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V/A - Bis Neunzehn

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Artist: V/A

Album: Bis Neunzehn

Label: Areal

Review date: Jul. 30, 2004

It seems appropriate that minimal house's primary default setting – a reduced, brittle tech-glaze that hovers in some kind of emotional no-place, a disengaged glide – has become just one option in an armory of techniques and approaches. If minimal house's incremental roll-over into Micro-House territory in the late-1990s/early-2000s had producers like Farben and Losoul simmering their music to the barest of essentials, the body of 'minimal' house has pulled an about face, recently growing from waif-like to positively chunky, what with the gathering-moss heft of the best shuffle-tech, Kompakt's recourse to hard-line Techno on its Speicher series, and Luomo's dashingly svelte pop music.

The Areal label is even less dogmatic about minimal house. Indeed, its relationship to the genre seems largely structural/economic, more to do with patronage and distribution. As Philip Sherburne noted in a recent review of Bis Neunzehn – the label's second showcase disc, mixed by Jan-Eric Kaiser – Areal looks further back into German techno's history, with a small clutch of tracks sounding like an update on the stentorian pulses of the Profan label. Dropped in the middle of the mix, the crunchy, ink-blotter throb of Undo/Redo's "Zietgleich" and Konfekt's "Boxed [Estab]" are rough, sandpapered presences, chafing against the opening section's blurry lagoons of bliss. Undo/Redo and Konfekt share an approach with their labelmate Basteroid that draws upon the meatier limits of analogue circuitry, with hand-mangled riffs and phrases shooting like firecrackers all over the mix.

But if Areal reaches some kind of high water-mark, it's with the three 12" singles they've released by Ada. Her music embodies an emotional largesse that's sometimes at odds with the circumscribed and more funktional aspects of other Areal sides. She's represented on Bis Neunzehn by three tracks: "Blindhouse," "Believer," and "...and More," each track accessing maximum poignancy through interlocking minimal means. She favors bell-chimes that resound like someone plucking stalactites hanging from tear-ducts, musty and rolling organ tones, and vapor-trail buzz and glide – the morning-after glow to Basteroid and Konfekt's magnesium-flare riffs. Kaiser also views these productions as the jewels in Areal's crown: He stops the mix two-thirds through to allow "Believer" to slowly slink its way into the room, and gives "...and More" a minute's breathing space, the dull thump of the needle soloing and spiraling, before Undo/Redo's "Bedhanger" closes the set.

By Jon Dale

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