Tommi Bass: Gamma

I keep returning to Tommi Bass's Gamma, hoping that one of these times some magical conversion will kick in and the album's charms will reveal themselves in all their glory. It's hardly a bad release by any means—its twitchy minimal techno is certainly faultless on production grounds—but there's a key ingredient or two missing. The problem? There's flow, but little build; sound, but not much arc or drama. The best techno doesn't take up temporal space but instead evolves through episodes of rise and fall, with a narrative thread running through a track from beginning to end. Gamma's tracks, by comparison, endlessly mutate from one episode to another but do so with a modicum of dramatic purpose. In short, more than mere sonic stimulation is needed to dazzle the listener, and an occasional emotional flourish doesn't hurt either.

Having said all that, there's also no discounting the arresting punch of the windup Bass drops into the middle of the opener, not to mention the cut's generally jacking thrust, and there are ample moments of note in the seven pieces that follow. “Gamma 02” skips with funky purpose, the bass-crawling funk in “Gamma 07” is as club-ready as it gets, and the sashaying “Gamma 05” struts a sublimely funky groove to good effect, and, with a noise wave regularly intruding, does evidence a dramatic ebb and flow that the album could do with more of. That the Berlin-based Bass opted to give his tracks the characterless titles “Gamma_1,” “Gamma _2,” and so on isn't an issue—many techno tracks are given serviceable titles simply as a way to identify and differentiate them from others—but there is something impersonal about doing so that's in keeping with the material at hand.

October 2009