Various Artists: Camping 2
Compiled by label boss Ellen Allien herself, Camping 2 showcases the best of BPitch Control's recent output, including three of her own tracks.
For those who may be unacquainted, allow me to introduce Ms. Ellen Allien. We must be perfectly honest in our admission that dance music is a male-dominated field, where despite the utopian aspersions of future-minded producers and DJs the world over, the gender-balance remains woefully lopsided -- the female is the object, the dancer, the appreciative fan on the sidelines while the male spins his records. This is why it has been so utterly refreshing to watch the career of someone like Allien -- a DJ, producer, and label owner who just happens to be female as well. Considering the token status of most women in the electronic music scene (let's be honest -- most female DJs are either ignored by the mainstream community or forced to adopt gimmicks in order to get booked), seeing a talented female become successful under the same criteria that would be used to judge a man is the proverbial breath of fresh air.
But on that same note, Allien's gender is hardly worth dwelling on, except to say that it is a damn shame that her success should be exceptional. But it is by no means unearned, as this compilation effortlessly demonstrates. Compiled by Allien herself, Camping 2 showcases the best of her label's recent output, including three of her own tracks. Only one of these 17 tracks has previously been issued on CD.
The compilation begins on a strong note with the Miss Kittin remix of Allien's "Alles Sehen". Miss Kittin is another strong female in the electronic music world -- one who made her initial infamy on the strength of vocal guest appearances made while wearing a latex nurse's uniform. Then, of course, she shaved her head, burnt the fetish gear and proceeded to make a name for herself as one of the best techno DJs in the world (if you don't believe me, check out any of her available mixes for the proof). Her mix of "Alles Sehen" is a simmering masterpiece, a deceptively beat-less track that depends on the interplay between distorted melodic elements and repetitive, insistent bass tones to create a uniquely atmospheric bit of techno that owes as much to To Rococo Rot as Juan Atkins.
Allien also contributes the Kiki remix of "Your Body Is My Body", as well as the unadorned "Naked Rain". The latter is one of the best tracks on the disc, with an emotional urgency belied by the harsh, fuzzed-out percussion. It builds to a crescendo but doesn't overstay its welcome -- remember when most techno tracks were around eight minutes long? I will confess that I miss the sheer ponderousness of so much old-school techno, but the genre's newfound songwriting economy (nothing on Camping 2 clocks in at longer than five minutes) has its merits as well.
The MFA -- not to be confused with the DFA -- contribute "Disco 2 Break", a menacing example of electro breaks the likes of which you'd hear if they decided to make another installment in the Breakin' series and had me compile the soundtrack. (That's not a bad idea, if anyone in the movie world is paying attention.) Kiki shows up again with a remix of her own track, "So Easy to Forget", that reminds me slightly of something that you might have heard from Scotland's Soma label, albeit with a more impish ear for odd samples. It's got the same stomping, bass-heavy authority you'd expect from a Slam track.
Sascha Funke contributes two tracks. "Quiet Please" is delicate in the vein of a Ghostly release, with thin, ascetic handclaps and rimshots built across a pulsating microhouse template. "A Boy" plays like a Kompakt remix of a Mr. Fingers track, with the insistent sensuality translated through a more ascetic prism. Smash TV's "Techtechtalk" reminds me strongly of Middle of Nowhere-era Orbital, in particular the grinding synths of a track like "Spare Parts Express".
Tomas Andersson is represented twice, with "Happy Happy" and the Tiga remix of "Washing Up". The former is a loping, irresistibly sunny track, with Latin-influenced drum programming and bloopy pseudo-acid straight from the world's dopiest 303. "Washing Up" is surprisingly subtle for a Tiga remix, building from a simple beat with the studied intensity of early Daft Punk, complete with a simple recurring melodic phrase that waxes and wanes in intensity for the entirety of the track length.
Paul Kalkbrenner's "Deep" is a throwback of sorts. It's got a deep proto-trance feel that indicates it could have probably been a hit record twelve years ago at Renaissance -- if it were five minutes longer, that is. Kalkbrenner makes another appearance with "Gebrunn Gebrunn", which sounds as if it were made to be played to a capacity crowd at the world's most intense warehouse rave, with stomping drums and squeaking acid elements peaking out of the mix.
"Land of Milk & Honey" by Ben Klock is a harder, slightly more IDM-inspired sound, utilizing the kind of skinned, brutal beats you'd expect from a group like Autechre in a pleasantly danceable context. Sylvie Marks & Hal 9000 get full points for the compilation's best song title, with the Dexter remix of "My Computer Eats an Acid Trip". The track itself sounds less like an acid trip than acid house, however, with a vintage electro beat reminiscent of Trax's best acid moments. Feadz "2Kind4U" is a departure, a downtempo acid track built atop an arpeggiated synthesizer line -- sort of like DJ Shadow's "Organ Donor" with a 303. I think there's also a Flavor Flav sample involved, but I may be mistaken.
Mochipet's "Beautiful Belonius Bits" seems like a conscious homage to mid-era Aphex Twin ("Bucephalus Bouncing Ball", anyone?), complete with the clicking sounds of a child's toy set against harsh, complex IDM breakbeats. It is followed by Modeselektor's "Fake Emotion", which breaks the album's template entirely by offering an example of shuffling, click & paste dub, complete with a vocal performance by Paul St. Hilaire.
If there was any doubt that 2005 was a banner year for techno, just take Camping 2 and put it in a stack with recent label comps from Kompakt and Ghostly International. Tell me that's not an awesome pile of electronic goodness. Furthermore, I'd have to say that Camping 2 edges ahead of the aforementioned discs by virtue of Ellen Allien's skill as a label boss -- a skill that has enabled her to put together one of the strongest, most diverse line-ups in the whole of the electronic music world. All killer, no filler.