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Ada - Adaptations Mixtape #1

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Artist: Ada

Album: Adaptations Mixtape #1

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Aug. 27, 2009

It says much about the current state of house, or techno, or whatever, that I’m still gobsmacked by how unfussy and enjoyable Ada’s Adaptations Mixtape #1 is. Not to discount some of this year’s bigger mixes, like Stefan Goldmann’s Empty Foxhole or John Tejada’s Fabric 44, but Adaptations really belongs in the company of DJ Koze’s remix compilation Reincarnations as full-color, album-length reminders that playfulness and melody are always welcome to the party. Opening with a track as vulnerable as Tracey Thorn’s “Grand Canyon” is a gamble. Whatever initial resistance the listener may feel toward Thorn’s poised vocals, inseparable as they are from a particular ‘90s aesthetic, disappears as Ada introduces warm, bouncy synths that plop and bleed, relenting long enough to trouble the 4/4 roll underneath.

As a producer and remixer, Ada’s strong suit is dabbling in the treble a bit more than her peers. The whole of “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” has everything to do with the bathetic melody that does justice to the Smiths song of the same title: it’s weepy and mopey, but rides on a surging beat. As a sort of warm-up to the treacly melody, Ada preps the surface with phasing tones that sound like a higher register take on dubstep’s wobbly basslines. This hypernostalgic mode matched with relentless forward motion is more reminiscent of album-length statements like Pantha du Prince’s dreamy LPs than a typical remix collection – it speaks to an internal logic at work rather than a merely uniform, Ableton-steamrolled surface.

As a whole, Adaptations is extroverted and just coy enough to deepen Kompakt’s reputation as a crossover label, but weird enough to not really have a place within indie-fied aesthetic hierarchies. There’s not as much depth here as what you’d get from an Ada full-length, but as stop-gaps go, the mixtape is solid from top down. In a sense, the solidness, the lack of mis-steps kind of conspire against Ada here – there’s a lot of momentum, but very few moments where the listener can really linger over a strategically deployed detail, where a filter tweak anchors the feeling the music’s been hinting at.

Still, it’s easy to forget that techno can deliver this much immediate enjoyment. No matter how listeners hear Adaptations, the whole megillah bubbles over so much that considerations take a backseat to dancing, vigorous room-cleaning, or jamming out on public transportation. It’s legit fun, and a good look placed next to complaints that minimal has become dour and self-involved — less a way out than a way in.

By Brandon Bussolini

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