At a recent panel discussion on marketing, the presenter remarked that you have exactly 5 minutes to hook the consumer. If you failed to really hook them in that time, you might as well consider them lost forever. There was a slim chance that you might get lucky and have them come back for another try but in the considerable majority of cases, it was already over. That, she explained, is why it’s so important to start strong. It occurred to me that it’s no different with music and in some cases five minutes may be generous for some listeners. There’s a lot of media out there and people are increasingly fickle. But I can’t imagine a better way to grab a listener than to open your record with the haunting and unmistakable voice of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. The track is Robag’s “Vatimafonkk Rekksmow” remix of Modeselektor’s “White Flash”. The rhythm is barely a ticking clock with a subtle bass presence underscoring the particle-like flash and burn out of electronic strings. It’s a beautiful and engaging track not entirely because of Thom’s vocals but as a well-balanced whole.
Gabor Schablitzki is best known as one half of the Wighnomy Brothers, a minimal and deep house duo who disbanded in 2009. Both he and his former partner Sören Bodner continued on DJing and producing with various solo projects including Gabor’s “Robag Wruhme” - the name used for this particular project. Followers of Robag may be a little disappointed to find that the content of Olgamikks is a compilation of previously released Robag Wruhme remixes of other artists’ material but to leave it at that would be a gross oversimplification. There is also the often underappreciated art of the mix involved here and it demands consideration.
If you’ve ever observed the pressure of silence in a room where someone has just said something really awkward then you know the space between sounds is as much a tool in any producer’s toolbox as the beats that punctuate it. This is where minimal techno has its appeal for many. It’s generally simple, consistent, elegant and atmospheric. The mikks he calls, “Olga” is a fine example of this craft.
That said, the transition from the first track to the rest of the record is a little bit jarring. I found myself hoping that Modeselektor had set the tone for the entire record on the first track but Thom Yorke merely stands like a WalMart greeter in the foyer of a rhythm sale. Unfortunately that moody refrain of “You have all the time in the world” merely gives way to the far more jittery beats of Robag’s Saint Grobian Mikks of Audision’s “Red Sky”. This is a toe-tapping house track built to last, but so completely void of mood that it stands in stark contrast right out of the gate. But the build-up is ever-present and the mix - sorry - mikks - seamlessly flows from here on out. There are no waves or crescendos, highs or lows, breaks or starts, it all just moves along effortlessly like clockwork. This is elevator music for a space station.
It’s not until you reach Kollektiv Turmstrasse’s “Heimat” that you’re greeted with a little bit of soul in the form of some airey chimes over a much more pronounced bass kick. But by the time you’ve built to the midway point it’s all stripped away leaving nothing else. “This Is For You (Robag’s Chukka Boot Rekksmö Version 2)” also explores this territory of looming synth pads and minimal, muted beats. It’s not until “No Turning Back (Robag’s Likkalize Love Remix)” that we get a vocal sample again—a simple and lightly delivered “There is no turning back”. The sound of it is really well balanced against a soothing, looping synth melody.
As we approach the end things start to meander a little bit with “The Greasy (Robag’s Mother Jones Remix)” which apparently features Bootsy Collins—though in what capacity is unclear. Personally I was hoping for a reprise of his role in Deee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart”, but to no dice. There’s not really anything particularly funky about it either. It just dabbles into lightly glitchy territory before we see the moodier side of Audision on “Yellow Sunset (Robag’s Stoylago Edit)”. This track is almost literal in its evocation of sunset scenery - its one of the highlights on the record and saving it for the end I think is revealing in that it establishes a pattern. It becomes clear that in spite of the steady growth we’ve been playfully weaving in and out of stark house grooves and more hopeful, but melodramatic fare. There’s an ultimate plan at work.
That first track will hook you every time and make you come back to this record for repeat listens. Those that follow are serendipitous. There’s a great deal going on over the entire expanse of the 1 hour play time. As a background soundtrack or a sessions listening experience it’s a pleasing aural journey not unlike Lindstrøm’s 20 minute epic “Where You Go I Go Too”. In the same way, forgetting for a moment that this is a collection of Robag’s recent work and listening to “Olga” as a single continuous Mikks is a pleasant and worthwhile record experience. But gratitude is certainly due to Thom Yorke on your way out, because it may never have grabbed your attention otherwise.