Robert Lippok - Applied Autonomy (Raster 2018)
Labels are one odd proposition in this year 2018. While they haven't quite become the new genres, mentioning a label like Príncipe is likely to going to more effectively communicate a unified sound than simply mentioning batida. And much like batida is a synthesis of a number of musical styles and genres (including kuduro, fodencia, and kizomba), label curation of non-genre-specific imprints--a word that connotes a certain 'sophistication' that can make sincere music heads' eyes roll backwards--often feels like one is adding their own personal hue or tint to contemporary music. Even tried-and-true techno labels like Strobescropic Artefacts present a certain grayscale impression of that big umbrella of a genre term.
The Raster Noton label first emerged in 1999 resulting from the merger of Rastermusic and noton.archiv für ton und nichtton. Like so many 'high-minded' electronic labels to emerge from Europe in the 90s, their output has been shaped by a philosophical matrix that sought to marry more avant-gardist impulses rooted in repetition with a pop-as-simulacra sensibility. Despite that quite literally sounding like my proverbial cup of tea, I never really connected with much of the label's output that I heard up through its shuttering in 2017. I still have plenty releases to even listen to for the first time from their considerable catalog and I really dug their fringe unum series, which ended on a considerable high-note with Jesse Osborne-Lanthier's Unalloyed, Unlicensed, All Night! EP.
Not surprisingly, Osborne-Lanthier is representative to me of an axis of mostly European producers who seemingly share a deep and abiding love for the Snd/Mark Fell, Mille Plateaux, Terre Thaemlitz, Pan Sonic/Sähkö Recordings, and Raster Noton catalogs (amongst a multiplicity of other influences). Artists who freely oscillate between rigidifying, pointillistic rhythmachinefunk and bombastic, virtually-formed sonic shaping, including the likes of Fell collaborator Gábor Lázár, Fell's son Rian Treanor, Beatrice Dillon, Emptyset, and NHK (and his many name variants). To be fair, I likely wouldn't have necessarily linked long-active Berlin sonic experimenter and To Rococo Rot member Robert Lippok if the Hard Wax description of this record as 'close designer techno' had failed to coax a cynical click, so expectant I was to hear some technoid take on handbag house.
So when I was hit with the opening title's track rhythmic austerity, a digi-morsecoded message plucked out by a robotic viola player, let's just say I wasn't expecting what seemed to be glitched-out repose to the sort of weightless trance and grime that neatly aligns with the growing trad ambient music cottage industry. Much like Lázár's fantastic Unfold album from earlier this year, I was quickly sucked in by the song's militaristically minimalistic mutations, which culminate in a sudden non-mimetic split into a peaceful, ambient respite of a coda.
Now, due to the fact that I haven't had the funds to buy the records I would typically review in greater detail, I was originally going to just feature the track under the For A Song banner, the samples presenting a multi-faceted album that effortlessly moves from machic nonfunk to more populist and poptastic-informed compositions. But to at least hint at the fathoms to found across Applied Autonomy's eleven tracks, which include a quartet of abstracted and dramatic "Scenes," allow me to contrast the above piece of tactile sonic splices with the more 'musical' track that is the emotionally-charged bliss-out "All Objects Are Moving." A slap bass-informed DIGIderoo pounds out one of half of the track's rhythm section, a para-step kick pattern joining the emotionally-charged rhythm-melody before a lurching major key bassline enters the picture alongside an MBV wall of squall. To be honest, it's a fairly conventional move that brought to mind certain 90s 'intelligent' techno acts like The Future Sound of London and Leftfied, but in a fonder way than expected. Yes, the more experimental, risk-taking side of my taste was frustrated to hear the death defiance of the opening track traded in for an uplifting four-note festival banger (not that I expect this would get played at many festival, but I also have no fucking idea cuz I ain't no festie). But the track also just sounds really fucking nice, MBV invoked earlier due to the sonic stickiness the producer achieves. And while I wish I could offer up a more comprehensive critique of the album, hopefully this at least wets your whistle to give the whole album a go.