Finger on the Pulsinger
[Note: Today's posting is a repost from my Informer blog over at URGE.]
[Note, part two: Due to my craptastic fact-checking skills, there are two errors in the below, which I'll correct with strike-throughs. All three Dogmatic Sequences EPs initially appeared on Disko B and not Cheap, and "Bug in the Bass Bin" first came out in 1992 on Planet E, before being licensed to Mo' Wax in 1996. Thanks to Sascha Brauer for the corrections!]
Here's a little something to get your weekend (or your workout) off to a throbbing start: Patrick Pulsinger's Dogmatic Sequences. You'd be hard pressed to find a more bracing example of techno at its state-of-the-art best. It might surprise you to learn, then, that two-thirds of the record was recorded in 1994, back when techno itself—especially techno like this--was fairly new. But that doesn't mean that the genre's slowing down: after all, four of the album's dozen tracks were released just last year.
Pulsinger is one of the best known figures in Vienna's fertile electronic-music scene; the Cheap label, which he co-founded with Erdem Tunakan in 1993, has long been one of Europe's most uncompromising electronic-music labels (not to mention being utterly bonkers), moving from a foundation in jacking, distorted techno to a far more experimental, all-inclusive approach. (Not many labels can count both minimal techno pioneer Robert Hood and 60-something lounge lizard Louie Austen among their rosters.)
Pulsinger released the first Dogmatic Sequences EP in 1994. Three of its tracks are included here, beginning with "Agom Drag." It's not hard to understand why he titled the record as he did: his churning, chugging arpeggios are rude, bombastic and yes, not a little rigid. They're also just cheeky enough to subvert hard techno's conventionalist tendencies, suggesting a healthy dose of irony behind the "dogma." "Agom Drag" and "Pinsleepe" fire furiously away, cymbals on overdrive, craggy arpeggios tangling and matting together like vines conspiring to pull down a brick wall. "Babylon 17, 15" comes from the same period, but what a departure: it's a lush, jazzy number built upon gentle, jazzy breaks and stroked with backwards guitars. (Pulsinger is no stranger to edit-heavy, digital post-jazz; his 2002 record Easy to Assemble, Hard to Take Apart, the Album: In the Shadow of Ali Bengali, featuring free-jazz giants Werner Dafeldecker, Franz Hautzinger and Boris Hauf, among others, is a particularly fine example of the form.)
Shortly after the first Dogmatic Sequences came out, volume two appeared, again on
Cheap Disko B (and shortly thereafter, licensed to the Belgian techno heavyweight R&S, which in those years essentially set techno's global standard, signing everyone from Model 500 to Ken Ishii to Joey Beltram). I would challenge you to date any of its cuts—"City Lights" parts one and two, "Construction Tool" and "Viagem," all collected here—to any particular era. "City Lights (Pt. 1)," "Construction Tool" and "Viagem" are all high-octane techno funk with a decidedly Detroit edge, bristling with buzz and out-of-control delay. "Construction Tool" is particularly inspired, thrumming with the kind of lopsided jazz patterns that Atom Heart and, later, Luciano would make so central to their work, and kitted out with all manner of effects that still sound ahead of their time today. "City Lights (Pt. 2)" returns to the acid-jazz motifs of "Babylon 17, 15." (As part of the group iO, Pulsinger participated in Mo' Wax's brief foray into techno-jazz around this same time.) The track recalls nothing so much as "Bug in the Bassbin," by Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra —though perhaps that formulation should be reversed, given that "Bug in the Bassbin" didn't appear until two years later!, which came out in 1992.
The four cuts from last year's Dogmatic Sequences Volume III are just as timeless. "Looq," "Transforming Language" and "Rouler" all come off as much older cuts: the latter two, in particular, resemble the oscillating sturm und drang of Panasonic's crucial early records, all 909 bashment and suffocating reverb. "Numb Thrust," meanwhile, fuses Philipp Quehenberger's death-funk guitar licks with a grinding bassline and white-hot laser blasts. It's so effective that it moots 90% of what today flies under the "electro-house" flag—this, in effect, is the kind of music that Black Strobe and their ilk want to be making. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 12 years until Pulsinger graces us with a Volume IV.