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Andreas Tilliander - Elit

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Artist: Andreas Tilliander

Album: Elit

Label: Mille Plateaux

Review date: Mar. 2, 2003

Navigating Past Neptune

The Force, Inc. electronic music empire supposedly keeps itself divided into a fairly neat dichotomy (see, for some background, tobias c. van Veen's recent Dusted essay), with bookish Ph.D. candidates exploring composition and empty space on Mille Plateaux while fist-pumping, loop-banging club-gods reside on the Force, Inc. imprint. Undeniably, Achim Szepanski has micro-managed his two most important sub-labels in this general direction, but the dividing lines are in reality quite fluid. Most of the artists on the Force, Inc. roster, including Sutekh, Mike Shannon, and the oft-imitated and debated Akufen, are far too subtle and experimentally-inclined to be pigeonholed as brawn-without-brains. But surely there's a distinction. The Force artists make…what?…more acceptable dance music?

Gads! That is, until dance music changed. To wit: Openly and for many years, almost every major producer in the mainstream – particularly in dance music – has borrowed liberally from the underground. Or, to put it more universally, from the cultural margins. Ardent experimentalists from Marshall Jefferson to Terry Riley to Kid606 have long had their styles and ideas integrated or simply aped by musicians with access to powerful hype machines and thus built-in audiences numbering in the many millions. In the near future, Mille Plateaux-style production may find itself the marginal source of choice for major label producers in Europe and the United States in search of a post-Neptunes sound to back up packaged pop stars. Luomo, for example, is rumored to be signing with a major label in Europe and may produce a Britney Spears track, while Andreas Tilliander has been in talks to produce for Li'l Kim. Kim was apparently impressed after hearing the Mille Plateaux compilation Clicks 'n' Cuts 3, and approached the label herself.

So Mille Plateaux, whose artists have mostly endeared themselves to academics and kids with dancefloor phobias, is now cultivating a niche in the pop-music industry. This seems a very strange turn-of-events, but considering the degree to which the Neptunes, just to cite the obvious example, are cognizant of and even dependent upon the underground, it may in fact be a natural transition. Of course, what we're talking about in this case is a very specific side of Mille Plateaux. There are plenty of songs on Clicks 'n' Cuts 3, >, the majority even, that Li'l Kim could never even consider using as prototypes for her next single.

However, the strain of Mille Plateaux's production which Tilliander embodies is an exception. Indebted to hip-hop and always flouting an advanced sense of swing, the Swede clicks and drags his experimental flourishes into well-tread, well-built pop song formats rather than making them part and parcel of equally experimental song structures. And his star ascends with haste. Elit, the second album under his given name (there are a handful of other releases under other names, those being Mokira, Komp, Rechord, and Lowfour) was nonetheless Tilliander's third in 2002 alone, and his teeming productive impulse has done wonders for his status. These days, most people will drop Tilliander's name with regards to "clicks 'n' cuts," or "clickhouse," or "glitch" music before almost anyone else's.

Elit in actuality neither sets nor breaks with any current trends in the rapidly expanding universe of clicky electronic dance music. This genre, which so many laud for its deconstructivist tendencies and pioneering anti-essentialism (unlike almost any electronic genre from the past twenty years, no instrument is intrinsic to its sound), has probably become too big and comfortable to continue facilitating innovation as rapidly as it did in the late-90's. What Tilliander offers, in light of that, is a shiny and in fact bang-up album which updates from dogged Beta versions some of the best intentions of clicks 'n' cuts. He gives us broken, staggered beats made out of anything but real drums, slick, processed vocals (imagine what he might do with Li'l Kim!), the lustrous passion of r 'n' b, and a schizophrenia borne of wearing out Aphex Twin vinyl. But Tilliander accomplishes it all without the pretense, the essays, the wandering endlessly in forests of formality. Nothing about Elit feels forced, and what he does well he actually does with brilliance and lucidity. No explanation is needed, really, no technical explanation of process; this is textbook clickwork.

Which, sadly, isn't to say that Elit is a perfect record, nor even the best new electronic music I've heard in the past few months (that title belongs to Jan Jelinek's Avec La Exposures). Because Tilliander works so consistently in the clicks 'n' cuts formula, the musical exposition of personality eludes him. His work sounds like the brilliant summary of an entire movement, but where is his own presence? The one flaw of this album is in its occasional reluctance to push boundaries. Perhaps this is symptomatic of making pop music, and Tilliander's sacrifice for being so appealing to mainstream ears. To fit a mold, you have to alter your shape.

By Ben Tausig

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