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Review: youAND:THEMACHINES, “Behind”

In his March 3rd interview with Ibiza Voice, Martin Müller proudly lists the synths, drum machines, and effects units he used to make Behind, his first album without youANDme partner Daniel Stroeter. Among others, he names: the Waldorf Microwave 1 and Roland Alpha Juno 2, the TR-808 and TR-909, the Jomox Xbase 888, a Verona DRM, a Moogerfooger, a Sherman Filterbank, and various other resonators, compressors, and equalizers. He loves his gear, and every song on Behind begins and ends with it. Whatever the results— jet black Detroit house, dub, ambient noise, or some other variety of electronic music— Martin’s machines matter most. Everything else comes second.

Müller underlines his focus on color and texture from the get-go. After the brief, weightless wash of “Entrance,” “Perception” hits with wave after wave of staccato synthesizer sound. Over and over again, the same emphatic pulse pushes through the air, throbbing insistently for every second of the song’s almost six minutes. Riding on the crests of those electrical waves is a foamy mix of vocals, percussive accents, and other sound effects, like field recordings. Some of them pop off the rhythmic background and fizzle out, others get tucked into the mix and work away secretly beneath or within the persistence of the bass drum. But the elements are always simpatico, in some cases just a hair’s breadth removed from each other.

This is how Martin works. He hypnotizes first with hammering rhythms and catchy melodies, then woos with slick, but seriously deep textures and sound effects, wrapping them all together in a way that makes taking them apart impossible. Nearly every song proceeds that way: the beat provides the canvas and the textures provide the color, as well as the energy and intrigue. Müller pulls it all off by concentrating on the smallest units. He builds his songs thinking less about form and more about how and where sounds will mingle. All the repetitive passages, small variations, and mirrored rhythms, techno-flavored as they are, pay more homage to tone color, texture, and density than to the almighty beat.

Ambient passages help break the album up and give it some formal variety, although they feel secondary to the rhythm-centric productions. Müller definitely shines brightest when he’s messing with club-approved fare, adding depth and subtracting flash in favor of subtlety. The way he handles the vocal tracks still amazes me. The first time through those vocals were the biggest obstacle to my enjoying the record. Repeat listens quickly removed that obstacle. Thinking about it now, they are a little corny, but Martin uses them to such good effect that it doesn’t matter. By the end of the record they have disappeared into the machines that Müller so adores.

Behind is available on Ornaments
Sound samples available at Brainwashed.com

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The Monthly List: June’s Top 9

jackson_pollock_blue_poles

Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles” – the cover for “Spiritual Jazz Vol. 4”

The techno fever continues this month with a killer debut from youAND:THEMACHINES, aka Martin Müller of youANDmeBehind was released in June by Ornaments Records in three formats: CD, 3LP, and hand-painted, special edition 3LP. It is only the fifth full length from Ornaments. Two of the other four were compilations put together by Luke Hess and youANDme, so this is a special occasion. Müller mixes house, dub, and various other strands of techno together.

According to this interview, he uses nothing but analog equipment to do it and prefers creating his own sounds to using samples. I can hear that in the album’s production and in the way Müller builds his songs. He emphasizes texture and density as much as club-worthy rhythms and he shies away from conspicuous melodic themes. He also matches vocal contributions to the tonal color of his instruments and tosses ambient stretches of noise between dance tracks. I like it enough to get past those goofy house vocals, which together constitute the weakest part of the album. Though I’ll admit one or two of those songs have grown on me.

I’m almost certain the hand-painted edition is already sold out (it was limited to just 333 copies) but the CD and LP can still be found online and at certain record shops around the US. So don’t puss out and download it from some blog. Go find a copy, or at least buy the MP3s.

I finally got my hands on some of the new Erstwhile titles last month too. I plan on getting reviews up as soon as possible, but my review writing has slowed down recently due to other writing projects.

About this time of year, certain records solidify as my favorites so far, but there’s been such a glut of great new records that nothing’s become concrete for me. Only a few records carried over from last month, and I can’t decide which record among the three or four I like most is “the best.” So I want bother with a mid-year list or best of.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.