Much to its credit, electronic dance music has always played fast and loose with its own history. A hugely sprawling form hyped on progress, it seems to announce a new aesthetic revolution every few weeks. Movements divide into micromovements, which then splinter into even smaller subsets, which in turn fan out into different camps, and so on. Each gets its own name, its own historical precursors, its own migration lines, its own self-aware philosophy. And even if, like the high sciences, these variations get parsed out in a language largely impenetrable to those not obsessed with obscure nuance, at the very least they stand in for electronica’s heartening faith in meaningful change. Underlying that spirit, though, is a conflict over the importance of the music’s dance roots. Fans of the unfortunately named IDM (Intelligent Dance Music; ugh) consider danceability a sort of blight on their new language, while dance-floor populists dismiss the former as obnoxiously cerebral and pretentious.
Glitch is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the late 1990s. It has been described as a genre that adheres to an "aesthetic of failure," where the deliberate use of glitch-based audio media, and other sonic artifacts, is a central concern. Sources of glitch sound material are usually malfunctioning or abused audio recording devices or digital electronics, such as CD skipping, electric hum, digital or analog distortion, bit rate reduction, hardware noise, software bugs, crashes, vinyl record hiss or scratches and system errors. In a Computer Music Journal article published in 2000, composer and writer Kim Cascone classifies glitch as a subgenre of electronica, and used the term post-digital to describe the glitch aesthetic.
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Mille Plateaux (the name was taken from Mille Plateaux, a philosophy book by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, published in 1980).is an influential electronica record label founded 1993 by Achim Szepanski in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2000, to take advantage of the popularity of glitch music in the electronic music scene, Mille Plateaux released their Clicks & Cuts Series, which showed both Mille Plateaux and non-Mille Plateaux glitch music luminaries exploring the genre.
In early 2004, Mille Plateaux parent company Force Inc. Music Works went bankrupt due to the collapse of Germany's main independent music distributor, EFA-Medien. Mille Plateaux and other Force Inc. Music Works owned labels were folded at that time. The label was revived briefly in late 2004 under the name MillePlateauxMedia, with 4 releases. In 2005, two releases were made by RAI STREUBEL MUSIC S.L. on the label Supralinear with the note "by Mille Plateaux".
In 2006, Mille Plateaux (along with the other former Force Inc. Music Works labels Force Inc. and Force Tracks) was taken over by the Berlin-based company Disco Inc. Ltd., who only released two CD albums. In March 2008, Mille Plateaux was acquired by TOTAL RECALL, an online store and distributor for used and new music. With new owner Marcus Gabler, known as singer of the band Okay as the A&R manager, they aim to close the gap existing since 2003 and continue the original work. Mille Plateaux relaunched its activities on 7 May 2010, with three new albums.
Ritornell Started 1999. Even more abstract and experimental than the parent.
Cluster Started 2010. Releases experimental ambient music.
Force Intel (sister label) Started 2010. Releases less experimental electronic music, typically IDM.
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“Clicks + Cuts,” a two-disc compilation on the German Mille Plateaux label, documents a style shift that comes daringly close to reconciling these terms. Choosing subtlety as their subject, the mostly German artists chip away at the dividing line by softening hard-line abstraction with a sense of confounded humanity. The result is as scratchy and warm as a wool blanket.
When Miles Davis released his landmark album “Kind of Blue” in 1959, he spurred on a quiet revolution in jazz. His sneaky salvo came by way of a radical shift toward “modal” jazz, an advance that found his group dwelling in spaces within scales rather than riffing on chord changes. In purely formal terms, it was a major break from an implicit faith in long-standing musical constructs. The end result, though, couldn’t have come out sounding any more smooth and inevitable.
A similar, if less subliminal, thing started happening in rock ‘n’ roll a few years later. Increasingly hip to Eastern sounds, a lot of rock bands began looking to the avant-garde. The Velvet Underground, for example, juiced up their amphetamine blues with John Cale’s otherworldly viola drones. As with some of the contemporary electronic composers on “Clicks + Cuts,” there was a direct link between Cale and progressive music theory; in his case, a school of New York musicians hell-bent on breaking the stifling code of Western music. Their mission was effectively summed up by a record title later used by Cale-cohort Tony Conrad: “Slapping Pythagoras.”
The artists on “Clicks + Cuts,” like the ’60s experimentalists before them, are in essence playing the sounds of the missing keys. Within the strictures of dance-born electronica — with its innate consciousness of rhythm and shared vocabulary of sounds — they probe gray areas often misrepresented as either black or white. But then, like Miles Davis’ similarly exploratory modal jazz, their ponderous tactics have kicked up an almost imperceptible, bloodless revolution.
The most telling introduction to the musicians here comes by way of Pole, a one-man outfit that takes its name from a broken sound filter. The fractured technology gives Pole’s music the bristling quality of an old dusty record, wheezing and stuttering like a throat dried by polyester fuzz. The surface noise slowly creates surface tension, advancing the conversation with “ums” and “ahs” that lurk above the grammar-conscious language laid out by techno music’s forebears.
Rather than squeeze dance-inducing Kool-Aid from the fruit tree of technology, the cast of “Clicks + Cuts” — which includes SND, Pansonic, Ester Brinkmann, Dettinger, Kit Clayton and Panacea, among others — invests all of its dramatic capital in process. Though the results are often isolated, inward responses to techno’s tendency toward fashioned, outward overindulgence, they share a similar elated sense of purpose. The set’s opener, Frank Bretschneider, cares just as deeply for beats as the most room-workingest of his peers, but he professes his muddled love through the tones of hand-shielded whispers rather than face-melting screams.
Not all of the artists here are so reticent. Tracks like Vladislav Delay’s “Synkopoint,” with its slyly speaker-bending beat, are studied assaults on expectation — all germ warfare bluffing as heavy artillery. But for the most part, even the most dance-savvy among them are primarily concerned with the thinly articulated clicks and cuts coughed up by machines stammering to make a point.
Clicks & Cuts 1-1 (flac 319mb)
01 Frank Bretschneider - Kern 5:02
02 snd - Circa 1509 5:06
03 Farben - Raute 7:34
04 Vladislav Delay - Synkopoint 10:41
05 Pole - Spa 6:29
06 Pansonic - Koilinen 4:34
07 Alva Noto - Prototype N 5:45
08 Skist - Shift 5:49
09 Stilluppsteypa - Confused Bear Thrown into the Sea 2:04
10 Neina - Clairvoyance 6:20
12 Sutekh - Unstabile 7:14
13 Curd Duca - Pop 1:18
Clicks & Cuts 1-1 (ogg 170mb)
Clicks & Cuts 1-2 (flac 322mb)
Ester Brinkmann - Maschine 8:04
All - Überall 4:59
Dettinger - Strange Fruit 5:22
Autopoiesis - These Few Minutes 4:25
Jake Mandell - I Won't Lie 2:33
Kit Clayton - Loads Early Like Normal 3:52
Ultra Red - (Esta Gran Humanidad Ha Dicho) ¡Ya Basta 5:03
Reinhard Voigt - Matrix 3:18
Thomas Meinecke, Framus Waikiki - Rechannelled from Stereo 3:52
Panacea - Sinecore 4:51
Ihan - Sans Titre No. 2 3:56
Kid 606 - Sonqizzmaster 6:10
Goem - Comp Vier 6:29
Clicks & Cuts 1-2 (ogg 164mb)
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For the third year in a row, Mille Plateaux rounded up the best artists from its international stable of affiliate producers and delivered another expansive volume in its cutting-edge Clicks & Cuts series. As with years past, the emphasis here on the third volume is glitch -- or, more broadly, laptop techno. Even so, the Clicks & Cuts series, or perhaps the glitch style itself, does seem to be shifting slowly away from its largely experimental genesis toward accessibility. The first two volumes were quite ideological, packaged luxuriously and laden with forward-looking liner notes; furthermore, the multi-disc collections emphasized the possibilities for glitch, showcasing everything from the ambient bleeps of Alva.Noto and the microsounds of Richard Chartier to the controlled chaos of Kid 606 and the glacial dub-techno of Andreas Tilliander. In relation to those first two volumes, Clicks & Cuts, Vol. 3 seems less monumental. The packaging still features dazzling design, but there aren't any liner notes this time and the musical selection seems narrower. However, though you're not going to find a lot of the ambient/noise/experimental selections that populated the earlier volumes, you're going to find a lot of beautifully crafted, albeit relatively straightforward, laptop techno. The 23 featured artists read like a who's who of the international laptop scene (without exception, every artist here is noteworthy) and the highlights are numerous (obvious standouts are MRI's "Painkiller" and Luomo's "Melt"). Whether or not you like the more accessible direction Mille Plateaux chose to move the Clicks & Cuts series slowly toward, the result is clearly as remarkable as before -- even more so if you prefer melody and rhythm to ambience and experimentation.
Clicks & Cuts 3-1 (flac 325mb)
01 snd - Palo Alto 6:28
02 Frank Bretschneider - Risk 4:29
03 Mri3 - Nerdy South 5:21
04 Mri3 - Painkiller 5:21
05 Bizz.circuits - Grace Under Fire 6:31
06 Geeez 'N' Gosh - Kleine Hausmusik No. 16 6:53
07 Alva Noto - Transrapid 4:40
08 Rob Acid - Loving 'Ya 5:35
09 Claudia Bonarellia - Disarm the Police 4:57
10 Boris Polonski - Difusse Daten in 5 Min 3:41
11 DAT Politics - Bubble Queen 5:13
12 Deru - Migrade 3:41
Clicks & Cuts 3-1 (ogg 162mb)
Clicks & Cuts 3-2 (flac 295mb)
01 Luomo - Melt 4:55
02 Antonelli Electr. - Lovers Inn 9:21
03 Mikael Stavöstrand - Onside 5:54
04.Swayzak - Don't Quit Please 6:49
05 Donnacha Costello, David Donohoe - Nine Blind Men (Poison of Ignorance and Vice) 5:50
06 Rechenzentrum - Box 3:55
07 Robin Judge - Rhizome 5:34
08 AGF - Pianos 5:49
09 Tim Hecker - Brownwedding 4:51
10 Ekkehard Ehlers - The Bakes in the Woods 6:06
11 Pomassl - Holcimm Mmic 5:09
Clicks & Cuts 3-2 (ogg 144mb)
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