in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Life in the Bush of Mnml, Vol I

The first thing you should know is that mnml is nothing. We were never mnml, and neither should you be. And especially if you say you are, you’re not. So there.

With that in mind, MLBMnml is pleased to report the following trendencies:

1) Tools: No, not you arseholes. A lot of artists are releasing tracks that are openly designed as loops and sampling tools. Whilst this will make the (un)genre even more perplexing to the uninitiated (imagine paying forty bucks for a double EP with four sides of ten minutes of an unchanging groove, outrageous!), but it does put more creativity back in the hands of the able DJ. (Un)fortunately, this means both an increasing scope for hands-on, balls-out, multi-layered mixes and the inevitable ‘don’t you get it?!’ scenario of idiots playing a four-bar-loop for ten minutes. That means you folks are hearing that beat around 1300 times before (s)he mixes. Argh. Some EPs to check on this tip are Luciano’s fabulous ‘No Model No Tool’ package, Donnacha Costello’s 6x6 series or Onur Özer’s ‘Red Cabaret’ EP on Vakant, which is totally unsatisfying as a composition but chock full of ‘cool, spooky horn noises’ which fade in and out of the mix.
2) Dubstechno: some commentators are convinced that it’s a fringey, nerdy thing that won’t take off down the disco. Certainly, this music seems to be appreciated (mostly) by nerdy boys in bedrooms dreaming of sexy girls (attested to by the bedside piles of tissues). But from Shackleton’s atmospheric mesmerisers on Skull Disco to Surgeon’s recent convergence of his old abstract, banging style of techno with dub-techno and dubstep rhythms (check ‘Whose Bad Hands are These’ Pts I & II), an fascinating cross-pollination is afoot. Interestingly, both dubstep and techno seem to share an imagination of romanticised urban decay, alienation and dread that’s allowed them to cross-mutate without any friction their stylistic differences might have caused.
3) Banging (vs. deep house): A lot of German floors are in the grips of a (re)discovery (and re-interpretation) of a lot of classic house, especially deep house and even (apparently) wild-pitch. Berlin label Diamonds and Pearls seem to be riffing on some of these ideas. Check EAT’s wonderful ‘upbuilding’ tracks. Not that it ever existed, but I have it on good authority that mnml is, like, so three years ago, and not even worth disavowing anymore. All this as M_nus’ Magda explains, “When I think of minimal, it's not what we play, you know?” Then M_nus goes ahead and releases two records that are, well, quite banging and old school, like the recent Tractile and Baby Kate remixes. Meanwhile, another thread in the bastard tapestry appears to be going right into the bleep/sine-wave techno of old, as you can find in full effect mixed in with the usual gems and oddities on JG Wilkes’ (of Optimo fame) amazing ‘Walkabout’ mix, definitely my mix of the year so far.
4) The continuation of trance by other means: If Misstress Barbara’s recent (and appallingly bad) release on Border Community is any indicator, the interesting if muddy intersection between clicks’n’cuts, micro/tech house, mnml and prog/trance that the label instituted has withered and turned into a parody of itself, re-spawning an openly regressive ‘trance’ turn but (hopefully) enabling more than a few former trance-allergists to follow the word and the idea without shame into dark and mesmerising territories. All this as (formerly incredible) Aril Brikha drops another trance-as-dishwater badboy on Kompakt, simultaneously proving both that Kompakt are the ‘Ikea of techno’ as someone suggested, and that Detroit is sooo dead. AND that dodgy trance will never die. Meanwhile, stay tuned as trance’s ‘bad camper’ self returns, muddier – expect lots of hard, trippy tech-trance reminiscent of the Air Liquide days, but returned repackaged as… mnml. Donato Dozzy, Modern Heads and even some of the recent Metope tracks like ‘Braga’ are really worth checking on this tip, and Dozzy’s ‘dozzydozzydozzzy’ mix is well worth the free download from Mental Groove’s website.
5) Fossils, nerdscapes and Ksubi party monsters: Meanwhile, in the absence of an organising visual principle (a la Modular), mnml’s fractious trendencies appear to be fated to attach themselves to (then be disavowed by) a range of genres which are fossilising, being re-born, or just plain miscarrying (again). The nerdscape/blogosphere/production microverse keeps on revolving and evolving new, hyped sounds every few months, but so often these days this only seems to have a (ahem) mnml relation to what the ‘kids on drugs in clubs’ are dancing to, or at least how they understand what they’re doing. Younger peepz, unfussed by the sharp genre-specifics of 90s partying, appear to be picking, mixing and re-arranging parts and pieces of mnml into an overarching ‘style’ unified by visual cues – so the successful parties are increasingly those which offer a wearable subculture.
Nano’s recent successes (offering a vision of mnml to a dedicated audience) seems to have ‘proved’ (at least temporarily) that the music is viable in Melbourne. And why not? The parties are great, especially in the openness of Miss Libertines. But time will tell whether the style, which seems to yearn for stylistic purity, is at odds with Melbourne’s innately rockist, eclecticist music culture (on the one hand) and an increasingly visualised clubbing culture that subordinates content to coolsie kids in Ksubi jeans who cut their musical teeth on Triple J Hottest 100 comps in the suburbs… shhhh.

© Peter Chambers 2007

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PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.