Music

Mathias Kaden: Studio 10

The techno-minimalist master has extended his love for percussion to a taste for color.


Mathias Kaden

Studio 10

Label: Vakant
US Release Date: 2009-09-29
UK Release Date: 2009-10-19
Amazon
iTunes

Those in the know will recognise Mathias Kaden for his strand of techno that is both minimal and not. That’s because he likes to subject his bleeping monochrome soundscapes to a flurry of polyrhythms. But when you listen to “Swahili” on his Lucidas EP (2008), you’ll notice that Kaden has extended his fondness for percussion to a taste for color. Its techno beat is restrained from becoming forbidding, as its razor-sharp edges succumb to the elastic bounce of the synthesiser. Its rhythmic potential is realised by the warmth of African drumming while the odd paroxysmal flare of a jazz chord and flute loop channel do the rest to shatter any trace of grey. The result is an entrancing piece of aural theatre, one that undulates between the harshness of industrial reality and the intensely socialising affair of a tribal dance. In short, it’s edifying music, and no flash in the pan, thanks to similar treatments that make up Kaden’s debut album on Berlin label Vakant.

For the past decade, Kaden has been drip-feeding EPs and remixes on the self-described philosophy that timeless quality triumphs over trend-chasing quantity. Perhaps that explains why he is practically chief international diplomat for Vakant. Now he has the LP Studio 10, which took him nearly two years to perfect. And thank goodness for that. Like “Swahili”, the album is resolutely different from his oeuvre thus far. It finds Kaden at his most melodic and most willing to explore other genres.

To realise this swing in the weathervane, he hired a bunch of session musicians and friends playing real instruments as well as vocalists. But with this new development comes a risk. Certain tracks like opener “Intro Ducing”, with their spit-polished production and melodious sheen, teeter on the brink of clichéd dance track, to be heard principally on ubiquitous dance/chill-out compilations. That they don’t for the most part comes down to Kaden’s measured use of color, with an emphasis on texture, to build quirky sound collages. On “Lowrey”, for instance, we hear the fleeting appearance of a squelchy Lowrey organ, its selective application sufficient in making atypical an otherwise standard broken-beat number with a pummelling sub-bass. “Panic Stricken”, meanwhile, would make ripe Bargrooves material, were it not for a deliciously facile dialogue between the guttural Ian Simmonds and Martin Ruddloff’s flugelhorn. What we have instead hails St Germain.

As if the yang of his darkly musical output has found the yin of a more sensual genre, Kaden also dabbles in new age music. “Kawaba”, featuring the ethereal murmurings of Japanese singer Tomomi Ukumori, sounds like pure Kitaro but for the cavernous layering characteristic of Kruder and Dorfmeister. “Kawaba” works because it draws out the electronic elements endemic in new age music, makes them dank and murky, and so fit for play in a nightclub. “Re Menor”, on the other hand, is unadulterated triteness. With its gentle guitar strums resonating into a sort of windswept soundscape inhabited by a weeping violin played by Claudia Ander-Donathand, the song beckons to make the roster of Café Del Mar.

Kaden also revisits familiar territory. On “Chazz”, he showcases his taste for musique concrete, as heard on 2006’s Synkope EP. What sounds like paper-tearing, a bang of a spoon on a bowl and steady drips of water are weaved together to form the track’s rhythmic embroidery. Add to it a jab of the Lowrey, deep-throated vocal mumblings, a bleep of brass and you have a veritable sound collage set to a pounding house beat and onomatopoeic bassline. It’s a potent brew.

Then there is “Mascleta”, a rhythmic assault yoked to pulverising techno that summarises Kaden’s oeuvre pre-“Swahili”. The track begins with a polyrhythmic melange of echoing handclaps, shadowy hits on tom toms and the odd clatter of metal. Sounds steadily build up with an ominous synthesizer sequence bringing things to a boil. Another synthesizer then buzzes into and out of focus, completing this sonic rendition of something like the happenings at a ship-building plant.

Final track “1981” is Kaden’s homage to house music and its instrumental poster child: the Roland TR-808. Featuring a revolving bass reel over the pitter-pattering of said drum machine plus the frivolous murmurings of Gjaezon, “1981” is a track you’d expect to find on a Superclubb compilation. In other words, you’ve probably heard it before.

Kaden said in an interview that in using vocalists on the album, he endeavoured to find a union between electronic dance music and traditional song composition. On “Panic Stricken”, for instance, Ian Simmonds’s guttural croon offers much more than the vocal flotsam that so readily creeps into dance numbers like “1981”. Tomomi Ukumori is also undoubtedly the main attraction on “Kawaba”. Gjaezon’s universal rallying cry on “State of Stasis”, on the other hand, is an interesting if not entirely original attempt at setting spoken word against a gyrating electronic mix. Its lack of charisma, though, makes Gjaezon’s extended meditation more annoying than vital. On all other tracks that feature vocals, namely “Intro Ducing”, “Re Menor” and “1981”, the voice provides no more than window-dressing.

Even so, with Studio 10 Kaden has successfully extended his most accessible record yet, a gesture that came through extending his own bounds. The LP also stands to fulfill Kaden’s aim at producing a timeless record. You would be hard pressed to say whether the album was produced in the '90s or today. You can either look at this as a lack of originality, with some of the material fodder-in-the-making for big name compilations that never seem to charge ahead, or as a sign of continuing relevance. With outstanding production values on tracks like “Lowrey”, and “Swahili” before it, my betting is on the latter.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.