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V/A - Sonig.Ilation

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Artist: V/A

Album: Sonig.Ilation

Label: Sonig

Review date: Mar. 6, 2003

Cartoon Clicks and Cuts

Since its start, the Sonig label, founded by Jan St. Werner and Andi Thoma of Mouse on Mars, has released some of the odder, giddier, funkier cartoon-electro this side of Warner Brothers. Sonig has hosted everything from the nonsense circus tweeks of Scratch Pet Land to the glitchy smoothtronica of Schlammpeitziger. But jokes aside, Sonig has also released a number of tonal masterpieces; Vert’s 2001 release, Nine Types of Ambiguity looms large among them. The label kicked itself off in 1999 with a drably titled, unfocused compilation (The Sonig Compilation) that, though it served as a fine coming-out, was not much of a fire-starter. Twenty-four releases later, the follow-up comp, this year’s Sonig.Ilation, is a well of electronic innovation, tonal precision, and overall aesthetic tastiness. Sonig’s artists create a perfect mix of business and pleasure, manipulating sounds into tones and rhythms, but never falling victim to pretentiousness or laptop laziness. The Sonig.Ilation is a prime compilation of digital chase-music and generally non-derivative electronic music, and one that should restore the faith of anyone worried about a recent general blanding of digital exploration.

Other than process, there is little in common between the lightheartedness of Mouse on Mars and the epic seriousness of Oval, but many of Ilation’s proudest moments fall on the loonier side and in between. Wevie de Crepon (aka Wevie Stonder) kick things off with a one and half minute burst of trebled drums and high-pitched melodies of various sorts. It is the sound of a dance track liquefied in a blender with the lid left off. Similar dance chaos comes from Sonig newcomers AE, as well as Mouse on Mars themselves, both of whose tracks expand and contract with a choppy mélange of frantic drumming and unrecognizable 8-bit tones. Where the AE track is a nonstop blast of nonsensical blurps and yowps, MoM’s “violilation” ebbs and flows and builds and explodes into a fuzzy chaos that makes for the best kind of Niun Nigung-style fast-forward freak-outs. Kid606 has tried his hand at similar such digital disassembly/reassembly, especially on last year’s The Action-Packed Mentalist Brings You the Fucking Jams (at least on the non-remixed tracks), but has never achieved quite the level of serious fun brought by a real Mouse on Mars hit.

Markus Popp is responsible for much of the Sonig.Ilation’s less jittery moments, but his beatless, rhythmic sound-collage symphonies are relieving comedowns, not buzzkills. “Quiro,” the only track actually under the Oval name is similar in tone to songs from 2001’s Commers, but with a clearer movement from one part to the next, as well as a remarkably coherent melodic break in the middle. It is easy to forget about an originator of a sound that is full of imitators and influencees, but when present, Popp commands the respect that he has earned from his many years of clicking and cutting. A later track by an artist billed as “So” sure sounds a lot like a Popp creation. So’s “batteriiaa” sounds like a comers track deconstructed, but while its foundation of guitar-ish grind is the same, it is complemented by an ethereal, barely recognizable female voice, as well as a hollow bassy drone. If indeed it is Popp manning the mouse, So is a fantastic new direction for Popp, and for electronic music entirely. Popp’s final contribution comes by way of a new Microstoria track, built, as always, with Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner. Though it’s still steeped in digital fuzz, it’s as poppy and soothing as anything to be released by Popp, especially from the normally minimal Microstoria project/name.

Both tracks by Brothers Nicolas and Laurent Baudoux are sufficiently strange that they are difficult to take seriously, but are both oddly compelling. “DJ klaxon under the feet,” performed under their Scratch Pet Land moniker, is based around a rhythmic manipulation of what sounds like a bicycle horn and a rubber band twang before it disrobes into an elementary alarm-tone melody. But while “dj klaxon” is somewhat coherent as a song, “tur li si fuite (part 5),” performed as Fan Club Orchestra, is almost entirely composed of voices “ahhhh”ing along to a slide-whistle, and is quite absurd. Were it not for the subtle, arhythmic glitch accompaniment, it would seem as if the Baudouxs had pushed their silliness beyond the limit.

The Sonig.Ilation’s best track comes from Vert, whose “all the better to see you with” combines all of the best elements of Sonig’s other acts into a single, varied masterpiece. Characterized by droning, organish melodic tones played over crisp beats, Vert’s style and sound is, by now, fairly recognizable. “all the better” spends three minutes emerging from aquatic beats and noises into a full-on beated expansion of rhythm and sound. If Prefuse 73 is the most recent artist to emerge with a widely beloved, much imitated sound, then Vert is hot on his heals with the next sound to beat.

It makes sense that an act like Vert on Sonig, who with the Sonig.Ilation are primed to position themselves as one of the world’s premier electronic labels. Everything from the variety of sounds and songs to the captivatingly futuristic tonal pictures that make up the Ilation’s booklet is presented with fantastic unity and precision. Germany has always been a hotbed of electronic talent, and with this new compilation Sonig stands to emerge among the best.

By Dusted Magazine

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