gullbuy music review





Source Records

various artists CD

opensource.codeOPENSOURCE - CODE is the second in Source Records 'opensource' series of compilations. 'Code' has been produced in conjunction with Ableton Software of Germany.

Ableton is the maker of a revolutionary piece of software called 'Live' which is meant for - yes! - live performance of sample-based music. In lieu of a lecture about the masterful creation of this program, I will simply state that it is amazing, has changed my life and if you are doing electronic music or any music at all, you should check out Ableton. Whether or not this CD is meant to be an example of the things you can do with Live or a showcase of some of its more famous users is unclear.

This compilation is made up of artists doing the 'minimal house' thing. You know: slightly housey beats, with some glitchy, fuzzy sounds thrown in. I have been wary of compilations lately, having purchased a few duds. I am happy to report, this is not one of them. This comp will not disappoint you.
Let us look into the individual tracks of this CD:

Akufen's 'Syntaxis 2' begins with a peppy beat, some scritchy noises and clangerous chords hanging ominously in midair. Blips and beats begin to filter in. The beats continue on through the song as do the chords. Odd sounds like twisted saxophones loop in and out. The song doesn't change a great deal from beginning to end but it is a nice beginning to this CD.

Jan Jelinek's 'Music to interrogate by' is simply terrifying. Its title alone conjures up disturbing images. The track opens with canned TV applause, and settles into what sounds like a jazz combo stuck in a lock groove. Bass, vibes and fuzzy drums hold the prisoner/listener down while the beat pounds into them slowly and subtly. The tone of the piece is that of 60's - 70's era spy music. Samples of orchestras seem to float in and out of the mix, along with occasional sounds of things being dropped (your torture session may vary; this is what I hear). It closes with the applause, as if to signal to the crowd the atrocity exhibition has come to an end.

On to S.E. Berlin's 'Toninas.' After the previous track, S.E. Berlin (formerly Sun Electric) come in to take us away from the interrogation. I initially mistook this track for the Robert Lippok one, so similar to Lippok's work in To Rococo rot it is. Ooops! It's a good song for daybreak, with its easy tones, funny springy noises and occasional piano drops. Some tension is introduced by swirling strings, but soon we are greeted with a nice clicking beat and the mood grows into one of mild funk. S.E. Berlin composes an amusing tune to wake up by. A nice dawn chorus, Neu-Teutonic style.

Robert Lippok's '6 a.m.' opens with mild digital scratching and muffled chords. It breaks into an old beat box providing rhythms for bass and piano-like instruments that arrive. occasional glitchy skips and stutters move throughout the music while an arpeggiated sequence hops merrily along. Another nice piece of german micro-house. Bton's 'Nocturne' begins with what sounds like Billy Holiday singing from deep inside a ceramic tiled maze. The song unfolds into a bluesy piece with some funky electro bass and 'wha-wha' guitar thrown in. High-pitched squeals enter the mix like birds trapped in this maze. And all the while Billy is singing away...

Sutekh comes in with 'Asscr' I think this one is my favorite. A very house beat pushes the song along while the sounds of broken printers scramble from left to right. An extremely funky baseline bops to the beat. A slowly vibrating synth comes in to wash over your ears with a pleasant buttery coating. Staccato vocal snippets percolate in time with the beat. Am I in Chicago or Dusseldorf? do I care?

And now we have Thomas Brinkmann with 'Momoklick.' BRINKMANN!!!! I'll say it again: BRINKMANN! Like anything Tommy puts his mind to, it's full of scratches, crackles and hissing like a quintet of Victrolas reanimated by computers and forced to become zombie slaves to the riddim. Brinkmann's track has a great deal of life in it despite the seemingly monochromatic palette he uses. The beat moves along quite nicely and there is a good deal of variation in it to keep the listener connected and interested. A single bass note sounds throughout the song in contrast to the busier basslines of the other tracks. So much clicking and buzzing never sound so funky!

About Smyglyssna's 'Microholiday': the beat in this one is a nice variation from the house derived beats found on most of this compilation. Funny, but this track may be the weakest of them all, which means little since it's still quite good. A funky little hi-hat pattern bops along below the digital sounds. Angular synths romp around the occasional scratches and tick-tocking drums. This one has a lot of elements that don't seem to come together as the others do, i.e. Track 7.

Move D weighs in his code with 'µst'. This opens quietly with a knocking beat, atmospheric drones and vibes. An 808 drumbeat kicks in, bringing us back into house territory. A high warbling sound is a nice counterpoint to the occasional piano and vibraphones in the song. Like many of the songs herein, little changes throughout most of the piece, though it is very good. Occasional high-pitched 'wow-wow' sounds come through the mix now and again. Move D is an occasional collaborator with To Rococo Rot, for those who are keeping score.

Next is Alex Cortex with 'laconic track1 (tom thiel remix).' In this piece, nice soft chords flow in contrast to the snaps and snarls of what sounds like a drum machine up from the wrong side of the bed. Something like a sick hurdy gurdy rolls in and out of the mix now and again. The drums never settle into a recognizable beat, merely skittering all over and bouncing around the stereo field occasionally. This is a good thing.

Ah, Monolake. Here we have 'White II.' Monolake is one of my favorite artists, I'll say this right now. Using very few elements, Monolake creates very moody, compelling pieces of music. This track is a good example of that. 9.5 minutes of ambiance. His beats always seem to have some sort of bio-electric feel to them, like he's programming them straight from his brain. His music is always large and atmospheric without being too heavy. Synth washes flow over metallic noises, their tones coated in heavy, wet reverb. This song makes me imagine robot insects dancing late on a rainy night in a deserted subway station, while empty trains roar past the crumbling platforms. Towards the end a single handclap drives this song into almost danceable territory. A good piece from one of the programmers of Ableton Live.

Last is Studio Pankow 'Linienbusse.' Sounds at first like a loop of an old rotary phone dialing (those of you Gullbuy readers born after 1980, please ask someone older than you what that is), with synths playing in a lightly distorted loop over the top. Occasional piano (you can't have house music without the piano!) notes hang in the air like smoke. Staccato sounds flicker in and out. The piece builds in volume slowly and surely, not beating the listener up with clippy beats. Another piece that brings to mind a summer morning with insects stirring in the early rays of the sun. Okay, summer on Mars, maybe.

I liked this comp a lot and would recommend it to anyone curious about the genre and the musicians herein. A good digital booty shaker of a CD.

---Charles Terhune, November 5, 2002