Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't Call it a Comeback

It's been an interesting year for techno producers who have seemed to reappear out of nowhere (or after a few quiet/dormant years). Moritz von Oswald released an album with Carl Craig and started showing up for interviews. Another German legend, Wolfgang Voigt, re-released the his four albums as Gas and played his first live gigs under that moniker. A couple of weekends ago, I caught a couple of semi-comebacks at close range, at a party featuring Move D and Fairmont. It's a big stretch to say that Jake Fairley ever took a leave of absence from music, but he's a slow worker by many producers' standards, and his chameleon-like excursions between dance genres (plus his foray into rock as part of The Uncut) gives the impression that his career is nothing but a well-spaced series of vanishing and reappearing acts. Working as Fairmont, he is able to tap into the wave of more organic, soulful, minimal techno of the moment while taking advantage of his live rig to tease the crowd with the types of huge, extended breakdowns that you'd expect from a trance set. This pattern gets awfully repetitive once his set approaches the hour mark, and while I personally would have preferred if he'd balanced those tricks with more fluid, breakdown-free stretches, I was clearly in the minority among the crowd that night. [cute piece of personal trivia: Jake Fairley is now the first artist that I've seen live in three different cities]

Move D's period of dormancy lasted so long that I'd completely forgotten about his work with longtime collaborator Jonah Sharp aka Spacetime Continuum -- such as his remix on the latter's "rEMIT rECAPS" album. There's something dispassionate about the way Move D strips techno of its robotic, futuristic elements and makes it safe for cafes as well as dancefloors, and his recent podcast for Resident Advisor, which was filled with his new and unreleased recordings, left me a bit cold. But his DJ set efforlessly combined the smooth and the rough, bridging from his mellowed-out bread-and-butter techno to harder, more teeth-rattling tracks over the course of a stellar 2+ hour set.

It had been years since I'd heard the name Petar Dundov, who, under the name of Brothers Yard, used to create some of the harshest, most punishing pure techno around. After stuffing his brain with the music of the 70's, specifically prog, motorik and Sheffield-oriented synth pop, he's produced what might be the year's best techno album, "Escapements". The tracks are long -- virtually all of them run between eight and ten minutes -- but their looping, skittering melodies are addictive and manage to be both sing-song playful and suitable for the strictest of dancefloors. It all reminds me of how and why Orbital were nearly unassailable in the mid-90's. With the exception of an introspective track like "Anya", Dundov doesn't engage in cinematic storytelling in the style of "In Sides" or "The Box" EP, but you took "Mddle of Nowhere"-era Orbital, subtracted some Detroit and replaced it with Cluster, you'd more or less end up with "Escapements". The Cluster comparisons feel particularly fitting, in the way that synth melodies act as both the hooks and the rhythmic propeller of the tracks.

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