Dave Miller: Grey Summer
Background Records

db: Aspern
Background Records

Repeat Orchestra: Red Dark Shed
Background Records

Since 1996, Andy Vaz's Background Records has produced top-notch minimal electronic music by an ever-expanding cavalcade of like-minded artists that includes Akufen, Sutekh, and Portable. The releases commonly find the perfect balance between mind and body, with tracks rooted in the supplest of grooves but executed with conceptual elegance. Need proof? These three 12 inchers from Australian Dave Miller, Repeat Orchestra (Stefan Schwander aka Antonelli Electr., Rhythm Maker), and db (Vienna 's Daniel Bemberger) provide a lush sampling of the label's sophisticated style.

Miller's Grey Summer offers four cool slices of minimal glitch-techno. The curtain rises with “Dubbing Out On Lantana,” its disparate sounds of plummeting bass throbs, skipping drum patterns, and phantom dub sounds coalescing into a lurching groove. Miller's beloved bass lines grow ever more cavernous amidst the Cologne shuffle beats and warm, coddling organ lines of “Unfortunate Interruption From Mr. Lewis.” On the flip, “Cigarettes and Coffee” and “Backwards And Forwards” showcase more slinky grooves and deep bass lines.

db's Aspern features three examples of Bemberger's crisp glitch-house style. Nuanced and meticulous, “Souled” exudes a faint African aura with its repetitive stomp and array of crackling shuffles and snare hiccups. The title piece is muffled micro-house peppered by insectile chattering, subtle percussive flavourings, and vocal cries. “Route 49” opens with random sounds—one evoking a braying animal braying or guttural elephant call—that settle into a glitchy groove of clicks, clacks, and whirrs.

Red Dark Shed offers an enticing foretaste of the Repeat Orchestra's debut album The Original Dimensions. Ominous opening chords on “Red Dark Shed” are joined by layer upon layer of percussive flutter, sheathing sounds, hi-hats, and barrelhouse grooves until the track resembles a churning machine. Schwander's other original “I Know The Darkness” is textbook minimal techno powered by downturned bass throbs and chugging beats. Portable (Alan Abrahams, originally from Cape Town, South Africa ) and db provide remixes, both drawing forth the African dimension of Background Records's sound. In db's “Red Dark Shed” remake, scattered bits and pieces gradually cohere into a semblance of the original, although snuffling sounds and shaker accents hijack it toward more exotic climes. In Portable's skittish “I Know The Darkness (remix),” night creatures and fireflies emerge from the thick undergrowth until it becomes a swinging hoedown that recalls Abrahams' inimitable Cycling.

Deep house? Minimal techno? Call it what you like, Miller, Schwander, and Bemberger offer three splendid arguments in support of Background Records' classy brand of digital dance music.

May 2004