Mr. Incognito: EP
Sleepy City

Toxedo: Remote Closeness
Sleepy City

VA: Voxxx Series

Quantazelle: Coaster
Subvariant Recordings

Given the proliferation of prostrating imitators, one might be forgiven for asking “What hath Autechre wrought?” and for wondering what Rob Brown and Sean Booth must make of their enormous impact. As newly issued music evidencing their influential stamp floods forth daily, one wonders whether the artists following in their wake are merely recycling established sounds or imbuing the style with fresh reinvention. Recent releases from Sleepy City, Voxxx, and Subvariant provide some possible answer.

From the relatively young Sleepy City IDM imprint comes a 5-track EP by Mr. Incognito, a 25-year old producer from Striessen. Whirrs and clicks in the blazing “Manoxa” introduce broad splashes of organ colour and pounding mashed beats, immediately signifying that the EP's music won't garner the highest mark for originality despite its powerfully delivery. The remaining pieces feature familiar genre signifiers—arcade synth flutter, glistening chimes, and fulminating breaks that skitter and scurry. Aside from the opener, the best thing here is “Byt” with its deep groove, gaseous billows, and pinprick needles.

Toxedo's (Freiberg-based Knut Götzelt) Remote Closeness EP is similar in spirit to Mr. Incognito's, if more downtempo and mellow by comparison. With its chopped voice stutters and clipped funk throbs, the title track exudes a languid, dreamy vibe that's slightly reminiscent of Boards of Canada, with the mood continuing into “For Julianne” where warm synth sparkle drapes across crunchy beat pounds. Much like his label compatriot, Götzelt's 4-track EP is nicely sculpted and arranged yet still derivative.

Based in Chemnitz, the neophyte Voxxx label adopts a slightly different approach, initiating a series of six 12-inchers with Series A comprised of single contributions from five artists (three from Chemnitz, two from North America) and the projected five to follow given over to full EPs from each one. Echorausch's (Alexander Hessel and Rico Suchatzki) “Finetuner” starts things off with a mellow groove of bruised clicks and clanks over a melancholy ostinato base followed by Vio Lat Cen's (Ronny Seifert) more scarred and dramatic “Sjignenghaan” which slathers writhing whirrs over pulverized beats and Autechrian cross-currents. “Ratifacts” finds Setzer (Canadian Daniel Watton) indulging in similarly flavoured synaptic beat constructions, his piece detonating in a cacophonous blizzard, while Geroyche offers up grimy beat splatter in “Overthrow Dem Downpressors (Edit).” Of the five artists, Mochipet (San Francisco-based David Wang) takes the road least traveled on “Polka Electronic Death Country” where Zappaesque skitter segues into wild episodes of seething breakcore, mutant Polka, and some warped bluegrass-breakcore hoedown. While the others offer good quality, well-crafted genre tracks, Wang deserves credit for at least attempting something never heard before.

Donning her Quantazelle guise, Chicagoan and editor Liz McLean Knight issues the premiere full-length Coaster on her own Subvariant label. Obviously, one's attention is first drawn to the cute concept—the disc also designed to function as a literal coaster—but don't interpret the gesture as a sly strategy to compensate for any lack in the music, as it holds up well enough on its own. The album opens auspiciously with the jittery, sci-fi feel of the itchy, glitchy “Braking (Hushed),” all bass throbs and chiming melodies, before segueing into the rambunctious arcade fervour and scurrying rumbles of “It's Fizzbang.” The dark “Belmont Killa” is equally aggressive, as is “Stereofoam” where skuzzy bass tones and almost tribal-sounding rhythms accompany bleeping synth melodies.

What elevates Coaster above its stylistic connections to genre figureheads like Autechre and Plaid is its more individuating approach to composition and arrangement. Consider “Wineglass Chopstick Clinkrush,” for example, an elegant, at times hypnotic piece that marries a distinctive trio of piano, muted horns, and typewriter clatter layers to staccato beats. “Late Blazing Kinch Theme,” where Quantazelle merges pretty harp plucks with scratchy, skittish beats, and “Ping Query,” an unusual amalgam of voice samples, music box melodies, and bass grunts, are also distinctive in this regard. The album moves into mellower zones on the dreamy “Vanity Knobs With Groove Grimace” and piano-based interlude “Pansy Beatmatch” and such diversity and imagination proves refreshing in the long haul. Interestingly, perhaps the album's most striking moments appear during a hidden track (its presence intimated by the disclaimer “Hidden track is Sold Separately”), a haunting mix of chopped voice fragments and percussive percolations.

Like the aforementioned EPs, Coaster is solid Warp-styled IDM but, while certainly accomplished, doesn't radically redraw the existing template. To her credit, though, McLean Knight emphasizes the genre's melodic and compositional dimensions and goes further in broadening the palette to accommodate both acoustic and electronic sounds.

March 2005