Hug: Heroes

Talk about precocious: John Dahlbäck (aka Hug) is a mere 21 years old, yet somehow has managed to leave his fingerprints on more than seventy releases, forty remixes, and seventy-five compilations (for imprints like Deep4life, Dessous, Morris Audio, and his own Pickadoll) in only four years. His 70-minute Heroes is the inaugural full-length by a K2 artist, K2 being the sub-label Kompakt co-head Wolfgang Voigt established to bring ‘minimal techno' back into the fold. Though Hug's material is often stripped down, ‘minimal' remains a relative term so longtime Kompakt listeners will find no shortage of detail to latch onto here, and consequently will hear Heroes as much maximal as minimal. In many ways, the Hug style is textbook Kompakt but Dahlbäck also distinguishes himself in a couple of key respects: in standout cuts like “Tiny Stars” and “Fluteorgie,” he deftly exploits the musical potential offered by myriad noises as rhythmic accents, and, as “Tiny Stars” and “The Platform” attest, he also possesses a talent for crafting Kraftwerk-styled melodies (the five-note theme in “Tiny Stars” is so lovely in its melancholy it would do the Düsseldorf legends proud). Elsewhere, a surging mix of Chain Reaction, bleepy electro, and Cologne techno opens the set promisingly in “Raido” and, by alternating glissandi synth flares with martial snare patterns, “Birds” could pass easily for a Daniel Bell homage. Heroes isn't necessarily Kompakt at its peak but its collection of clubby electro-techno, slippery grooves, and syncopated swing is certainly strong enough.

April 2007