Ellen Allien - Sool
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Ellen Allien

Easily the most minimal release that she has done to date, Sool finds Ellen Allien pulling back the skin and muscle of her usually lush techno creations to reveal the glistening and sometimes jagged bones underneath. Arriving just on the heels of her excellent Boogybytes Vol. 4 mix, it sounds like it's being beamed out from an entirely different planet in the solar system altogether, with chopped melodic fragments and beats haunting an austere world that sounds downright hermetic.

Considering that her past couple albums (including the Orchestra Of Bubbles collaboration with Apparat) have increasingly dipped into more electronic-pop oriented territory, the move is particularly dramatic. "Caress" finally drops a kick drum the second track into the album, and is easily one of the more dense pieces on the release, as vocal clips stutter and synth washes swirl around the persistent 4/4 thump. "Bim" moves to a slightly more abstract shuffle, and again clipped phrases skitter and spray, showing off the influence of AGF (Antye Greie) on production help.

Tracks like "Sprung" and "Ondu" are even more stripped, with only minimal beats and percussion racing through barren landscapes as minimal rhythms add something minor to hook your ear. In listening to the release, I'm reminded of early work on the Plus 8 label, like the ultra-clean lines of Plastikman (and Hawtin alter-ego Fuse), who looped out repeating beat phrases for five to eight minutes a shot while tweaking other elements just slightly to give some semblance of actual progress. Allien favors pitch-bent samples of vocals and other percussive sounds over acid squiggles, but the resulting sounds are much the same.

Ultimately, it's a release that feels transitional in more ways than one and simply doesn't work that well a good portion of the time. The vocal sampling never quite fits into the tracks in a fluid way, instead coming across like someone who just got their first MPC-2000 sampler and decided to drop some snippets over some sparse programming. In places, Allien's sense of tension building and clever programming is enough to carry songs into rather stunning territory (especially on the blippy "Its"), but "less is more" is the exception to the rule in most places here.

rating: 6.2510
Aaron Coleman 2008-05-22 19:53:17