tracks from second-wave genius, Carl Craig, as well as mysterious Finnish outfit, Pansonic. In his drive for something new, Hawtin hasn’t forgotten his roots, but has left his loops and drum machine behind. DE:9 Transitions sounds like a mix tape you might make for your big sister to prove how cool you are. When released in full Dolby 5.1 surround sound glory, your big sister will find herself playing it to friends after lame-ass dinner parties, claiming it as her own discovery.
I’m infatuated with surrounding myself in unfamiliar settings, trying to speak to people in different languages and walking down streets I haven’t acquainted myself with yet. At the M_NUS label party in September, Berlin was showing off its truly accessible and very cool take on staying up past 12. The party was held at Watergate, which is about as fashionable a club as you can find in Berlin. I found the night to be a welcome change from the sometimes trying, grungy London warehouse or overpriced and often awkward super club. Berlin night life is just starting to take up this more glitzy and commercial form, while the majority of parties there still occur in abandoned squats and illegal venues.
I caught up with Ghostly International’s poster-boy, the affable Matthew Dear, prior to his DJ set on the appropriately named ‘Waterfloor.’ Although admittedly anxious prior to his set, Dear was in his element, as were all other M_NUS artists there that night- Magda, Troy Pierce, Matthew Jonson, Matt Hearthrob and Richie Hawtin. It was similar to being home for Christmas and at an old friend’s house party. Everyone knows each other and is generally excited to be there, although the music tends not to be as loud. On the same trip I managed to catch London’s own brilliant live act Saytek playing a traditional Berlin-style illegal party in the city’s east end in the basement of an abandoned building. Somehow the night landed me in the studio of ˝ of Duplex 100’s genius duo, previewing new tracks and sipping cheap German beer. Berliners are so into their music.
Under his pseudonym of Audion, Dear has just released a full-length entitled Suckfish. The album is wild, un-commercial and stands on its own in recent releases. You’d think that Suckfish’s immediacy and downright abrasiveness would be at odds with the likes of Ricardo Villalobos’s cavalcading percussion and swooping hand claps, but somehow, when played side by side, it all fits together perfectly. Over the past few weeks, it’s become somewhat of a soundtrack to life in London, which can be pretty damn confusing even during the best of times.
Like the repetitious drop of a high hat, London has developed a familiar and welcoming minimal scene. Its reassuring that the same people who talk excitedly about the next release on Dial or Perlon whilst shopping for records can be found at weekly experimental electronic nights such as Multivitamins in Shoreditch or hanging out at the local café on Brick Lane, drinking in preparation for a night-long bender at a Run or Sud party in Stoke Newington or Hackney. In a lot of ways, there’s nothing remotely glamorous, or dare I say ‘ubercoolische,’ about the scene in London. Driven by a bunch of kids who are just starting off in life and trying somehow to make sense of such an alienating city, it’s remarkable how down-to-earth people are in a scene which is so often dismissed as being pretentious and inaccessible.
The 19th of October marked BBC Radio One’s ‘John Peel Day,’ a celebration of the life of arguably the most influential radio DJ the world has ever heard. The day was almost exclusively limited to his love of The White Stripes, The Fall, Radiohead, and the like. Don’t get me wrong, the play list for the day was fitting; Joy Division is a particular favorite of mine, and besides, no one wants to mess with a dead man’s tribute. But it’s a shame that little was made of his support for acts like Autechre, Jeff Mills and Christian Vogel, all brilliant electronic producers and talented DJ’s. Who would have thought it was Peely who coined the phrase ‘making it minimal’ following a stunning set from Richie Hawtin on his Radio One slot in 2004?
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