Incite/: Iconicity

Ketem: Colour

Poratz: Beat

v4w.enko: snd

While listening to these four three-inch CDs from the German Electroton label, it gradually dawned on me who Electroton seems to be modeling itself after: Raster-Noton. In fact, the similarities are so strong, any one of the four releases could appear on Raster-Noton without anyone batting an eye. The visual aesthetic Electroton brings to the EPs—clean, austere, and minimal—is very much in the Raster-Noton spirit too.

On Beat, Poratz (aka Patrizio Orsini from Livorno, Italy) gets his synthetic mojo working on seven, yes, beat-oriented tracks in the classic clicks'n'cuts tradition. Intended as a dedication to the musical expression of Aoki Takamasa, Orsini's tracks dig into their android tech-house grooves with no shortage of energy and ethusiasm—kind of like a rather more high-spirited and looser Alva Noto. While melody is not wholly absent, it is downplayed in favour of funky rhythm structures that manage to be intricate but not at the expense of basic groove. The typical track is about three minutes in length, and so makes its point quickly and then steps aside. Of particular interest is “Tech Prove,” which features a conversation of sorts between a scratchy, high-pitched tone and a lower acidy squiggle, and “Poratz 2009,” which neatly turns the beat around a couple of times. Best of all is “Drumma,” which reveals an old-school heart beating within Poratz's machinery when vocal samples (“and the beat keeps goin' on…breakout”) and drum breaks are sliced'n'diced in a trippy workout.

The release by v4w.enko (aka Kyiv-based Evgen Vaschenko) exudes a rather snd-like vibe—how could it not when the release is titled snd and the seven tracks scramble the three letters into different sequences? Throughout the twenty-two-minute collection, Vaschenko arranges clicks, whirrs, smears, and glistening sine tones into hyperactive set-pieces of two- to four-minute durations. One gets the impression that, as is hinted at by the track titles, the sound materials have been similarly scrambled into different configurations. That there is a clinical approach at work is reinforced by an accompanying note that reports that the EP's sounds are being produced in real-time through the manipulation of self-programmed algorithms. If the title nods in one direction to the Sheffield-based group, the material also suggests kinship with Carsten Nicolai's Alva Noto style, never more so than during the bass-throbbing closer “dns.”

Ketem's Colour is anomalous for being the slightest of the four releases at a mere eleven minutes in duration—short but still long enough for one to get a handle on the group's sound. Again, upper-and lower-register tones burrow through four compact exercises in Raster-Noton-styled clicks'n'cuts, this time authored by Shay Nassi (Mise En Scene) and Tom Kemeny (Darmock). In the three opening tracks, heavy bass pulses and insistent high-pitched tones lock horns before the fourth brings a stronger micro-funk feel to the fleeting set.

The final EP, Iconicity by Incite/ (Hamburg duo Kera Nagel and André Aspelmeier), is a like-minded plunge into machine-funk, with the duo powering the tracks with a huge, grime-laden bass sound that grinds while glitchy sounds whirr and click in the expected manner. Think of Iconicity as the filthier sibling to the other three EPs—not that that's a bad thing either, as all it means is that the Incite/ material is a tad earthier than the others. Representative of the EP's sound are “Turnpike,” which grinds as flagrantly as a stripper coiling herself around a dancepole, and the title track, which could pass for an Alva Noto track though one pushed in a grungier direction.

The impression one forms after listening to the four releases is that they're undoubtedly derivative but also solidly executed. It's abundantly clear that, on visual and sonic grounds, each of the releases has been produced with admirable care.

June 2010