Label: Plus 8
Review date: May. 23, 2003
False is Mathew Dear, a.k.a. Jabberjaw on Ricardo Villalobos' Perlon, the seminal gumby-house label of Latin-inspired minimalist rhythm-rompers. False is also False – on Plus 8, False strives to disprove the assertion that minimalistic basslines, chopadelic vocal foreplay and one-bar beat-reversals cohere to nothing less than beatdown boredom. It's a tough thesis to take on these days – especially so when one's array of tracks are culled from floor-oriented 12"s, and when one's sound palette is as minimal as the philosophy behind it.
...False caught the attention of Plus 8 (and we are guessing: Richie Hawtin) through his "seriousness to his music" and "hardworking attitude." That's from the press release, I know, but I'm straining for reasons as to why this would catch the attention of what – well, at least what "was" one of the world's most respected minimal techno labels. While a few Plus 8 records have dated themselves, the majority stand as markers of their time, bold and inventive forays into squelches, acid techno, and stringent minimalism runs through Detroit, right down to Richie Hawtin's Concept series and back up again with the early releases from Speedy J, Dan Bell, and the collaborative projects of FUSE, not to mention Hawtin's alter-ego, Plastikman. With Daniel Bell now throwing down superb, tightly mixed and bleeding-edged mixes for France's Logistic/Telegraph label, allowing his fingers to run amok over the standouts in minimalist techno, from the hard and stark to the deep and jazzy, it remains a mystery as to why Mathew Dear is heralded – much in a similar position, a few years ago, as Theorem – as the next prodigé of the Hawtin enclave. Theorem went on to release a few of Detroit's understated, yet deeply loved whispy-techno classics of the Motor City in the late-90s, pioneering remix techniques with his "thx" label, featuring collaborative work with Sutekh, Stewart Walker and minimal-house-era Swayzak. Can the same be projected for Mathew Dear?
...one would desire this, if not for him, then for the techno world in general, and if not for the techno world in general, then at least for the personal salvation of Plus 8 and Richie Hawtin. Mutek 2003 will be the break-it-or-make-it point for Hawtin's anticipated return as Plastikman. Does Hawtin still have that perverse element of knob-fuckery in him to drop us back, and yet, forward, into the hallucinatory future? Will Plastikman live on, or only be resurrected for iPod promos in Apple stores? Is Mathew Dear a producer at the cusp of eliciting fine moments in electronic music – as Theorem was – or is he...well, a little lacking in the innovation department?
I don't enjoy over-critically analyzing someone's work, and prefer to score the highlights of a particular piece, the way it caresses a vision of sound, a tactile experience of the hearing-body that is unique to the particles assembled by the composer, or her operations. But in this case I must admit that, although I can easily discern the dancefloor utility of False's minimal techno thumpers, I find that my mind – and consequently, my body – is led to no place, topos, terrain, temporality...of a temporarity...as a rarity or specialty of the sonic in question. While certainly molecular or microscopic, there is even less variety than Cabanne's disturbingly monotone experiments. The basslines, while squelchy and as promised, lead to no development; the percussion is straightforward; the one-bar reversals (where everything sounds backwards) are over-abused; the vocal trickery is entry-level in comparison to the delights of Akufen, Cabanne or Frivolous. Certainly the Background and Logistic labels have been mining this territory for some time, and Force Inc. (but also Hautec) hardly needs mention as opening the gates for this onslaught of micro-genres. In a sense, one can hear a new combination being made: that of, ironically enough, Daniel Bell's deep rhythm minimalisms mixed with a microhouse and minimal-techno palette. We are left, however, only with that echo. And what remains is the feeling that Dear, as False, produces music that Hawtin likes – indeed, of a genealogy that bears an uncanny resemblance to what Hawtin performs an to other's tracks on his remix project CD, Closer to the Edit. While Closer has its moments, I often find that in the looping, monochromed world of DE9-Hawtin, the spastic linearity of a track is eliminated in favor of an ideal loop, a pure loop, a loop so produced, so perfect, that although it is the perfection of Mobius itself, its pleasure can only be repeated in circles, and only, then, without memory.
Yet – and I mean this seriously – I wouldn't wish to discourage either Dear or Hawtin. Hawtin is a chameleon, and will hopefully stun, shock, and delight us all come this Mutek. I also sincerely look forward to Dear doing the same. Either way, both Hawtin and Dear – well, this is purely theoretical – will probably be somewhat surprised to see where the "minimal techno" world has gone since Hawtin flew off to Ibiza, so to speak, in favor of the megaclubs. While both Dear and Hawtin no doubt hear the releases and are obviously intricately involved in the "scene" today, what may come as a surprise – maybe for Hawtin more than Dear – is the way in which audiences and their receptions have changed. Beats and loops are no longer enough for the beatjockey. It's going to take something a little excessive, intricate, mindbending…
By tobias c. van Veen