Isolée: Western Shore

Rajko Müller's (Isolée) incredible material inhabits such a distinct galaxy, one begins to think he breathes a different air altogether from other house producers. Compiled (and re-sequenced) by Jörn Elling Wuttke from five Isolée 12-inch singles issued between Rest (2000) and We Are Monster (2005), Western Store's twelve tracks showcase Müller's considerable artistry. Isolée's elastic sound writhes mercurially in place, refusing to be pinned down. The pieces are jazz-like, not in style (obviously) but in the way unpredictable directions arrive at each moment in seemingly unplanned manner. But if there's no jazz, there's definitely house, as well as soul, funk, techno, disco, and dub, with more often than not each track an amalgam of all. Even the album's beginning surprises, its first fifteen seconds a weary crawl before “Bleu” suddenly springs to attention, its microhouse strut subsequently destabilized by burbling dub effects and intercom voices. Dramatically shifting gears, the soul-funk boogie of “Initiate II” references earlier eras (notwithstanding a neo-Luomo vocal) with its clavinet-styled croak, buoyant bass burble, and synth washes. Evidencing an advanced conceptual sensibility which appears to come naturally, “Cité Grand Terre” is virtually two tunes at once, an echoing dubscape and double-time techno rumble.

Tellingly, the disc includes all four cuts from the Western Store EP, as each one rightfully demands inclusion. Over a driving, low-slung bass line, “Rockers” sculpts a ridiculously artful result from a minimal assemblage of claps and cymbal patterns while the even more stunning “Surfers” drops alien noises, chunky chords, and hi-hats accents over a galloping pulse. “Simone Rides” likewise starts straightforwardly with a head-nodding surge before settling into a rubbery dub-shake slapped silly by slamming accents. The collection ends with two epics, the almost ten-minute “Lost” and Freeform Five's “Beau Mot Plage” remix, the first a house paradise, with all manner of synthwork (some rising heavenward, some barking like car horns, some gleaming in massed armies) firing over a stomping groove. But why Playhouse opted for Freeform Five's lounge-Latin version of “Beau Mot Plage” instead of Isolée's definitive original puzzles in the extreme—a gross misstep to be sure though maybe the only one here. Don't let the unfortunate finish spoil your impression of this otherwise outstanding collection.

June 2006