Dave Miller: Mitchells Raccolta
Background Records

Is Dave Miller's beautiful debut album Mitchells Raccolta the first 'minimal broken beat' record? While the question, included within press material accompanying the release, might be intended rhetorically, it also astutely highlights one of the album's distinguishing characteristics. The label 'broken beat' refers to off-kilter, syncopated rhythms that suggest traces of jazz, breakbeat, drum & bass, and house, but it's also used to describe more broadly a polyglot style that elusively transcends a single genre slot while simultaneously incorporating elements of house, breakbeat, techno, funk, soul, and jazz.

Mitchells Raccolta satisfies both definitions but, even more critically, signals a radical extension of Background Records's sound beyond its superb minimal dance style into a murkier experimental zone. Miller's album is woozy illbient-jazz, a narcotized and richly textured brew whose splayed jazz-funk drum pulses and abstracted chatterings of keyboards, guitar, and percussion are anchored by clear-headed bass lines. When the trance-like musings of Phil Slater's 'broken' trumpet uncoil like a snake charmer in “Excelsior Interlude,” for example, the album sounds light years removed from anything else in the Background Records catalogue. Deepening the album's disoriented feel is its continuous flow as one track bleeds into the next.

The music's distinctive flavour is established immediately in “Down the Line from Harvey” with its cavernous bass pulse, minimal cymbal shadings, and Matt Reoesner's guitar flutter. Micro-edits and snippets of bells and organ chatter over a low-slung bass line in “Conversations Kill” while “She Makes” retains the relaxed illbient feel. “Front to the Back to the Neck” takes a slow, skanky turn into minimal dub in contrast to the broken beat excursions “One Light, Dark Room” and “Before You Leave.” The former weaves drum micro-edits into a complex lurching pattern before building to a vertiginous, rollicking close, while the latter's loose, jazz-inflected drums scurry helter-skelter as they elude the downbeat.

In some respects, Mitchells Raccolta isn't a total departure for Background Records. Like Miller's, the tracks on db's Peron and Troon EP maintain a similar nonstop flow and focus on detailed textures; the difference—a key one—is that db's tracks are grounded by clearly defined grooves whereas Miller's are more nebulous by comparison. Miller may hail from the relatively isolated locale of Perth, Australia but there's nothing myopic about his album's fresh multi-stylistic fusion.

May 2005