Paul Mac: Hotel Insomnia
Prins Thomas: Prins Thomas 2
To outsiders, one techno album is pretty much the same as another. For those, on the other hand, who've spent years immersed in the genre, all of the gradations of contrast that distinguish one artist from another are immediately apparent. And so it is that the two concurrently released albums from Prins Thomas and Paul Mac might nominally fall within the same genre category yet are worlds apart, with Thomas's a prime example of melodic techno and Mac's a harder-edged rhythm-centered affair.
There's perhaps no better exponent of melodic techno than Prins Thomas, even if, as his second solo album attests, the Norwegian producer's music is more space disco than techno per se and thus more connected to house. He's an accommodating chap, too, as the album's offered in two versions, as seven separate pieces or as a “Continuous Mix” (with the tracks in different running order and featuring two extras). The material's enticing qualities are on full display in the opener “Symfonisk Utviklingshemming,” a slinky slice of synthetic uplift prodded by an insistent bass pulse and gleaming synthesizer melodies. Within moments, the listener is seduced by the resplendent sound world the producer constructs—and all of that happens before the beats kick in at the five-minute mark.
Though a key part of Prins Thomas 2 is its joyous melodic dimension, as important is its focus on rhythm, something intimated by track titles like “Bobletekno” and “Bom Bom.” The longest one, “Bobletekno,” springs into life with a thrumming drum groove that immediately catches one's attention and then grows into a motorik colossus with the gradual accretion of layers of keyboard patterns. Halfway through its thirteen-minute run, the track interrupts its forceful churn before building itself up again, with this time a tad more funk part of the mix (Thomas likes the track so much he reprises it for an extra five minutes under the title “Bobletekno (Perkmiks)”). Dramatically different in character, “Bom Bom” is Thomas refracted through an African prism as the aptly titled cut's focus is almost exclusively percussive. Also introducing contrast is “Tjukkas Pa Karussel,” a chugging funk-house jam seemingly stitched together from samples (field recordings, too) and oozing a vibe that's equally split between acoustic sounds (trombones, drums, percussion) and crate-digging.
In kicking off with the metallic stomp of “Action Speaks Louder,” Hotel Insomnia, the fifth album from Paul Mac, hits hard from its opening moment. Powered by a deep Motor City vibe, the UK producer's material serves up a breathless, bottom-heavy attack awash in claps, bass thunder, and a hard techno sound subtly sprinkled with dub production effects. Eighteen years into his career as a DJ, producer, and label head (of Stimulus Recordings), Mac puts his ample skills to work on this eighty-minute opus. Most of the thirteen tracks are furious, uptempo bangers that, in his own words, “began life as jams that were created in hotel rooms in various places when I should have been sleeping.” On that note, the self-described beatmaker needn't worry about anyone nodding off while a blazing throwdown like “Old” is playing.
High points include the lustrous electro-jam “Disc Electronique,” which stomps with an irresistibly euphoric snap and synth-spiked thrust, and the title track, a light-speed dynamo animated by a ferociously funky house pulse and blinding string stabs. A welcome addition to the collection's last quarter, the radiant “Sketched Up” finds Mac sneaking in a slightly more laid-back house jam, before “Testing Testing” reinstates the album's hard-grooving side with six minutes of thumping house gallop. The dub-techno side of Mac's sound also gets a thorough workout during “Driven Points” and (naturally) “Kinda Dubby.” That there is a pronounced beat focus is borne out by not only titles (most obviously “Drums and Breaks”) but by the tracks' relentless churning rhythms. Though enthralling, it should be noted that Mac's sound can be cold and severe, such that a cut such as “More Disco” comes down on the harder, machine-heavy side of the equation rather than the warmer, string-kissed style often associated with disco. Having said that, there's no doubting the high level of craft and production skill on display throughout this generous collection.