What is it about techno that breeds pretentious earnestness? I’m not here to point any fingers (cough Richie Hawtin cough), but the genre has always been a haven for humorless, self-satisfied artistes of the type who like to wear thin rectangular glasses and scowl in their publicity photos. In almost any other genre of pop music this type of pretension would be, if tolerated, at least comically amusing in polite company. Why is it that in electronic music, and especially techno, this type of boorishness is not only tolerated, but encouraged?
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on ol’ Mister Hawtin—after all, he’s not quite so humorless as all that, at least nowhere near so much as habitual frowny-faces like Sasha and Digweed. But even when techno DJs are trying to be silly it still comes off as awkward play-acting, a brief concession between bouts of standing in place and pensively studying their immaculately crafted “sound sculptures”. The recent resurgence of minimal techno of the kind espoused by the Kompakt label has hardly helped the perception of these matters. While those who follow such things can certainly appreciate the subtle cheek of a gently loping bassline, the whole apparatus cannot help but seeming resolutely specious and hopelessly recondite to the layman.
Ziggy Kinder produces minimal techno in much the same vein as the artists on the aforementioned Kompakt label, only animated by a spirit of puckish enthusiasm that places the work at odds with the overriding perception of most modern electronic music. I would hesitate, perhaps, before placing Kinder in the same company as someone like Fatboy Slim, but there is at least the tacit acknowledgment that someone, somewhere might want to dance to one of these tracks, and that perhaps a bit of funk might be in order. “Der Trick Mit Der Kick” is practically anthemic for all that, with a rumbling tech-house bassline and authentic acid squiggles of the type you would never otherwise expect to hear playing in a Cologne art gallery. The track has an actual movement, complete with breakdown and phlanged synthesizer riff. Although it’s built on a layer of minimal microhouse beats, it’s got serious propulsion. It’s definitely not your average arty German laptop music.
The album is filled with surprisingly light touches. “Salti Tutti” is built around a strikingly Orbital-esque minor-key synthesizer movement. A track like “Probanden Tanz” is perhaps more traditionally minimal, but even then it’s busier than you would expect, even downright cluttered in places. “Glucksbotenstoff” almost sounds like video game music straight off a vintage 8-bit cartridge. “Paarartistik” could be a peak hour track in a packed club, featuring the kind of relentless melodic riff that digs itself into your head and sits around for a while.
Don’t get me wrong: this is still minimal techno, with all the stylistic peculiarities you might expect from such a remarkably insular genre (don’t take that the wrong way—I love minimal tehcno, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t insular). But it’s amazing what just a few concessions to conventional dance music populism can achieve. The music on Akrobatik is spry, fun, and eminently personable. Given the minimal nature of the music, a little deviation from the template can resonate with shockingly profound effect.
// Notes from the Road
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