Luke Slater's music has probably been described, at more than one party, as "techno that girls could like." That's a problematic statement in some ways, but let's put it aside since it's for reasons that have nothing to do with Slater. The techno veteran's latest album—as L.B. Dub Corp, for Ostgut Ton—is almost incapable of alienating or offending any listener. It's not a genre-bound statement, which is well enough for someone whose discography runs so deep that making a statement is beside the point. Unknown Origin's accessibility is an organic one, and it doesn't come from him trying to be polite or "reach an audience." A lot of listeners simply agree with his ideas about what makes for good music, ideas he might not even be able to articulate. He's just on a positive vibe—there's nothing smarmy about his work, and we're certainly not suggesting that he's sitting behind a mixing console, rubbing his hands together and hissing "girlssssss." Techno is sometimes a too-serious world, and there's a lightness to this album that's as energizing as its machine rhythms.
We're used to the idea that techno needs to burn a little bit. That listening approach can yield some rewards, or at least allow the music to get its hooks in our minds more than Unknown Origin is really capable of doing. This is not to impugn its quality: Unknown Origin is a uniformly excellent record. It's also one without a whole lot of talk value, from a consistent and well-regarded producer. If Unknown Origin strikes some soft notes of ambivalence, that's because it feels kind of effortless. The closest the album comes to the generic is the aquatic dub workout "LB's Dub," which is still twistily constructed. On the other end of the spectrum, the doe-eyed, buzzy melodies of "No Trouble in Paradise" suggest that, as Ostgut Ton continues to venture into the album game, it's not above a few blissful, anachronistic Kompakt moments. The instrumental cuts show Slater slathering the hardcore techno of his Planetary Assault Systems guise with warm house vibes, but the real innovative moments here are his collaborations with the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, particularly the arch oratory of "I Have a Dream." L.B. Dub Corp's Unknown Origin doesn't distinguish itself to the same degree as an album like labelmate Marcel Fengler's Fokus from earlier this year, although its experiments with the album format are just as relevant to the territory Ostgut Ton is heading into. But on songs like "I Have a Dream," Slater is experimenting with an affect the label hasn't approached before, and it pays off handsomely, even if it doesn't stick in your craw.