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V/A - Clicks & Cuts 4

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Artist: V/A

Album: Clicks & Cuts 4

Label: Mille Plateaux Media

Review date: Jan. 18, 2005

One of 2004’s more baffling music mysteries was the dissolution and subsequent rebirth of seminal German label Mille Plateaux. Responsible for releasing some of the decade’s most vital electronic recordings, the label crashed and burned last year, leaving neither trace nor explanation. While it’s not uncommon for underground labels, even established ones, to run out of funds, ideas or some combination of the two, Mille Plateaux’s sudden, silent departure sent shocks through the electronic music community.

Now, boasting an ever-so-slight name change, the label seems to be back. Clicks & Cuts 4, the latest installment of the series that began what was once seen as a daring new direction in music, has recently hit the shelves. Yet, while its title term coined a new name for glitch, the movement has decelerated markedly during the past few years, amplified by the label’s own implosion. While the first two Clicks & Cuts compilations introduced the world to many of electronica’s most innovative composers, the third volume faltered, offering instead a tepid selection of sub-par dancefloor anthems. The brilliance in many earlier tracks was the fusing of the physical and the mental. They were making music as much for the mind as the ass, and in doing so turning club fans on to experimental sounds and vice versa. After Vol. 3’s fizzle, listeners began to look elsewhere for their cutting edge fixes.

Maybe this was elemental in Mille Plateaux’s breakdown, maybe not, but it isn’t often that labels – or artists, for that matter – get a chance like this to redeem themselves. That said, right from the get-go there are elements of the new MPM that are pretty spotty. Websites are blocked or don’t exist, information on current and future releases is incredibly scarce. My review copy of C&C 4, for instance, contains a meaty 10-page essay but no mention of performers or a track listing. Thanks to iTunes, it was easy to figure it all out, but it’s frustrating to say the least.

Musically, C&C 4 contains an expected mix of little-knowns and more renowned artists. Thomas Brinkmann is the set’s biggest name, with Ultra-Red, Frank Elting, Bizz Circuits, Twerk and 11 others contributing tracks. While there is a good deal here that’s more appealing than C&C 3, all in all it is still a disappointing listen.

With few exceptions, the tracks on the first half of the album are damaged by the same sort of off-kilter dancefloor worship that bogged down Vol. 3. Elting’s opener “Spoken Word” begins interestingly enough, pitting buzzsaw bass against silvery static hisses. But the track soon loses its focus, dissolving into forgettable micro-house banality. Micronost’s “Got Mad Love” has ear-tickling stutters floating around its edges, but the base track is an electro-funk embarrassment. Ido Gouvrin clears the mess a bit with his glistening, late-night gem “Breaking Through the Frequencies,” but one good track in a pile of duds does only so much.

Things look up a bit during the record’s second half. Brinkmann’s “Decoupe” layers field recordings and vocal samples alongside massive low-end rumbling and spooky bleeps. TBA turn in the appropriately sublime “Trepa N,” while Hakan Lidbo’s “Lebensformen” takes the listener on a voyage through a creepy world of dark dub. Ultra-Red’s hot “Neue Wirtschaft (Freedom of Movement)” combines socio-political samples and nicely fucked beats.

When it comes to an end, however, the disc’s strong finish is too little too late. It’s doubtful this collection will shake anyone out of their shoes, literally or figuratively. Neither a strong comeback nor any sort of statement as to what the world should expect from this (semi) new label, it’s difficult not to see Clicks & Cuts 4 as a failed opportunity.

By Ethan Covey

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