Pellarin: Athen
Statler & Waldorf

VA: Teeth
Statler & Waldorf

Even though its name suggests some global corporate entity, Statler & Waldorf is actually a Denmark-based label run by Lars Pellarin and Stefan Mylleager that simulates a ~scape-Chain Reaction hybrid in its fusion of dub, electronics, and hip-hop, with the six tracks on Pellarin's hour-long Athen (the follow-up to his 2002 Couchblip debut Tangible Abstractions) comprising an especially immersive dub-techno zone. While I can't be certain that the album was, in fact, created using a custom-built delay setup and a single sample (as accompanying information indicates), there's no question the album pushes dub's hypnotic potential to a trance-inducing extreme.

Athen begins subtly with faint starbursts of static prickles layered over gaseous clouds and a droning tone in “The Peace of Fishing,” the piece slowly unfurling as keyboard burblings and industrial emissions appear. Lapping ripples and crackles emerge in the second piece, “Preliminary Outline,” with the introduction of a bass drum rhythmic pulse; at thirteen minutes, the piece's development is so glacial that the slightest gesture (like the subtlest shift in that drum pattern) takes on magnified significance. Pellarin's percolating patterns of whirrs and hisses eventually reach a slow broil that recalls the industrial factory ambiance of Fluxion's Vibrant Forms II. The shortest piece, “Towards November,” offers the full spectrum of genre sounds—snaking rhythms, crackling bursts, gaseous waves, and static ripples—as it robustly exits the album. While Athen is heavily indebted to the Chain Reaction sound, that's not necessarily a bad thing given the dearth of new CR product. It's resolutely amelodic, though, so listeners shouldn't expect anything so conventional as a melody, and is primarily concerned with rhythm and texture; consequently, the album is better thought of as dub-ambient rather than dub-techno and is best broached as a continuous whole rather than separate pieces.

At fifteen tracks, Teeth offers a comprehensive label overview. It's all good, with none of its exclusive tracks standing out as especially inferior or superior. Aies' “Globus” opens the set smoothly, layering Ane Trolle's soft, languid vocal over a jazz-inflected electronic base, the song somewhat reminiscent of August Engkilde's EPO. The track's edits and loops immediately signify its digital character but the mode of construction is wisely secondary to the composition itself. Pellarin appears again here, though his “Fashion” is unlike Athen. On the comp, he conjures a mellow and dubby head-nodding base for MCs and floats Eastern-tinged melodica tones through the background. An overt ~scape connection is established by the appearance of System whose “JO!” inhabits the group's familiar digi-dub territory though with a subtle hint of hip-hop in the song's beats. Andreas Tilliander drops a dubby dance-hall vibe into his “Loco Box.” Other dub excursions come from Rasmus Møbius and Mitek's Folie, while k.i.o.l. adds some harder-edged Autechrian machine funk for good measure. Injecting hip-hop into their pieces are Viktor Sjöberg and Knaster, while Brus, Bichi, and AntiChristian opt for deeper and more texturally atmospheric outings.

All in all, it's a good enough collection though not especially innovative or unfamiliar in its general sound. Compared to ~scape's own recent label overview But Then Again, Teeth seems stylistically more reserved, the overall sound less focused. Still, one shouldn't overlook the differences in the labels' respective stages of development, however, making the more tentative feel of Statler & Waldorf's Teeth somewhat understandable.

March 2005