Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Ultramarin

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

The most prolific electronic music factory in the world, bar none, is the Mille Plateaux/Force Inc./Force Tracks/Ritornell axis of labels based in Frankfurt, Germany.

Beneath this vast marketing umbrella, some of the most essential recording artists on the planet are given room to work as quickly or slowly as they like. Performers such as Vladislav Delay, Gas, Tomas Jirku, Terre Thaemlitz and dozens more are seemingly always developing new sound forms (not songs, not tracks, not exactly), which the labels associated with Mille Plateaux eagerly release.

Want armchair-ambient-headphones music? Crisp, architectonic minimalism? Art-damaged, heart-pounding techno? Invest in just about anything these labels put out and you’ll get it, and you’ll get it good.

During the late summer and early fall, several new full-length CDs by relatively unknown artists were born out of the Mille Plateaux-Force Inc. stable. It’s not surprising to report that all contain stretches of power and beauty — though none go far enough to be called revolutionary.

Jetone’s Ultramarin is a sweet exercise in minimal dance-floor techno, a series of 4/4 beats overlaid with melodic stripped-down synth chords and strategically placed dub accents.

The producer is from Montreal, but he fits perfectly into the brave new sonic worlds initially explored by Berlin’s Basic Channel/Chain Reaction gang of the mid- and late-1990s. That’s a compliment, not a slam. But as good as it is, Ultramarin serves better as a companion than as a serious lover. Seek out the orgasmic Scion and Vainqueur releases (both on Chain Reaction) for optimal satisfaction.

Stephan Mathieu’s frequencyLib stitches together seriously strange loops that alternate high- and low-frequency tones with undulating drones; in other parts of this 26-song cycle, beautiful guitar, piano and sound track fragments emerge out of nowhere, get your attention, then suddenly disappear into the ether.

Though the pieces can often be frustratingly short, the whole project works as a cheeky manipulation of the average listening experience, which need not always be comfortable. Mathieu apparently wants his audience to suffer a bit for his music — and that’s not exactly a bad thing, is it?

Detect, Dub Taylor’s gassed-up tech-house CD, is pure fun from the first drop onto the laser groove.

It’s an arty, party love record — 10 songs, many with vocals and happy/sad lyrics — meant to keep the dance floor full. One track, “I Can’t (…you know),” is a misty-eyed gem, to be filed somewhere between Serge Gainsbourg and Herbert. Yup, that ridiculously good.

Geoff White’s Questions and Comments follows a similar direction, but as good as the record is, it never fully reaches the highs and lows that Taylor assigns to his.

White leverages himself as a house and techno producer, then attempts to reach a point of artful convergence between the two. He doesn’t quite get what he’s looking for; but that’s a small complaint.

White’s music aims to seduce, caress, conquer. When he hits his target — which he does on about seven of the 10 tracks on Questions and Comments — you can’t help but swoon just a little.

E-mail Walter Wasacz at letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

Best Things to Do In Detroit

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.