[7 November 2006]
The best part of electronic music in the early 21st century is that the medium has effectively established itself across the globe. While the big pop breakthrough of the late ‘90s never quite happened for dance music in America, enough people in enough places (including North America) were suitably inspired by the sound of computer music that the future of the medium became guaranteed. It may not be very loud, and it may never capture the attention of the masses the way it once did, but in the year 2006 you can go just about anywhere on the planet and find a fertile electronic music subculture thriving underneath a rock.
So with that in mind, it’s still possible to be surprised. I don’t pretend for a second that I’m anything but the most lay authority in the field; regardless of how much electronic music I listen to, there’s just too much of it for any one sane person to keep track (leastwise without being independently wealthy). Do You Copy? represents another such happy surprise: the output of a totally new (to me, anyway) record label, Mitek, based in the Scandinavian countries and dedicated to the world of cutting edge electronic music, and consequently, the cutting edge electronic music of the world. This set commemorates five years of Mitek’s existence, and based on the evidence herein I must conclude that they do a pretty good job of things.
Admittedly, while there is some very good work here, not a lot of it is terribly original. Glitchy leftfield hip-hop tracks like Smylglyssna featuring Bas-1’s “You Think 2 Much” and Jay Haze’s “Feelings Are Hard” are reminiscent of similar work by the likes of Anticon Consortium. Offbeat downtempo work like Mikel Metal’s “Famil” (with blunted techno beats and ominous, Morricone-influenced guitar work) or Pellarin’s queasy “Love Without Effort” bring to mind similar work released on the underrated Hefty label. It would perhaps belabor the point to continue in this vein, but it’s worth noting that while Mitek is positioned very firmly on the zeitgeist, there is little here that really pushes at established boundaries.
With that said, the label’s biggest influence is obviously Kompakt. I am hesitant to use the word “influence,” on the basis that I don’t know every details of these labels’ histories—for all I know, Mitek’s rise could have occurred completely parallel to Kompakt’s. But the fact remains that in a relatively short amount of time, Kompakt has established a sound that remains entirely distinctive and instantly recognizable. The real test of this is just how easy it is for critics and interested listeners to identify copycat tracks. A track like Anders Ilar’s “Between the Digits” could easily have wandered in off the most recent Total compilation.
If this sounds overly harsh, it’s not meant to be—there’s a lot of enjoyable music here. If Mitek distinguishes itself in any way, it is in the accentuated low-end. Whereas many modern microhouse tracks seem almost surgically precise in their emaciated basslines, there is a slight twinge of unruliness in the low end of tracks like Per Mikael’s “Johanneberg Cares”, with its warped Detroit acid feel. It may be an imperceptible difference to all but the most attuned experts, but this is how the evolution of electronic music can be measured in the year 2006, by the accumulation of slight regional variations that might eventually add up to something bigger. Perhaps it’s time for a new sound to gain prominence in the house community—but until such a time, labels such as Mitek will continue to provide eminently enjoyable variations on established themes.