Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Live or technology?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2001 at 12:00 AM

I don’t think that this is quite what they had in mind for a mix CD. Where most DJs are content with the straight-up, cross-faded, 20-cut segment, Richie Hawtin has, on this second installment of DE9 (short for Decks, Effects and 909), taken elements of more than 100 tracks of dub, techno and minimalism to create more than 300 loops. This all leads to 31 segments of subliminal hits.

It may ring to the tune of heady complexity, and indeed the involved technology may be complex in theory, but one listen to the undeniably high groove factor would belie any pretense involved with this project. The result is, surprisingly, perhaps the most inherently funked-up production Hawtin has ever conceived. Yes, at work is minimalist theory at its best. But as happens only too infrequently, appeal can be found both in the chair and on the dance floor.

But it isn’t quite just a mix CD. Even the quickest of hands would find difficulty in switching elements at such a pace.

Continually welcoming the aid of technology, Hawtin has once again enlisted his effects boxes and 909 drum machine, not to mention Pro Tools and the newly introduced Final Scratch (also known as the laptop program, which will soon eliminate the need for those pesky vinyl discs). He adds a few additional computerized music programs this time around to drive his point home of sounds heard but not seen.

The slightest sampling of Berlin’s Basic Channel gives a new effect entirely. A shout-out to the playful Prague newcomer, Sergej Auto, while just a shadow of the original piece, gives light to the club setting that was conceivably never intended by its original author. Labels frequently visited by the thinking set such as Germany’s Kompakt, Klang and Perlon hold much sway. Plus 8/Minus staples such as Plastikman and Theorem vs. Stewart Walker provide the necessary glue to give this release continuity.

This attempt to further blur the line between the DJ and the producer is not an album proper, definitely not merely a compilation, not simply a mix. Rather it is Hawtin’s answer to the question before anyone dares raise it: “Why not just record another studio album?” Answer: “Because it’s been done before.” As has his DE9 concept, but not with nearly the same dosage of ambition, adventure, melody and sass.

This is the stuff reserved for the wee hours of Hawtin’s conceptual events. Which leaves this unusually late-night author elated, yet asking just one final question: When will the rest of his audience experience this side of Hawtin’s performance before 6 a.m.? Perhaps it’s time to bring the edit closer to the dance floor.

E-mail Liz Copeland at


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