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Efdemin, "Efdemin"

Rubbernecking forum jockeys and slobbering music reviewers alike have all but hailed this record as all but the Second Coming of Techno, with many hastily adding it to their "Best of 2007" lists. For all of its bandwagon hype and post-Detroit sleekness, this self-titled full-length comes off remarkably good but not astonishingly great.

 

Dial

Dispensed in both CD and double LP formats, Phillip Sollman's first album as Efdemin makes frequent, almost casual references to early naughties Force Tracks tech-house as often as more recent Kompakt electronic dance music.  Working capably within a manifestly derivative style, Sollman eagerly inches his way towards grand peaks and windswept valleys on "Lohn & Brot." Tracks like "Back To School" are meant to lift the spirits on the dancefloor, utilizing emotive layered sounds replete with carefully crafted hooks.  It is abundantly clear how much Sollman adores melody; when trying his hand at asceticism, as with the bleak "Stately, Yes," he can hardly resist nearly four minutes in to let rays of sparkling light burst through.  The slowing metamorphosing "Bergwein" adds some of that old school Artificial Intelligence warmth into the mix, while "April Fools" disrupts its own sense of calm with pinprick percussion, militantly rigid stabs, and camera shutter snares.

Founded by a trio of well-regarded producers, Dial rightfully earns considerable respect from anyone following minimal techno and house.  Since 2000, the label has output a fair number of memorable releases on vinyl and compact disc, among these one of my favorite albums of the last few years: Pantha Du Prince's superlative Diamond Daze.  Fans of that record, his recent follow-up, and the rest of Dial's roster will assuredly find plenty to like in this project, as will those who still romanticize tech-house’s past.  Those hoping for a progression worthy of the attention presently being paid to this album, however, will likely find that it's hardly the brilliant masterpiece it's been previously been chalked up as.

 

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Review of the Day

NURSE WITH WOUND, "ANGRY EELECTRIC FINGER (SPITCH'COCK ONE)"
United Dairies
Though Steven Stapleton is inevitably characterized as a something of a "lone wolf" — a vaguely psychotic outsider, compulsively and prolifically pumping out mysterious and inscrutable musical esoterica from some dilapidated shack deep in the Irish countryside — he has, in fact, remained a thoroughly collaborative artist throughout his long career. It took 1999's compilation The Swinging Reflective: Favourite Moments of Mutual Ecstasy to finally demonstrate the impressive array of artists that Stapleton has worked with over the years: from contemporaries like Foetus, Tony Wakeford and The Legendary Pink Dots to artists like Stereolab, who are situated well outside of NWW's post-industrial milieu. It is this same intensely collaborative spirit that manifests on Angry Eelectric Finger (Spitch'Cock One), a newly-issued prologue to an upcoming triple-album set featuring collaborations with Cyclobe, irr.app.(ext.), Jim O'Rourke and Xhol Caravan. These were long-distance reciprocations, with Stapleton sending raw materials to each of the artists, who were free to recontextualize and mutate the sounds as they saw fit. These longform remixes were sent back to Stapleton, who added some finishing production touches and let them stand. This unique process has yielded a series of tracks in which the personalities of Stapleton's musical accomplices come through very strongly, even as they each reverently pay homage to the work of Nurse With Wound. The disc opens with a piece credited only to NWW, a classic 11-minute brain-twister that utilizes bending, distorted bass guitar strings to disorienting effect. Each metallic pluck swoops and dithers around a senseless insectoid rhythm, the piece eventually expanding into a blasted Cold War furnace factory dominated by an ancient, wheezing iron lung. Erudite Nurse-o-philes will recognize these sounds from An Akward Pause and the Current 93 collaboration Bright Yellow Moon, Stapleton clearly enforcing the "recycled sound" aesthetic from the outset. Next up is Cyclobe's "Paraparaparallelogrammatica," certainly the most gorgeous track on the album, a stately science-fiction mind excursion of the kind that dominated Simon and Stephen's immeasurably wonderful The Visitors. It's a texturally rich space fanfare of the kind not heard since Atem-era Tangerine Dream, and perhaps not even then. Its indulgent cinematic sensuality bears little similarity to Stapleton's cod surrealism, save for the narrative unfolding and nuanced, lysergic vibrations that dominate the track. It's one of the best things I've heard from Cyclobe, and regardless of whether or not it bears any resemblance to the original NWW source material, I'm certain that this would have appeared on the infamous NWW Influence List had it been released on some obscure German prog label in the early 1970s. Matt Waldron's irr.app.(ext.) project has been responsible for some of the most intensely rendered audio phenomena outside of the NWW camp, and their match-up — tellingly entitled "Mute Bell Extinction Process" — again reflects primarily the interests of the remixer, rather than the remixed. While eerily recalling such creepy NWW classics as "Fashioned to a Device Behind a Tree," irr.app.(ext.) once again shows a unique talent for thought cancellation, creating an insistently clandestine, industrial trance-scape that uses repetition to progressively wipe clean all thoughts and prepare the listener for the loss of physical cohesion. The last track is Jim O'Rourke's "Tape Monkey Mooch," a laptop-concrete take on the history and mystery of Nurse With Wound. In its own unique way, O'Rourke's contribution is probably the oddest on this record. Strange to think this was created by a current member of art-punk darlings Sonic Youth and the creator of an endless barrage of John Fahey-influenced indie-pop; not so strange, however, to anyone who has ever witnessed one of O'Rourke's freeform laptop collage performances, which often reference the 80's post-industrial tape-music underground of Roger Doyle and HNAS. O'Rourke sound collage creates an abstract web of richly-detailed sounds, compounding details that give way to form and structure, which melt into abstraction and back into structure. It's a gloriously baffling riddle, and if its quality is at all indicative of the material on the forthcoming three-album set, I can hardly wait.

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