Thursday, February 09, 2012

Michael Lasch "Substrain" (Elektrax Recordings): Michael Schwarz "Torsion" (Emphatic Records)

Never understood this "I only listen to real music" lark. If you prefer guitar bands to electronic bods, or well-produced million-sellers by respected major label artistes to scratchy madness recorded by teenagers in dank basements or on their i-pads, why not just say so ? We're certainly not going to judge you for it. After all, if people judged us by the music we liked, we wouldn't have many friends, possibly any acquaintances at all.

But it's beyond trite that all music is 'real' music. It consists of sounds made by human beings with whatever tool they have to hand, whether that's their larynx, a computer, "yer granny on bongos" or a 50-piece orchestra. Mind you, if you listen to the production on a record by a so-called "real" band, you'll likely hear what was once ostensibly a guitar sound but that's been channelled through so many effects that any human quality has been airbrushed from the proceedings entirely. You might as well have cut out the middle man and started with a laptop from the beginning, and it would save on plectrums too.

We've thought for a while now, though, that if there *was* one genre more 'human' than the others, it would have to be techno. It's the sound of a heart beating, in essence completely primal. It's then overlaid with whatever creative conceits the artist fancies, and while it has (like any genre) been hijacked by any number of gurning scene chumps, the cream of the crop still know that the song should revolve around that steady pulse, lovingly fondled by whatever flickers of synth, extra percussive caress and strictly rationed melody make the journey most worthwhile.

For us, the hub and haven for all this is currently Germany: although we still closely associate that fine nation with Marsh Marigold, A Turntable Friend, Firestation Tower and the under-rated defensive nous of Karl-Heinz Forster, it's notable in 2012 for being home to a luminescent host of dark, minimal and black techno genii, including Sven Wittekind, Andy White, Cortechs, Klaudia Gawlas, and these two.

Herr Lasch has now decamped to Berlin, and there's an inevitable big city sleekness about "Substrain"'s imposing clatter as he clambers aboard the imposing roster of big-ticket Sydney label Elektrax Recordings. The single has a skittering hook that brands it a close cousin of Human Tech's "Bit Crisis", a single from the Perugia outfit on Electrax last year, but the way the drums drive forward through the empty caverns of this listener's head puts brings to mind another Italian, the Logotech of "Harsh Lines" et al. Disconcertingly though, "Substrain" is offset throughout by vague cooing sounds, as if a pigeon were trapped in the studio and trying to sing its way out. The substrain being avian flu, perhaps ?

The second Michael, Schwarz, is more of a known quantity to us, having been responsible for some fabulous remixes of late - espesh on singles last yr by DJ Nightnoise, Kai Randy Michel and "Riot"-er Adriano Giliberti - even if his prolific run of 'solo' releases has a more sedate hit rate (not that the likes of the remarkably assured "Deep Sphere" in '010 or last year's slow-burn Nachstrom Schallplatten belter "Ganimed" are anything to be sneezed at, mind).

"Torsion" is the lead of three tracks here on Coruna's Emphatic imprint (an EP shared with DJ Stay and H Paul) and sees Schwarz on imperious form, administering over nine trembling minutes an adamantine, devastatingly rendered reimagining of his better recent singles which maxes on his signature pounding hi-hats while high-horsepower and yes, high-torque bass is dissected by clock-alarm bleep. "Torsion" does what a record should do: it makes your head shudder, toes tap, heart soar and sinews stiffen as it builds from ebb to full flow. So if this isn't real music, then we can only speculate as to quite what the hell is.

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