Saturday, October 2, 2010

Basic Channel - BCD-2

Brain exercise: What does the phrase "German Techno" bring to mind? Sparse? Well, spartan is a better word. Harsh? For extended periods, sure. Emotional? Yes, and only so. The techno scene in Berlin that developed in the early 90s was known for its stripped down aesthetic, showing an aggressive side to our emotions rarely expressed in pop music. Disco, the form out of which techno evolved, was for the most part dance music, but Berliners Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald saw through this. Avoiding the funky rhythms of Detroit Techno, they started Basic Channel, both a moniker and a record label that put out a string of records that portray the darker feelings of an urban night. Loneliness and anger were prominent in their early work, but this compilation highlights their later masterpieces, when they turned completely away from any semblance of a melodic line to focus on visceral energy.
They weave bare strands together to form incredible texture; the opening synths of 'Enforcement' form a chord progression that unrelentingly repeats throughout the track (It's thirteen minutes), only to be further squared off by the percussion. New layers enter, and a counterpoint develops made only of repeating figures, all so dry on their own. And yet it's all so human. It has the foreboding of what I imagine to be Berlin at 2 a.m., and is anything but dance music. It is repeating to the point of nausea, but not boredom.
It is the sound of unrest, discontentedness, and the inability to change. Polyrhythmic and robotic, it must be listened to as conceptual music, willfully limited to one palette. BCD-2 captures the state of a nation by focusing acutely on highly personal emotions; it is lonesome and cold.
Despite this, the album has become hugely influential. For one, microhouse such as Bruno Pronsato or Villalobos is largely dependent on Basic Channel's economy of sound. Everything after that resembles it seems to be a way of taking its core and making it more accessible. Its soul, however, comes from its uncompromising nature, and for this reason any album I listen to after this seems too hurried, too varied. In six songs averaging thirteen minutes each, the German duo makes us feel what they feel, ironically through such an unwelcoming medium.
Get lost in this one night and go for a walk. Let it sink in, you might hear silence a different way.

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