Re: ai 2 comp comment, Jeff Mills

From macqueen
Sent Sun, Jan 22nd 1995, 19:57

        Sean Joseph Portnoy <>  said:

>i am a poor and thus infrequent idm purchaser who picked up the artifical
>intellignece 2 comp >to get a sample of autechre, b12 and hia before plunking
>down $$ on their own full-length >stuff.
>i must say i was fairly disappointed with the comp.  except, of course, for
>the always >excellent black dog (aka balil) and their "parasight" production. 
>this may be a bit of >flame-bait material, but i have a couple of gripes with
>the idm "style" evident on ai 2.  that >is, a very long intro that usually
>consists of some noodling around with synths and then >finally the beat kicks

        Funny, I got in the "noodling" debate with a professor last
thursday (he was formally trained in acoustic guitar) who really couldn't
understand reasons for and appreciation of "ambient" music and some of what
I would call "IDM" .... but that's another argument.   :)     (!)  Instead
of dwelling on that, let me suggest a few tracks that might be more to your
liking.  If what bothers you about some slower/listening tracks is their
long washy intros, or seeming "lack of form" before the beats kick in, you
might consider some more stripped-down or what has been called "minimalist"
techno.  But if you like the watery sampley sounds of amorphous
androgynous, this is absolutely nothing like that.  It can be repetitive
too, but  that's minimalism for ya'.   :)   

        I am thinking in particular about the recent work of Jeff Mills and
Robert Hood.  For those hung-up on the unfortunately necessary labeling of
techno, (I know, me too) this is for the record, probably not a whole like
IDM and definitely not characterized by  traditionally "ambient" traits.  
This is short, fast and often very cold techno.  But really nothing like
the "hardcore" techno I associate with labels like Drop Bass, Re-Load, or
recent DJAX records.  In short, it's stripped down, darker Detroit, less
acidic, if acidic at all!   If there is a 303 used at all, it's prob. not
used in the "typical" acidic way.   A trademark of Mills and Hood is the
no-nonsense method of getting right to the meat of track, no bullshit, all

        Mills and Hood make relatively short tracks (I guess 4-8 minutes
each, I've never really timed them but 3 can easily fit on one side of a
12").  I admire this, I think it's harder to squeeze the essence of a
techno song under 5 minutes because so much of it depends on intricate
layers, which are typically "broken down" to appreciate.   Mill's "Cycle
30" record is characterized by short loops and un-typical structures of
phasing and out-of-phasing, some weird delays overlapping, but overall less
"special effects processing," stark beats, more Detroit feel, and no
warm-long "trancy" chords, and basically un-typical acid, or no acid at

        The beats are un-typical of most techno, no solo 909 kicks at the
intro, often it usually starts with a short non-percussive loop, then
perhaps another loops are added (quickly), and it's often hard to tell
right when the kick drum comes in.  I love that, but *damn* is it hard to
mix in and out of during a set.  The structures don't have the usual breaks
at the 8 counts, either, they make their own structures and are not the
typical "add or subtract something every 8 or 16 phrases" like house music
and a lot of "dancey" techno usually follows.

        Mills and Hood records are not typically "DJ friendly" yet are very
highly respected by DJ's, and I'll venture to say that Mills is arguably
the best DJ of his genre in the world.  (not indended to start flames or
debate, but I believe this is true).   

>can anyone help me come up with a buying list?  btw, stuff i have bought and
>liked includes
> polygon window, black dog's bytes and some of the amorphous androgynous stuff.
> i need to find some stuff that suits my taste (shorter tracks, innovative use
>of beats equal >to other experimentation with sounds) for my increasingly
>infrequent trips to the record store.

        If you hate "a looped beat ad nauseaum,"  as you say, then you
should listen before buying, but do appreciate the structure and short(er)
length of the tracks.  But the tracks are no-bullshit, straight-up pure
techno, IMHO, and waste no time in "noodling" or un-motivated ambient
atmosphere, yet they still have "soul" in some dark way.  A great example
of this is the track "Core" on Robert Hood's "Internal Empire," on the
M-plant label.  Even the name of the track suggests it's feel.  :)

        Recommended Listening:
        Jeff Mills
                (many records on the AXIS label, which I think is "his" label)
                "Cycle 30"  12" which has about 8 cool locked-groove loops
on the b-side
                "GROWTH" 12"

        Robert Hood 
                "Minimal Nation"  a 2 x 12" pack that defines the genre,
amazingly dark
                "Internal Empire" 4 smart short tracks, wonderfully dense, fast.
        Mode Selector
                a new artist on the Planet E label, (with other projects
going on too).
                at times warmer than Mills and Hood but still dense, hard,
minimal at
                times.  Has a track featured on the new Planet E
compilation CD called
                "raindrops" and two 12"'s and an LP due sometime later in 1995.

I hope that helps.  It sure isn't what I consider to be IDM but hey, it's
damn good.  :) 
Sorry this reply was so long.......


Matt MacQueen                                                   GROWTH.
Interface and Hypermedia Designer/Programmer                  
Communication Technology Laboratory, Michigan State Univeristy