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Electric Independence

Retards are on some next level shit.
December 1, 2002, 12:00am

Retards are on some next level shit. Ever since Wesley Willis’ ‘Whupped Batman’s Ass’ in ‘95 and sonic renegade Mike Patton dropped the Kids Of Whidney High’s album Let’s Get Busy on his Ipecac imprint coupla years back, North America seems to be all over the “special” music by “special” people shit. Of course what many don’t realize is that in Germany, retard rock is sooo 10 years ago. Station 17 is the name of a group composed almost exclusively of mentally handicapped occupants of Alsterdorf Institution, a welfare tard centre in Hamburg. Collaborating with such Kraut-rock luminaries as Can’s Holger Czukay and Einsturzende Neubauten’s FM Einheit, Station 17’s 1st self-titled album on Freibank records blew shit up in 1991. Now, with four records under their belts, Mute records has released the fifth installment in the Station 17 saga: Hitparade (Mute). This time 17 of Station 17’s greatest hits of the last decade get the remix treatment by a who’s who of German minimal techno: The Modernist, Kreidler, Antonelli Electr., Thomas Fehlmann (ex ORB), Steve Bug, Pole, and To Rococo Rot. This shit is hot. Snippets and sometimes whole pieces of the original recordings were sampled and reworked in each artist’s individual style from the robotified Chicago house style melodies of Jorg Burger (the Modernist) to the dubbed out extractions of Stefan Betke (Pole). Check out Denyo 77’s “Ich Und Ich” (tr: “I and I”) for some serious ragga-schnitzel-rap that would bounce even the lowest Chevy Impala. On Hitparade, uninhibited and liberating expression combines with forward-thinking glitchfunk for the most unbeatable combination since the Constructicons combined to form Devastator. Definitely a must if you’re into words like “Kompakt,” “dub,” “Thorazine” or “constant supervision”.

On the other side of braindance comes Jonny Hawk a.k.a. Global Goon whose latest effort Vatican Nitez (Rephlex) is an infectious techno pop record. If you haven’t heard his last shit Cradle Of History (Rephlex) from 1998 do yourself a favor and pick that shit up. The 4-year wait is well worth it as the Goon continues to rock the glassy melodies over deep, fractured (but not too fractured) breakbeats. For music that for all reasons should sound played-out, Hawk somehow pulls out something totally fresh and catchy as fuck, breathing life into his transistors and circuit boards. Seek it out. “Most IDM is bullshit,” responds a close friend and label owner when asked what he thinks about ‘the scene.’ “There comes a time where you gotta ask yourself, ‘How much microsound can I listen too?’ You wonder how far can you take shit, and what’s the point? Now I just wanna hear music that touches me emotionally. Like Yanni.” For the most part I agreed with him (except for that Yanni shit). Now, almost as a reaction to this ever-growing sentiment, I’ve notice more and more albums blending the digital abstractions of granular synthesis with more organic instrumentation and melodies. Riding the line between barcodes and bar chords, Greg Davis’ Arbour (Carpark) release plays like John Martyn versus the Dalek. Folk meets laptop. Arbour falls a hair short of total synthesis sometimes coming off sounding a little forced, but when the shit works, the outcome is nothing short of beautiful. Definitely one to keep an eye out for if you ever thought ‘I wonder what kind of offspring Aphex Twin would have if he had sex with Woody Guthrie?’ One release that has been getting constant rotation in my CD player is the new one by tha CD playa himself Tim “Diamond$” Hecker (Jetone). Haunt Me, Haunt Me, Do It Again (Substractif) is his best effort to date. Gone is the 4/4 kick that permeated Hecker’s impressive Force Inc. release Ultramarin, this time in favour of cinematic ambiences that are at once shimmering and toppling, breaking apart as they meld. Taking almost all his source material from guitar and piano pieces he played and recorded, Haunt Me works great as sonic wallpaper, but truly shines on the headphones where all the subtleties and near-pop melodies come to the fore. Fuckin’ brilliant. Find it. Algorithm is a name most headz should know by now. If you don’t, you will soon. Easily one of the most skilled DJs in North America, Jeff Milligan (Algorithm) has been acting as ambassador for Canadian techno for the last decade. With his own imprint Revolver, Milligan has released six 12”s to date and has another several more lined up with tracks by fellow Canuck luminaries Akufen, Deadbeat and Thomas Jirku. Alongside partner in crime Mike Shannon, their booking agency Remote handles shows for an impressive roster that includes MRI, Ricardo Villalobos, Safety Scissors, and Ellen Allien. Now, with a mix-CD compilation Composure ready to roll on Germany’s Force Lab label, he is one step closer to complete and total world domination. One listen to the CD confirms his mixing and production skills as over 300 loops and sounds are remixed and blended seamlessly into the entire Force Lab catalogue. Taking a cue from Richie Hawtin’s latest DE9: Closer To The Edit, Milligan’s mixing style somehow sounds more refined and raw at the same time. Make no mistake, this isn’t just head music. This is bouncy and brooding minimal techno. Send Promos to Raf + Vince c/o Electric Independance, 264 Ste Catherine O., Montreal PQ, Canada, H2X 2A1

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Electric Independence's Top Ten (in no particular order): 

1. Akufen/ Quebec Nightclub (Perlon)

2. Metro Area/ 4 (Environ)

3. Altitude/ Cynosure 06 (Cynosure)
4. Deadbeat/ Miso (Revolver)

5. Pan/Tone/ Qui en su papa, mama fina (Revolver)

6. Altitude/ Cynosure 06 (Cynosure)

7. Repair/ Dumb 005 (Dumb-Unit)

8. Ben Nevile/ Pender Island EP (Logistic)

9. Copacannark/ Tomatenmark (Perlon)

10. John Tejada & A.Leviste/Syntax free (Playhouse)