Nor, if Jon Gaiser's Blank Fade is any indication, of developing. For his debut LP, the producer responsible for some of the label's most talked-about recent releases, Eye Contact in particular, has decided to sit firmly within the safety zone, offering little more than an expertly produced summation of what M_nus-styled minimal techno has thus far achieved. That's not to say that Gaiser's project here is unsuccessful, but it offers clear evidence to support recent claims that techno is stagnating, shying away from innovation, opting instead for reflection and refinement. (It's odd, however, that this has come from one of the label's youngest names, but perhaps it's a necessary product of enforced silence. Like painters studying the masters.)
So Blank Fade emerges not with a bang, but instead with a neat, tidy and pleasantly familiar tchk-thud. Tagged as "a soundtrack to some hidden nocturnal habitat, full of weird and wonderful creatures that stalk the darkness," it simply sounds like nightclubbing to me. The sound is predictably impeccable—each tic and ping erupting like water on a hotplate—with all the depth and drama of Raster-Noton. "Volve" adopts a cold, loping half-step, like labelmate Heartthrob's recent "Valentine," and as a scene-setting ambient opener it's perfect. From there it's cold and faceless minimal techno all the way, escalating from the languid clicks & cuts of "Face Down" to the wailing, granular-synthesis dust storms of "Whether Or Not." "Comma, Fade" plays with punctuation, gaining swagger and funk from a missing hat, while "Ground" is almost gleeful, a smiling pulse pogoing between shakers, a smeared vocal tic hiccupping over the ever-rumbling bass. The bent tones and shimmying hats of "One After" recalls TG's superior Trapez-does-Minus take "Mr Dry," complete with post-lampooned techno-vocal, but "Ciliate With" is stunning, the processed twang of a Jew's harp reacting with menacing Doppler sweeps to create the album's most dazzlingly disorienting moment. In "Leave It" a clear melody is foregrounded, offering a glimpse of pop abandon, but the chill, restraint and precision continues, unrelenting.
Blank Fade is a bleak and monochromatic experience, difficult to take in one sitting—all variations being subtle, taking place within a restricted—and familiar—framework. Gaiser's pillaging of the M_nus palette verges on the cliché, and were his productions not so sharp, effective and resolutely downbeat, this would be a difficult album to enjoy. Luckily, it is. Instead, the real problem here is a simple lack of innovation, which is how Hawtin defines techno. After all, isn't that what we all want?