As the increasingly nebulous micro-tech-house catchall “minimal” comes of age, a particular saying springs to mind. “A certain disorder in the treble range” is a phrase attributed to Factory Records producer Martin Hannett; he used it to describe a commonality between Factory bands like Joy Division, Magazine, and A Certain Ratio, who countered the bullying elitism of punk’s guitar feedback with their delicate, oddly resonant clefs.
Saying that minimal directly picks up post-punk’s personal-as-political tendencies is a generalization far too sweeping. But minimal certainly finds its stride in the same upper ranges, where anomalous, nervy pitch plays dramatically against melancholic tonal recesses. And you can feel the parallels in two new feature-length mixes–Ellen Allien’s Boogy Bytes Vol. 04 and Jennifer Cardini’s Feeling Strange. Both discs fold post-hedonism anxiety into perforated body rhythms that should satisfy the bugged-out as well as the shut-ins.
Berlin-based DJ, producer, and BPitch Control label head Ellen Allien has always thrived in the edgy quarry of humanizing the hollowed-out. In Berlin’s pool of talent, her expressive, expansive sets set a high-water mark for those who value the style of the DJ more than his or her selections. Allien can sometimes hit a stretch more suited to tweaking perceptions than speakers, meaning some of her musical choices resonate more in an introspective headspace than a main-room setting.
Allien came up during Germany’s reunification, cutting her teeth on concrete and steel girders. Borne from these pockets, Boogy Bytes Vol. 04 is high on life but low on air, striking an arterial beat even as certain elements oxidize. Eschewing glamour, the 15-track mix opts for a measured, viscera-streaked crowning before fully unfurling. Across the first three tracks–by AGF, Vera, and Ricardo Villalobos + Patrick Ense–transient elements fidget and decay, waning anxiously into the periphery. With Melon’s “Nitzi (In My Mind, So Fine),” the mood shifts to fade in and remains in a more forward mode for a good 30 minutes (highlighted by bulbous tracks from SozAdams and Richard Seeley). Boogy Bytes Vol. 04 closes with Little Dragon’s “Twice,” a ballad that’s a dewy counterpart to the mix’s more arid feel.
Hailing from Paris, Jennifer Cardini emerged from a scene and era similarly decadent (though less severe) to Allien’s, and swaddled herself in its shadows. Nothing too turgid remains from French house’s dilated excess here–Cardini’s aesthetic jives with Kompakt’s tendency towards spacious, emotional arrangements accessorized with minor-key melodies. Less pixilated, more prowling, Cardini’s Feeling Strange takes a complementary, but opposite tack than Allien’s mix.
Cardini opens with a ballad–Robert Lippok’s remix of Static’s “Sometimes I’m Sad for a Few Seconds”–and by track four, Joeski’s “All By Myself,” galvanized pins have been placed in the mix’s rhythmic backbone. Over a spongy transition, book-ended by Maurizio and Khan, Cardini goes from melody to Moroderism, touches on aloof tech-house, and hints at halos and tracers of beardo disko. Winding her way amidst the glass stalactites and rustling chrysalises of Alex Smoke, Cardini chooses macro over micro by closing with a willowy Apparat track. Over 21 tracks, Cardini is more akin to Laurent Garnier than Luciano, interested in crispness rather than long-form pliancy.