The man behind the brilliant “Baby Kate” and some choice Audion remixes proves that he’s capable of thematically sustaining a full-length album.
First off, I have to give the gas face to Minus for being so paranoid about having Heartthrob’s debut release, Dear Painter, Paint Me, showing up on torrents that they sent the promotional copy in the form of Dear Painter, Pain Me (Condensed), a roughly 20-minute mix of the seven LP tracks from the album. (Yeah, Condensed also left out “Blind Item”, a CD-only bonus track). In addition to meaning that I haven’t actually heard the full length of Painter, it’s also forced me to make a crude aural memory-map of where one track ends and another begins…I think.
Bear with me, because the music on Painter is worth it. By now, one should know what to expect from Minus, an imprint founded by legendary minimal techno master Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman and F.U.S.E.): minimalism that fits on the world’s hipper dance floors, with lots of attention to sound minutiae and the use of space. In the latter, Painter moves well, ebbing and flowing between thin, reverberated sound gutted of any low-end, to colossal ponky kicks. Also a Minus trademark, the bass sounds are often stuck in a limited and frequent repetition, sometimes relegated to a garnish for the bass drum, while the whooshing synths set out funky, syncopated arpeggios.
Due to the seamlessly mixed nature of the promo, it’s hard to pick out highlights, but perhaps the strongest groove is “Slow Dance”, anchored in a de-tuned and wobbling bass line that dances circles around disco hi-hats and, as usual, a throbbing bass drum pulse. It’s a time-tested formula, but that doesn’t mean it always works; the unfortunate fact about minimal techno is that there’s little to salvage a bad groove, and the situation only becomes magnified when said groove is given more time and space to wander. Enter “Confession”, which works decently in a DJ set, but quickly wears out its ascending sci-fi effects welcome when isolated. It’s a tricky balancing act, to maneuver between DJ-ready tracks and album-appropriate “songs,” but, for the most part, Painter accomplishes this admirably.