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Thursday
Dec032009

Quantec - Cauldron Subsistence

QUANTEC - CAULDRON SUBSISTENCE (Echocord)

Over the past few years, minimal techno has inhabited one of the most creative and vital corners of the electronic music universe.  Tapping into the unlimited potential of the software studio, artists reformulated the stripped-down sound of Robert Hood, Dan Bell and others, expanding techno’s sonic vocabulary by incorporating techniques and themes from musique concrète and other minimalist traditions.  

As with all things creative, though, certain conventions and nostalgias inevitably emerged.  Chief among these is the deep reverence of today’s minimal producers for the icy landscapes and daydream-dub of seminal labels Basic Channel and Chain Reaction, a tradition periodically mined for inspiration for most of this decade.  

Quantec’s Sven Schienhammer treads this familiar ground, producing what can only be described as a lovingly crafted homage to the masters. Without any doubt, the blissful dub of “Fall Into Oblivion” and the syncopated chords and lush pad sweeps of “Transmitters” are certain to satisfy those who wish they could get their hands on one more Chain Reaction release.  Other offerings in this vein, though, are less successful. “Profound Experience” and “Satisfied” are decent, but unfortunately more reminiscent of previous rounds of Basic Channel nostalgia than the genuine article.   

The most interesting moments come when Schienhammer plays with the Basic Channel vocabulary.  Standout track “Obstacles,” for example, completely abandons the muted bass and sandpaper-like chords that mark most of the album.  In its place is a warm, clean melody that is at once infectious and haunting, deeply infused with melancholy and longing.  The lush chords of “Magic Potion,” neatly placed atop syncopated rhythms of sampled live drums, recall early releases on Swedish house label Svek.  Album closer “Plateau” is simply gorgeous, full of polyrhythmic subtlety. 

Disappointingly, these moments are too few and far between, and in the case of “Absolute Level,” fleeting.  Around five minutes in, Schienhammer abandons the complex interplay between broken beats, Chain Reaction chords and a searching, Boards of Canada-esque melody in favor of more four-on-the-floor nostalgia.   Though competently delivered, the transition comes as a bit of a disappointment.   

All in all, Cauldron Subsistence is a solid outing for a prolific and genuinely talented producer, and includes some powerful emotive moments. At the same time, it is perhaps too nostalgic for its own good, the high points suggesting Schienhammer possesses a range and depth beyond the Basic Channel/Chain Reaction tradition that he so faithfully preserves. If nothing else, it appears to point towards a future greatness that has not quite been realized yet.

Gustav Brown

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