Belated platitudes part one
The first of two blog posts comprising my comments to the Pazz & Jop poll that went unused. Only now can the truth be told here!
Microhouse fattens up
Microhouse – the genre that sounds like a drum circle played with tinfoil, truck tires, and sawed-off lightning rods, while a robot sings scat with his jaw wired shut – kept up its anthill frug in 2003 with perspicacious pointillism from the usual suspects. (Most of these – Ricardo Villalobos, Matthew Dear, Pantytec – helped make Perlon’s Superlongevity 3 comp the most elegantly caffeinated example of the form yet.) But meanwhile, producers coming out of the same tradition of minimal techno and abstracted house went about quietly force-feeding their work, turning Skinny Minnie tracks into Loosey Goosey songs just ready for the carving. Ada’s “Arriba Amoeba” was a tugboat hauling massive, !!!-styled basslines through microhouse’s whitecapped wake, and the rest of her colleagues on Areal did their best to chop the waters, churning overdriven drums like prop blades through seasick-making chord swells. Curiously, Areal hardly seemed to know what it was actually up to: its website still trumpeted “Advanced Tech-Electronic Minimalism” as though it had forgotten to take off its LaMonte Young Pioneers bandanna after the fall of the regime. You want to tell them that the *Wallpaper has fallen, that white grids aren’t de rigeur any more – but whatever, they’ve clearly figured it out for themselves, which is what’s going to help their 2004 releases shift units (or at least column inches) while untold numbers of clickety-clickety 12”s from other labels are just going to help to fulfill prophecies about dance music’s stagnant sales.
Even Kompakt, once thought of as the Matron of Minimalism, went full-bore this year -- first with Speicher, a peak-hour manifesto shorn of all that Millsian karate-chop machismo; then with Schafflefieber, which is essentially music for elephants (or manatees) to waltz to; and finally, via label head Michael Mayer’s Fabric13 mix for London club Fabric, which swelled hearts with pure gothic pop as rounded and velvety red as the ropes that had been cast aside to let everyone in.
Ricardo Villalobos, meanwhile, attended to minimalism’s teleological project, not so much stripping things down further as proceeding to fill in the empty spaces with hiccups and percussive leavings – like caulking tile with the ground-up husks of Cuban drums. But “Dexter,” which was essentially Villalobos’ answer to Closer Musik’s keening “Maria,” lifted its gaze from the maddeningly detailed task at hand to get swept away with a yearning, melodic screen kiss – like a sweatshop worker churning out electronic gizmos bursting into song in a Bollywood film. At first, “Dexter” seemed like pure indulgence, an unusual shred of sentimentalism from the easygoing (capital E) glamour boy, but in light of other developments, Villalobos’ momentary rejection of microhouse’s austerity plan feels more significant, almost as if he were laying a primer coat for the thick, gloopy paint job yet to come.