Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Techno is back

The Month In: Techno
The Month In by Philip Sherburne | Digg this article | Add to
I spent the last month writing a book chapter on the relationship between cities and electronic music, listening to Cybotron and car alarms, and measuring minimal's vanishing point against the parallel lines of the International Style. And while my approach was ambivalent-- after all, house and techno are first and foremost musics of migration, conceived in a long, trans-Atlantic, multi-partner frug-- it's the cities, and big ones at that, where most of the action still happens. So it felt appropriate to bookend a week with visits to London's Fabric nightclub and Berlin's Club Transmediale Festival.

The unspoken theme of the Saturday night at Fabric might have been "The CD's not dead," as both headliners were there to promote new or upcoming mixes for Fabric's record label. In Room One, Get Physical's M.A.N.D.Y. played a five-hour set, their first appearance since returning from vacation, in support of Fabriclive 38; in the more cavernous Room Two, Detroit techno pioneer Robert Hood was representing the upcoming Fabric 39, a no-holds-barred CD of hyper-reductionist, percussive techno. In conversation, the founder of the "Minimal Nation," as a 1994 EP called it, made it clear that the project of minimalism wasn't dead, despite the attempted hijacking of the genre by a global party scene for whom hedonism often trumps formalism. His set was proof enough: instead of DJing, Hood delivered a live session with a tried-and-true setup of sequencer, sampler and an antiquated Moog. Forsaking the busy clatter of contemporary "minimal," Hood honed in on the elements that have animated his music since the beginning: the sensuous, machinic (no, that needn't be a contradiction in terms) hissing of unadorned hi-hats; scuffed and filtered one-bar percussive loops; and deeply resonant melody lines. Despite the meticulous simplicity of his music, it never felt thin, nor soulless. Indeed, the presence of Steve Reich, who might be said to have invented maximalist minimalism, hung weightily over Hood's churning counterpoints and tumbling three-against-four polyrhythms.

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