Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Top 10 of the decade - second entry

To the critiks Rajko Muller [nom d’output Isolée] was in some ways the classic microhouse, sophist, undance artist who’d much rather add 12 bars of subtle tinkering than anything in search of pavlovian effect on the floor. But conventional house music and its already several contexts were pretty consolidated by the turn of century. What we needed now was rave artistry. Isolee had already switched house heads with Beau Mot Plage (try as I might to add that into the decade’s 10 - the series runs here - alas it was a Classic release in ’99 with Heaven & Earth/Freeform 5 mixes in 2000), the Playhouse album Rest and other 12s.

Isolée’s Brasil.com was an example of peer tips proving right, as you will read below, and in an actual public rather than virtual setting. Scene would be wobbly ‘backtomine’ at my mate Steve’s, sharing with the Classic Recording label manager Leon, always up for opening susceptible ears to new material:

“Classic had close links with the German based Playhouse Records and had previously licensed the equally ground breaking Beau Mot Plage which is another truly amazing piece of electronic music. Brazil.com was originally featured as an exclusive track on a Trip Do Brasil Compilation on the French based Rhythmix label. On hearing it we all instantly agreed that we must release it on Classic. From its eerie, sparse, ominous beginnings of the staccato plucked strings through the melancholy of the analogue keyboard stabs, continually growing, pulsating and undulating, taking the listener up before it hits the crescendo and then drops you out and leaves you naked in its wake. It is a completely original piece of electronic music.

At the time, very few people were making this sparse yet warm style of electronic music. Much of the more recent spate of minimal techno clearly owes a lot to Rajko Muller. We finally released Brazil.com with great remixes by Tiefschwarz, Freeform Five and Freaks. It is a record I couldn't help eulogizing about when I first heard it and made countless enthusiasts endure its sonic splendour, more often than not to rapturous delight.”

When Leon put it on, there was a hush betraying the vested interest in this being good (and, as Carl asks, how much of the enjoying is governed by knowing who it's by beforehand). Brasil far exceeded any claims of its goodness and even now it astounds for its invention. Leon says ‘sparse and ominous at the start’ and there’s also faux-playfulness in the plucked instrumentation (what exactly is a basuri?). Like Rest, it has the dreamed, mediated and filtered atmosphere of the previous turn of the century, European children with their families in their townhouses before the march to the end of history. An early morning potential, urging ahead of action. Not just passive listening or more raving.

The quirky jouissance which I have mentioned he sometimes rides (mainly through his ability to keep tunes constantly phasing to new areas) is replaced here by an embracing rush as the main, slightly acidy, riff comes in, unfolds and returns in dispatches. Por certo, up the scale, then down a la many a bogstandard floorfiller riff but on the downflow elaborating, flipping sideways and adding to the musicality rather than repeating itself. Brasil.com could have been a one-sided 12 and it would have sold. Still a great example of where ‘house’ or just plain ‘dance’ can be taken within the European electronic framework.
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