For those of us who really love techno (and really, who doesn’t?) the last couple of years have been exceptionally good. There was a long period when techno was regarded as something of a sleepy backwater in the electronic world, never entirely disappearing, but overshadowed by more boisterous stepchildren like drum & bass and trance. And then at some point, around the time just a while ago when dance music had reached it’s critical and commercial nadir, techno emerged from the shadows, strangely invigorated and ready to kick some ass. Thanks to labels like Kompakt, Ghostly International and Bpitch control, it has done just that.
It is with the last of these labels that were are concerned today. Bpitch control, founded by Ellen Allien (no slouch herself in the world of producing techno records), has carved a niche producing minimal techno of a similar nature to that which you might find on Kompakt, albeit with a slightly more active libido. Of course, when we’re talking about minimal techno, it’s best to remember that such qualifications are very relative: to a layperson, it might seem absurd to attempt to discern which set of delicate blips and bloops was hornier than the other. But, for those who follow such things, it’s not hard to see that the Bpitch Control house style is scrappier and far more demonstrative than those of their immediate peers.
Boogybytes is Bpitch Control’s in-house mix series, and Volume 2 has been mixed by Mr. Sascha Funke. As you might expect from the pedigree, this is a pretty rad CD, positively brimming with techno goodness. Modern techno is a peculiar beast. Whereas, for a long time, techno was defined by big gestures and massive basslines, it has returned full circle to the comparatively precise, intricately melodic approach of the early Detroit practitioners. The dichotomy at the heart of the music is the same conflict at the heart of almost all popular music, albeit more explicit for the mostly non-verbal nature of the music at hand: the cerebral and the libidinous impulses are perpetually at war. The cerebral is represented by the precise and intricately subtle melodies and synthesizer riffs, but the basslines and driving rhythms reassert the primacy of the libido in dance music. You’d be well-advised to keep the balance right, and Funke does just that. There are some moments of singular beauty and surpassing tranquility on this mix, but they are offset with periodic reminders that this is indeed dance music, and not just artsy-fartsy bullcrap for effete Eurotrash to enjoy while sipping their mojitos.
Efdemin’s “Jean” starts the mix softly, with a haunting piece of cut & paste microhouse that brings to mind Matthew Herbert, before sliding into a considerably more dirty track—Tomson & Daniel de la Curtis’ “Synthic”, which bites the bassline from Underworld’s “Dirty Epic” but which also injects a necessary element of goofiness with its off-kilter ghostly synth samples. By the time the Hemmann & Kaden mix of Trentemoller’s “Serenitti” kicks in, we’re well past the preliminaries and into the ass-kicking techno portion of our show. Kompakt superstar DJ Koze pops up in his International Pony guise with “Our House - Papa”, which somehow bridges the gap between minimal techno and club-friendly vocal house without quite embarrassing either genre.
Villalobos shows up, with the Isolée Speak & Spell remix of “What You Say Is More Than I Can Say”, which contains probably the nastiest bassline of the entire disc, an insistent pulse that works well with the crisp high hats to create an almost cheeky bit of vintage club atmosphere. Speaking of retro, Schatrax’s “Mispent Years” could practically have wandered in off one of those recent Trax anniversary compilations, complete with sharp rim shot patterns and cycling hi-hats. The disc builds to a high climax with “Where We At” by Henrik Schwarts, Dixon and Ame, which also features an imposing vocal performance from house godfather Derrick Carter. It’s a monstrous track. it slides back down to some Plastikman-esque burbling courtesy of Sleeparchive ( “ACD-Voice”) before coming to a mellow conclusion with Phantom Ghost’s cover of Jackson Brown’s “These Days”—yes, that Jackson Brown. I told you techno people had a sense of humor.
This is a good disc that surveys a wide variety of approaches to modern techno, all told in the context of a superbly sequenced DJ set. For those who already know and love the Bpitch Label, this is an essential compilation. And for anyone who may be unfamiliar with modern techno but would be interested in seeing the genre put to excellent usage by one of the masters of the form, Sascha Funke has delivered an excellent primer.
// Notes from the Road
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