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Emptyset - Emptyset


What is it about the Robert Hood/Mika Vainio axis of minimalism that continues to be so inspirational for a growing army of new producers? I suspect that somewhere along the line, it’s that very fine line between pure, unadulterated sine waves and the crashing sound of fizzing noise. When throwing two very contrasting aesthetics together, then sparks will, well, be processed electronically into repetitive rhythms to aid dancefloors.

Emptyset is James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas, a Bristol/London-based duo keen to map out new territories in an increasingly over-crowded area. Alongside them are is the legacy of Sahko, M-Plant, the likes of Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda, Raster-Noton and a few others such as Berlin’s Sleeparchive. It, is, to put it simply, something of an oversubscribed genre with a lot of people not adding or finding a great deal new to play with. Should they though? This is after all minimalism, and I guess it’s about putting in less all the time. “Emptyset” does pay considerable homage to Vainio in particular with naked bass-heavy kicks sketched out against grainy backdrops of analogue hiss, and after a start that is a little underwhelming, finds its gear with “Beyond”, which grows with a masterful purpose. This is a dirty, scratchy sounding Plastikman variant, inflected with the odd jarring sound that gives it a live feel, so often not to be found amongst the legions of po-faced Mac operators. Similarly, “Completely Gone” is brutal in its intent, opting for a harsher tempo, the beats nicely distorted instead of the clean purity one often expects from this genre.

The second half of the album concentrates on more experimental ideas, with “Awake” in particular providing some challenging textures in and amongst the beats. “Over” finishes matters in approriately dark style. Set against the more academic aesthetic that seems to often dominate labels such as Raster-Noton, there’s an appealing improvised feeling to this album that marks it out against contemporaries. More importantly too, it doesn’t attempt to sound like the tracks were designed to be playing at Berghain, with abstraction and experimentation being at the forefront of this duo’s approach. However, as with all works often in thrall to their originators and influence, it’s difficult to say whether anything particularly new is being presented here.

Toby Frith

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