If one were going to be cruel about minimal as a style, and it’s inevitable that some people would want to be, one might characterize it as music that strives to be so boring 90% of the time that the other 10% of relatively mediocre drama seems thrilling by contrast.
To do this is, of course, to miss the point – minimal is pretty boring to sit and listen to in a non-club situation, but the music’s intricacies come alive in a way that is almost magical if you’re actually dancing to it.
But it does cut right to the core of the dilemma faced by a DJ making a mix CD. Do you showcase what you really do in a club or do you cater to the living room environment your CD will actually be played in? The former approach (lets call it ‘Beyerism’) can be repetitive and offputting, and the latter (‘Smagghadoccio’) upsets the purists and diehard fans. It’s not a dilemma that is successfully resolved by the majority of this year’s minimal mixes, which really have been fairly boring and fail to capture what makes the music exciting.
This mix is the first release from dance music’s current Xanadu, Berlin’s Panoramabar, so you already know which way they’re going to jump – ideological purity all the way. And that purity of vision, expressed here by Panoramabar resident Cassy, has produced a hugely evocative document of just why so many of us want to go hear a DJ play one record after another for hours on end.
Many people will hate this CD for the exact reasons I love it. I love the fact that Cassy brings in each track loud and early, the way you would in a club. There are no subtle transitions here – each new track is clearly signaled and it’s thrilling to hear, for example, the tripled snares of Villalobos’ ‘Sieso’ snapping in rough and ready and ever so slightly out of time. It makes me want to hop straight on a plane to Berlin (even more than is normally the case).
What the mix as a whole most evokes is the spirit of acid house, and not just because the cowbell from Cassy’s own ‘Toyah’ could have come straight out of a DJ Pierre production from 1987. It’s stripped back, it’s raw and it’s uneven, and that’s what gives it such energy. As an interpretation of minimalism, it’s the polar opposite of Hawtin’s otaku fussiness. And finally as a mix it also pulls together many of the divergent strands of house music that have rarely been bedfellows since the days of acid (and, kids, that doesn’t mean The Liberators, okay?).
Early on there’s lots of lithe sexy garage rhythms such as Melchior’s self-explanatory ‘Let’s Go Deep’ and in particular the second track ‘Believe’ by D. Jensen (Norm Talley remix) – a brilliantly leftfield choice for this CD and this audience that reveals the unspoken link between the current steely German minimalism and ‘90s New Jersey divas.
As the mix progresses, the rhythms get more linear and driving with the key point of change being the gorgeous Detroit classicism of Mono Junk’s ‘Channel B’, jammed in abruptly in a way that you instantly associate with a sudden change of energy on a small, packed dancefloor, the beginning of a run of tracks with driving offbeat hats.
DBX’s ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ evokes a more paranoid energy, a theme developed a little less successfully by the next few tracks until the perky polyrhythmic minimalism of Matthias Kaden’s ‘Pentaton’ lifts the mood and energy level again.
This starts a sequence of stunning primetime techno to which the only rational response is to jerk your body as hard as possible and to pray that it never ends – in particular Redshape’s ‘Pink Dust’, ‘Dust’ and Shed’s ‘Well Done’. Unfortunately end it must, and true to the realist approach, Cassy chooses to do this on an dramatic and sexy note with the dreamy wind-down of her own remix of ‘Gluehwuermchen’ fading into the grinding two-step of DJ Abstract’s ‘Touch’ – a perfectly chosen piece of UK garage/dubstep which wins Cassy a gold star for eclecticism.
If you love house right down to its DNA, you’ll love this. But probably best not to play it at a dinner party.
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