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Electric Independence

Chasing techno autonomy.
Κείμενο Raf + Vince

Dwayne Sodahberk

Richard Devine

Matthew Dear

Derrick May once described techno as “just like Detroit, a complete mistake. It’s like George Clinton and Kraftwerk stuck in an elevator.” This incongruity could have resulted in enough good music to keep people freaking out on E in dark clubs forever and ever. But somewhere along the way techno changed. Maybe it was the saccharine psy-trance melodies that sent most of the world into diabetic shock or the sight of pasty British jocks getting way too high and dancing like epileptics, but producers started moving away from melodies. Suddenly it was all about the beat and cutting-edge minimal techno spiraled into a world of never-ending glitch-percussion and micro-sounds that had music academics drooling but left dancefloors with half a hard-on. Now all of a sudden, melody is coming back. Spearheading the return to melodic microhouse is Chilean-German DJ/producer Ricardo Villalobos. His latest album, Alcachofa (which means artichoke, as in layers—get it?), is full of the kind of uplifting yet melancholic melodies that bring to mind early Derrick May. Villalobos balances an expert ear for quality sounds and rhythmic complexity with a great sense of emotive melody. Electric Indy talked with Villalobos and asked him why his album rules and most other albums suck. “One big mistake is that a lot of producers who are into digital mixing, mastering and compressing are mixing with little speakers and headphones, It’s important to get the music out into an analogue console, to have fucking big speakers with a fucking big soundsystem and subwoofer, because this is exactly the situation you have in the club. You need to experience the club situation in the studio. I push amps to the edge.” With its eight-minute tracks, Alcachofa is definitely a club album that’s meant to be mixed slowly. While some may criticize Detroit for being stuck in one sound, fourth-wave Motor City labels like Ghostly International are doing their best to break out of the mold. Matthew Dear’s first full-length under his own name (he already released a few EPs and 12”s on Ghostly and did shit as False on Plus 8 and as Jabberjaw on Perlon) is due out in November. Since his debut on Ghostly awhile back, Dear has made a name for himself as one of North America’s best new tech-house producers. Some of the processed vocals are kinda twisted Jamie Liddel-style, some of the instrumentation is kinda Herbert-y (analog synth accordions), the melodies are quirky in a digital kind of way, and some of the sample fragments sound like Akufen. “Dog Days,” the 12” single off the album is absolutely sick. It sounds like a killer tech house version of a David Bowie/Stevie Wonder collab, and if it doesn’t become huge, I will hurt somebody. Awhile back Electric Indy was getting real excited about this whole organic folktronic sound that started rising out of the cold IDM glitchscape. Now it seems a lot of new producers are just getting lazy with it and slapping some granulated minor guitar patterns on top of half-assed glitchy IDM rhythms tracks, making it real difficult to tell one from the other. Add to that the DIY, supposed-to-be-out-of-tune-’cuz-it’s-raw vocals that are painfully uninteresting, and we’re back in a flood of lo-fi hell. Luckily there are a few out there who haven’t forgotten how to write a good song. Swedish electro-glitch-pop producer Dwayne Sodahberk’s latest on the Tigerbeat6 label rocks. Where other folktronic acts tend to go the hokey-acoustic route, Sodahberk throws together elements of electro-pop, DSP glitch-processing and psychedelic shoegazing guitar to give the album an edgier feel. Very, very nice. Also on the emo tip comes Mugison’s new album Lonely Mountain on Herbert’s Lifelike label. While some of the vocals are a little too down ‘n’ out sensitive, the production is fucking great. Mugison seamlessly blends live drums, bass, mellotron, guitar, and keys with glitchier programming for a loose, live feel. Sounding a lot like the Flaming Lips, except slightly deeper production-wise, Lonely Mountain is an experimental pop gem. Pushing the pop structure even further is Brooklyn-based Animal Collective, whose first two hard-to-find albums Spirit They’re Gone Spirit They’ve Vanished and Dance Manatee are seeing a re-release as a double CD on England’s Fat Cat label. While slightly shrill and more experimental than other noise-pop acts like Deerhoof (whose Apple O album is also pretty good), Animal Collective are a compelling listen. The track “Penny Dreadfuls” combine Philip Glass-soundtrack piano repetition with distorted noise bursts and feedback, while “Alvin Now” sounds like Steve Reich doing a Tommy James and the Shondells remix. When you get home from an office job that blares nightmarish light rock all day, you need a good sonic rinsing. Scrypt is the latest from Mouse on Mars guy Jan St. Werner’s project Lithops, and it’s the perfect thing. Not only does it have the “fuck to you” heaviosity of metal, it’s all complex and shit so it confuses your brain, helping you forget the Elton Johns and Billy Joels of the world. One of the more playful acts to come out on Tigerbeat6, Dynasty is disco punk version of Vanity 6. This trio of lovely ladies (made up of members of Mono Pause, Numbers, and an ex-Roofies) are all about catchy analog synth hooks, angular bass, and steady drums. But Dynasty is more multidimensional than your average angst-ridden synth-pop act. Seasoned musicians in their own right, they make songs that flip from rigid Adult.-style electro to melodic Tubeway Army insecurity all the way to Grease soundtrack soundalikes (in a good way). Most of the credit goes to singer Jibz Cameron, who goes from a lilting, girly-girl singsong to an animal growl in a heartbeat. American producer Richard Devine is pretty sick. On his latest album Asect:Dsect, he uses his sound-designer skills (he’s done sound for Nike commercials) to create some of the most nightmarish digital fuckery I’ve heard in a long time. While the complex, beat-oriented tracks will have most bedroom producers packing up their laptops in shame, the dark, atmospheric, soundscape tracks are where Devine truly shines. He ‘s like a futuristic version of that band Goblin that scored all of Dario Argento’s films in the 70s, full on creepy and light years ahead of the rest. RAF + VINCE