Friday, October 27, 2006

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Sci Fi Hi Fi Volume 3' mixed by Alex Smoke

Following instalments from techno pontiffs Ewan Pearson and Luciano, the latest volume of Soma Records' Sci Fi Hi Fi mix CD series comes from young Glasgow producer Alex Smoke. Smoke - not to be confused with Madrid's Alex Under - has already made a name for himself with 2005's Incommunicado and this year's Paradolia, and has remixed Mylo and the Junior Boys. Oh dear, this is press release stuff – can you tell my heart's not in it?

I've tried to like minimal techno, I really have, but it's just not happening. I love Ellen Allien and Booka Shade, but only because they turn techno into a kind of cyborg pop music. I love Monolake and Sleeparchive, but only because they turn techno into a kind of lunar bass architecture. But all this dessicated, clicky stuff that's like pressing your ear to an alarm clock powered by dead beatles – what's the point? I don't even get Ricardo Villalobos, who I'm almost legally obliged to love – Dexter and Easy Lee, sure, but the rest...

I'm still trying, though, which is one reason why I'm reviewing this CD. The other reason is that the second track here is Burial's Gutted, and it's pretty exciting to see yet another doctrinaire techno DJ repping dubstep – see also Cassy, who put Shackleton on her recent Panorama Bar, and of course Villalobos himself, who's been known to drop Skream's Midnight Request Line and Mala's Left Leg Out. Sadly, I suppose because it's too fast to mix properly with techno, Smoke can't do much with it: the track looms from the ambient shadows of Porn Sword Tobacco's Najat Library Card and then vanishes in a cloud of echo, like when Batman escapes the police by throwing down one of those smoke pellets.

From then on the mix treads a clear enough path: from sleepy dub to fidgeting glitch. The former comes from Basic Channel, Basic Channel's side project Rhythm & Sound, and Juan Atkins' Model 500. It's beautiful stuff, of course: languorous yet muscular, swimming against a moonlit tide of echo and crackle, plunging ever deeper. But by the end of the mix, we've moved on to the ticks and gasps and squirts and rattles of Alex Smoke himself, as sterile and microscopic and precise as an Intel laboratory. In between, we get Claro Intellecto's angelic Peace of Mind, eight minutes of Stockholm producer Aril Brikha's contemplative Aqua, and lots more. Even if you're a total techno cultist, I don't think any of this is exactly going to turn your brain inside out, but it's still a thoughtful, varied piece of work. It hasn't made me love minimal techno; but it's made me want to keep trying.


Out 30/10 on Soma