Saturday, April 9, 2016

Various - Time Warp Compilation 07: Loco Dice (Original TC Review)

Time Warp: 2007

(2016 Update:
I didn't talk much about Loco Dice in this review, beyond the music he selected and mixed on disc. We're nearly a decade on though, and plenty's gone down in Yassine's career in that time. He continued rising in the ranks of trendy DJ circles, established his own print in Desolat, and has maintained his presence and brand in all corners of minimal and tech-house circuits. Great for when the sound was the hottest shit on the market, but it's since substantially receded, and Loco Dice's stock has... pretty much stayed right where it's always been. Never at the
very top of his scene, but still popular enough that any talk of falling off is absurd. Of course, a bunch of cooler music has overtaken minimal as the fresh hotness, but Dice's brand is much too entrenched to go quietly in the night. He's here for the long haul, with whatever great or bleak expectations you expect of the chap and this sound.

As for this Time Warp set,
jay-zeus was it ever a slog to trudge through again. The first disc has a nice dub groove going for a while, but is so mind-sapping repetitive I flake out on it midway. CD2, meanwhile, is engaging throughout for curiosity of whether the plonk-donk-bleh sounds can go anymore absurd. Oh indeed they can, brah'. We pretty much gave up trying to 'get' minimal after this at TranceCritic.)


IN BRIEF: Neo-chill.

The Time Warp festival in Germany is a fairly big deal. No, really it is! It’s been around for over a decade and often secures top DJ talent like Sven Väth, Carl Cox, Speedy J, Paul van Dyk, Adam Beyer, DJ Hell, Laurent Garnier, Richie Hawtin, and so on. In recent years, it’s even gone on to become as much a media arts festival as a musical one.

Still, there are a great number of folks who aren’t aware of it. This is mostly due to the fact Time Warp isn’t your typical electronic music gathering. Firstly, as most of those listed DJs will hint at, techno tends to be the focus. A few other genres are invited, of course, but this is a festival with phrases like ‘pushing the boundaries of musical innovation’ and ‘showcasing forward-thinking arts’ are gospel. Fortunately, the air doesn’t suffocate with hipster pretentiousness but Time Warp certainly doesn’t have the mainstream in mind when they promote themselves.

Anyhow, like any good festival, Time Warp provides a yearly DJ mix for folks to either remember it by or find out what they may have missed. A noticeable path towards the minimal sounds of techno has become apparent over the years and, perhaps predictably, 2007's edition has taken the full plunge. The man behind the sequencing this time out is none other than possibly one of biggest rising names in the minimal scene: Loco Dice.

I think the main thing you need to be aware of with Time Warp ‘07 is this isn’t much of a mainroom release. Sure, minimal has promoted itself as such in recent years, especially ever since most reputable magazine gave the music their official blessing. However, even though you’ll see many minimal acts headline now, this music is still primarily focused on subtlety and nuances, atmosphere and soundscapes; euphoric melodies or pummeling rhythms need not apply. Essentially, minimal is to techno what deep house is to, um, house.

Loco Dice is given two discs to work with here, each with slightly differing tone. The first is more atmospheric, with dubby sounds and the odd synth wave rolling through. Meanwhile, disc two takes us deeper into the murk, with a few token nods to the naughtier side of techno as well. His mixing is silky smooth, with transitions so unnoticeable, you’d think it was the same track playing for long stretches at a time. Actually, that’s part of the problem with this release.

Yes, it is all finely crafted. Yes, there are some nice sounds to be heard. And yes, Loco Dice does do minimal justice. However, this set is seriously flatlined from the start. It never builds any tension, it never leads to different ideas, and a lot of these tracks sound so damned similar to each other. A few of them are even separated by nearly a decade but you wouldn’t be able to tell unless you were familiar with the tunes. It either goes to show how groundbreaking Basic Channel (as Round Two here) was, or how lacking in new ideas the whole genre is. Since I’m not that cynical, I’ll go with the former in this case, but it still doesn’t help the fundamental problem with Loco Dice’s mix.

Which is this: anytime he lays down a track that could shift the set somewhere, the follow-up always brings you back to status quo. There are plenty of examples littered throughout, but probably most obvious is the way he ends Disc 1. The final track is from James Pennington’s Suburban Knight, a welcomed deviation of ice-cool electro breaks from the steady stream of soft beats the first disc was filled with. In most cases, a DJ will use the final track as a lead-off point to set the tone of the second disc. Not here though. Instead, we’re right back to square one with Jambi’s Lunar Park Blues, a track that could have just as easily fit into the beginning of Disc 1. And things again don’t differ much until the final track of CD2 either. Dice almost seems afraid to shake things up, lest he lose his hipster audience.

I’m sure there are a legion of minimal fans out there who’d argue there are massive differences between the tracks, yet their idea of a ‘choon’ moment is when the next song has a crisper hand-clap. But yes, there are good tracks scattered about: DJ Emerson’s paranoid Ring My Bell; Plastikman’s space acid Glob; the relatively funky Berlin Has No Cows from Serafin. And even if sonic surprises are few, Loco Dice’s mix does maintain its mood throughout, which at the least does make this release pleasing to throw on as background music.

The casual consumer should still be cautious with this release though. Minimal hasn’t always been the friendliest of genres to dive into but at least the likes of Richie Hawtin have made it somewhat inviting. However, Loco Dice isn’t quite as interested in appealing to such folk. This are minimal set for minimal fans who like their beats unassuming and their melodies subtle puzzles.

Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2007. © All rights reserved.


ACE TRACKS:
Suburban Knight - Collaboration Alpha
Plastikman - Glob

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