November 1999 Reviews

Allen Jones: 'Table, Chair and Hatstand' (1969)

Adult.: Dispassionate Furniture
12", Ersatz Audio

Another EP of Adult.'s robotic meta-80's sound. This one reminds me of Allen Jones's fetishistic S/M mannequin furniture of the late 60's; with scantily-clad female figures as a table, hatstand and chair. Sparse electro sound, where living bodies turn to lifeless objects - and vice versa. Pleasure music for the pleasure objects of a totalitarian state.

Adult.: Entertainment
12", Ersatz Audio

This release features Adult.'s strongest track so far, 'Pressure Suit', with insistent vocals by Nicola Kuperus, which should be at least as big underground electro hit as I-f's 'Space Invaders...' was. Adult. would like to take us to the sleazy, seedy world of porn industry, intended "for adults" [sic] "only", but their music is more intelligent [sic] than that, so I would rather like to call it "for mature audiences". Sparkling electro music, which deserves to be heard more widely than only at the purist fanboy circles. XXX from Adult.

Richie Hawtin: Decks, EFX & 909
CD, NovaMute

First of all, this record should be called a "Various Artists" compilation since in essence it is a collection of tracks of individual performers mixed together and enhanced with an arsenal of effects and a 909 drum machine by Richie Hawtin. Hawtin, also known as Plastikman, is already a sort of techno & acid legend behind the acclaimed Plus 8 and M-Nus labels.

Stylistically, the tracks comprise of harsh minimal techno, also called "monotrax" because of its repetitive nature. The problem often with this style is that as individual performances the tracks tend to be a sort of tedious for a casual listener because of their simple, monotonous structure. Therefore most single "songs" turn out to be merely "DJ tools", which only start to breathe in the hands of a skillful disc jockey, mixed seamlessly together with their own kind.

And this is also the case with this mix CD of Richie Hawtin, who ingeniously melts together, manipulates and shapes into a single form tracks from such artists as Richard Harvey, Detroit's Jeff Mills (a masterful techno DJ on his own right), Surgeon, Finland's own Vladislav Delay and many more. Also some of Hawtin's own music is heard, though he is more prone to give room to his "guests". As an amusing curiosity, Nitzer Ebb's 'Let Your Body Learn' can be found too from the mix, probably saluting the early predecessors of hard techno.

The trick with Hawtin is how beautifully he manages to arrange together all these tracks and to give them a certain structure, spacious dynamics and continuation, without any danger of striking the listener with numbness. More likely, the end result turns out to be a sort of hypnotic; pure tribal drum music in its technological incarnation. In the world of techno, many are called but few chosen, and Richie Hawtin is truly the master of form.

Perspects: Desire & Efficiency
12", Ersatz Audio

Detroit's Ersatz Audio label is one of the vanguards of post-electro music, which seems to be getting ever more popular. Taking its inspiration from the early-80s synthpop era and adjusting it to the harsh realities of the ironic late-90s, this music claims to be more than another pointless exercise in cheery retro pastiche pop.

Perspects is another act from Ersatz Audio roster, and this 5-track EP consists of dry analogue sound, with all vocals rendered robot-like with the assistance of vocoder. In effect, this is a sort of mini-theme album about the pressures of modern life and the consequent lack of any real affection. What lies behind the sterile surface, though, may be surprisingly disturbing, like the sudden outburst of all the supplanted emotions. Electro pop for the Prozac generation.

Pimmon: v.p.e.
LP, E.R.S.

Pimmon's debut release on E.R.S. reminisces Pan sonic's or Mika Vainio's works, but with a softer sound, which could be compared to such Cologne luminaries as Basic Channel or Chain Reaction. These humming minimal drones remind with their snaps, clicks and pops of the "meta-dub" of Pole; the end result being strangely pleasant and relaxing.

Various Artists: Oral-Olio - An History Of Tomorrow
12", Ersatz Audio

Four nu-wave songs from Adult., G.D. Luxxe, Kitbuilders and Perspects, from Detroit to Vienna. And I mean songs: this EP features also a lyric sheet, so this is not another release of "faceless techno bollocks". I'm not sure if these tracks are an intentional parody of the 80's sleek electro pop, filled with characteristically oh-so-romantic urban angst, or are these people - gasp - serious, but it's strangely enticing. In a way it's ironic this music comes from Detroit, the home of black techno, which was in its turn influenced by "white" sound, Kraftwerk and European synthpop. Maybe now we have gone the full circle musically, and history is future is past is tomorrow.

Copyright © 1999 Erkki Rautio. Reprinted with permission.

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