Meteosound: Hitek

“A rose by any other name smells just as sweet.” One can't help but recall Shakespeare when listening to Hitek which might just as easily have been titled staedtizism 5. After all, Hitek contributors Tadd Mullinix (aka Dabrye), Bus, Thomas Felhmann, Headset, and Jan Jelinek (aka The Exposures) have appeared on past staedtizism installments, and Hitek 's hip-hop-dub-techno vibe perpetuates a style much like the one associated with ~scape. Drawing connections even closer, Daniel Meteo manages the Berlin-based Meteo label when he's not collaborating with Tom Thiel under the moniker Bus and releasing material like last year's Middle of the Road.

Whether intentionally or not, the Meteo comp follows a discernible trajectory from hip-hop flavoured tracks at the beginning to dubbier fare towards its end. The set opens in fine form with Dabrye's “Magic Says” (taken from the 12” Game Over), a slow-burner that might seem slight at first but gets under your skin fast. By repeating its clanking beat incessantly, Mullinix cleverly builds tension before releasing it with a hiccup or snare crack and sweetens it further with some flute samples. Taken from Jimmy Tamborello and Allen Avanessian's Headset release Space Settings, “Back Before” is up next and, strangely enough, sounds better here than it does in its original context; that shift, however, doesn't make the “If I only had a brain” chorus sound less lame. The comp's first half maintains the strong level with “Post-crossings” by The Exposures (Jan Jelinek), Contriva's “8 Eyes (Tom Thiel Remix),” and Wuzi Khan's “Hip Hop Theme.” Jelinek takes a minimal funk turn by alternating whirring loops with spacious breaks and distinguishes the brief piece with his customary taste and imagination. Contriva's more substantial track contrasts driving beats with languid interweaves of chordal shimmer and guitar ripples. Also strong are “Another Level” from Alb (Tobias Hett and Daniel Meteo) featuring MC Soom-T and Apparat's “Steinholz (Monolake remix).” Sounding much like Bus, Alb drops swaying dub rhythms behind Soom-T, whose versatility is on full display as she alternates between raps and funky Arabic-flavoured singing. Robert Henke's signature sonic arsenal of machine noises transforms Sascha Ring's “Steinholz” into more a Monolake than Apparat outing.

Good also though at a slightly lesser level are The Orb's “Green Ginger (Bus dub mix)” and Bus's own “Simple Way” featuring Earl 16. The former, hardly recognizable as The Orb except for the bong-heavy “Green Ginger” voice samples, is more memorable for the lurching dub funk added by Bus, while “Simple Way” isn't entirely new as it overlays Earl 16's mellow vocal onto “Clappin” from Middle of the Road. Not uncommonly, weaker tracks appear in the second half. Lars Fenin's “Driven” includes a nice enough groove of propulsive bass and burbling echo but sounds more like a backing track. Co-written with Robert Fripp, Thomas Fehlmann's “Seitenstrasse” promises much but turns out to be a good but unspectacular dub workout that positions a hi-hat-driven drum attack at the forefront and atmospheric washes in the back. The Rootsman's more traditional “My World Is Spinning” is nicely enhanced by Indian touches like tablas, but Horace Andy's affected, strangulated vibrato (“Let me be your man”) is off-putting.

Like most compilations, including the staedtizism releases, Hitek has its fair share of stellar and unspectacular moments. Still, ~scape fans eagerly awaiting staedtizism 5 will find much to enjoy on Hitek, especially if they don't have the previously released tracks in their collections. On the other hand, listeners whose collections include Game Over, Space Settings, Middle of the Road, and The Orb's latest Bicycles & Tricycles will have less need to pick it up. Regardless, it's certainly a satisfying enough portrait of current dub-techno stylings.

September 2004