Richie Hawtin: DE9/Transitions

Containing a 75-minute CD and a DVD (featuring an epic 96-minute version plus an interview, two videos, and live footage from Germany's Time Warp electronic music fest), there's no question that Richie Hawtin's DE9: Transitions is, in terms of contents, an incredible package—even the jewel case, with its rounded corners and click-lock opening, is distinctive. Hawtin fanatics will already know it's his third installment in the DE9 series, with each one signaling a notable technological advance. Though he deployed drum machines, effects, and records to create 1999's Decks, EFX & 909, Hawtin eschewed vinyl altogether for 2001's DE9: Closer to the Edit, instead opting for Final Scratch software. Now, on DE9: Transitions, he uses Ableton and DigiDesign ProTools to deconstruct and then reassemble more than a hundred tracks into a kinetic and constantly mutating flow (some of the originals fade in and out over a number of minutes whereas others make fleeting appearances as fragments). No longer having to focus on mechanically mixing two records together and keeping them in sync, Hawtin is able to concentrate solely on mix content. While the disc includes material by long-established artists (Ricardo Villalobos, Stewart Walker, Carl Craig, Daniel Bell, Robert Hood, Pan Sonic) and the minimal techno style associated with his own Plus 8 and Minus labels (Theorem, False, Marc Houle, Hawtin himself), he wisely expands the mix into Perlon (Luciano, Pantytec, Peter F. Spiess) and Foundsound territories (Ultrakurt, Someone Else, Miskate).

Occupying the one extreme are mixes that hardly alter its tracks beyond effecting bridges between them with beats. Hawtin's mix occupies the opposite extreme where there's no longer an individual track; instead, there's a singular, relentlessly pulsating mix wherein fragments of original material swim. Consequently, even though one might isolate a particular moment (incorporating bits from Ricardo Villalobos, Stewart Walker, and others, the sixth track, “Seiltänzer,” is where the set really picks up steam), it makes more sense to speak of DE9: Transitions as a monolithic entity. One downside is that, while assembling the fragments into a non-stop mix of seamless transitions is a certifiable feat of marvelous technical execution, much of the individuating character of the originals gets lost in the homogenizing process. Merely registering the caveat seems uncharitable, however, in light of the wealth and quality of material the release offers. Mention must be made, too, of the very cool “We(All)Search” video, which subtly riffs on Andrei Tarkovsky's The Stalker, and “The Tunnel,” a related video featuring Hawtin himself which cleverly re-interprets the first clip (both videos by Ali Demirel, incidentally).

November 2005