Terence Dixon: Minimalism III
Background Records

Oliver Hacke: Mid-Atlantic
A Touch of Class

Warmdesk: Capricorn Rising
A Touch of Class

At its simplest, Andy Vaz splits his Background Records and A Touch of Class imprints into 'minimal techno' and 'house' catalogues but, predictably, clear lines of demarcation turn blurry on the releases themselves when they straddle both genres or move back and forth from one to the other. Regardless, the material's always superb, a fact amply borne out by three of its latest 12-inch offerings.

Old-school Detroit producer Terrence Dixon inaugurated Background Records in 1998 with his Bionic Man EP, and his latest set Minimalism III sounds no less fresh. Listening to Dixon's labyrinthine opener “Lost,” it's hard not to think of the Ouroboros, the mythological creature usually depicted as a circular snake swallowing its tail (the word itself, Greek in origin, means “tail swallower”). A synthesizer keyboard line repeats hypnotically overtop a percolating base, becoming a nucleus around which locomotive hi-hat patterns and a marching battalion of handclaps constellate. “Grey Area” is even sweeter, classic Detroit techno soul filled with warm synth smears and hi-hats so sharp they could sever limbs. In contrast to side one's minimal techno emphasis, side B shifts the focus to spacier material. The dark “Building Blocks” slows the pace with a lugubrious yet still entrancing shimmy. Layering violent swirls of noise over a steamrolling techno base, “War Is Loud” aurally conveys the lunacy of combat while dubby flutter darts across a beatless sky during “Math Test.”

Oliver Hacke's soulful house tracks burst with vitality and the four cuts on Mid-Atlantic, an irresistibly swinging complement to Hacke's debut album Subject Carrier, are no exception. Oozing a deep Chicago House feel, the driving “Fair Rance's Mid-Atlantic Solutions” pulsates with jacking ferocity, its groove warmed by silky chords, a beautifully modulating melody line, and jazzy keyboard soloing. Adrift in a sea of vinyl crackle, soft piano melodies in “Track 87” add nostalgic ambiance to its grooving pulse while electric piano and blustery saxophone honks add soul-jazz vibe to the slippery house groove of “Amateur Chit Chat.” In a word: magnificent.

Chicago-based William Selman returns to Background Record's sub-label A Touch of Class with his third Warmdesk outing, Capricorn Rising, an absolutely splendid EP of infectious tech-house and a classy complement to 2003's Pistachio and 2004's Safety First. Filled with swinging rhythms and wide-screen atmosphere, side one features the gorgeous title track, a dubbed-out, eight-minute house epic that's as soothing as a warm bath. Lie back and bask in the cut's grooving pulse as it's peppered by a glorious mix of shakers and handclaps that resound like gunfire. On the flip side, a funky tech-house pulse sways and swaggers throughout the cooler “Blueprint Blue” while the tech-house groover “Sleeping Bag” features a snaking bass line so huge it could fell trees. 'Deep House Music' indeed.

February 2006