Ellen Allien: Sprung
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Ellen Allien: Out
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Modeselektor: Happy Birthday! Remixed
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Allien's first 12-inch following SooL's release spotlights two cuts from the fourth solo album in extended vinyl versions. In keeping with the album's “minimal” concept, the A-side's “Sprung” spends its first minute in stripped-down mode with little more than a pounding kick drum, quietly ticking hi-hats, and a few convulsions traversing the aural terrain. Once the track advances past that opening section, however, it jumps to attention to strafe its pulsating groove with syncopated accents and percussive funk patterning. Though the track is primarily an atmospheric workout (the sole melody is an insistent four-note theme that appears midway through), the abrupt interjections Allien scatters throughout hold the listener's attention. The flip side's amazing “Its,” the stronger cut of the two, gets its powerful propulsion from a throbbing bass attack and a mercilessly clanging techno groove that hammers so violently it suggests the track would befit an S&M-torture domain more than a conventional dance club. Never before has a track suggested its perfect video treatment as incontrovertibly as does "Its": pair footage lifted from Fritz Lang's Metropolis of sweaty factory workers moving in clockwork formation with imagery of relentlessly pounding hydraulic machinery and you're done.

Her “Out” likewise sounds stronger in this EP context than it does on SooL where it's buried at album's end. Heard alone, its skeletal, metronomic plod and showers of voice fragments and percussive stabs captivate, especially when Allien disperses the sounds across the listening channels. Thomas Muller only slightly increases the BPM in his remix but radically overhauls the tune stylistically by morphing it into an ultra-mobile house throbber that's got club raver written all over it. Sounds careen here just as boldly as they do in the original but now do so over a jacking, swingtime groove. Allien's former Mouth to Mouth collaborator Matthew Dear weighs in with a prototypically slinky Audion mix (cryptically titled “Out for Infants”) that turns progressively unhinged over its eight-minute run. Dear loops voices into states of delirium and cranks up the tension until the mix verges on psychotropic before roping the beast and hog-tying it for the coda.

The first remix set based on Modeselektor's Happy Birthday! full-length offers “Godspeed” and “The White Flash” a vinyl forum but the release's high point is definitely Trentemøller's towering overhaul of the latter. Up first, club favourite “Godspeed” works its dancehall pulse into an epic lather, and the mood turns positively beatific when Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary make repeated ascents heavenward while beats rumble and synths melt. The Berlin duo then rolls out the future-funk of “The White Flash” with Radiohead's Thom Yorke deepening the song's drama with trademark vocal mumble. His mantra's hypnotic alright but the song's most potent quality is the precision-tooled beauty of Modeselektor's careening funk patterns. Regardless, the release's coup de grace is Anders Trentemøller's driving remix of “The White Flash,” an amazing behemoth that eggs Yorke's vocal on with breathless breakbeats, churchy dropouts, synth arpeggios, and locomotive fire. Seemingly packing every trick he's got into one nearly ten-minute mix, Trentemøller serves up one of the most powerful makeovers heard in these parts for a long time.

September 2008