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Locke - Wenn Sich Die Locke Dreht


2009 was a good year for expanding the definition of “minimal” beyond the beeps and blips.  Both established artists and newcomers working within the genre explored new territory, and mined techno’s rich past for new sources of inspiration, producing surprising and innovative shuffle-funk that, unlike what’s dominated the genre over the past few years, has often focused on melody. Released in December, Locke’s ‘Wenn Sich Die Locke Dreht’ came too late for most best-of-the-year lists.  But the first full-length on Germany’s Main Records is an excellent example of this new minimal in motion.   

Locke is Christian Schildger and the older brother of Matt Star, with whom he runs Main Records.  Over the past three years, the Schildgers have been mapping new space within the minimal genre, drawing on warm Moog and Oberheim tones, echoing Vangelis and even 90s progressive house, thankfully shorn of its gaudy excesses.   What’s more, ‘Wenn Sich Die Locke Dreht’ does not, like most techno, evoke dark clubs, technology and cities-at-night, but rather the open, post-industrial landscape, nature dotted with the remains of yesterday’s futurism. 

 The album opens with the title track, and surprisingly, with sitars and tablas.   It thus comes almost as a surprise when a gently shuffling house rhythm—and not a Thievery Corporation style breakbeat—enters into play.  Somehow the cognitive dissonance works, and “Wenn Sich Die Locke Dreht” has a pleasant, “lazy summer” feel to it.  “Humpelpeter” changes tack, presenting syncopated patterns of resonant percussion that sound almost like someone playing a cimbalom with thick, rusted strings.  The result is reminiscent of big, open skies, fast moving clouds, wind ripping through tall grass.  Resonated percussion similarly drives “Auskunftsmuffel”.  Here, though, Locke channels G-Man.  There are certainly worse sources of inspiration, and it is both competent, 90s-style minimal techno and fits into the album’s overall nature motif.  Metallic clangs patter like rain drops on the windowsill.   

“Mein Freud Der Baum” is another nature-inspired outing, featuring warm analog synth tones over a bouncy beat that, together, give the track an air of elfin, pagan mischief.  “Anniversario Del Almeida” is slow-mo shuffle-funk coupled with a smart, triplets bass.  But the real movement comes from the Vangelis-like analog pads that cascade, waterfall-like, but never overpower.  This is after-hours techno at its majestic best. Endlessly funky, “Johmp” features analog pads and bells arranged in a clever, thoughtful progression, flowing seamlessly off of one another.  

The album’s high point is “Zauber,” which was previously released on 12”.  Its beat is simple, subtley moving in and out to give the track motion.  The centerpiece is a warm, analog lead arpeggio that, if anything, brings BT to mind.  As new synth sounds emerge, locking patterns into a progressively more epic arrangement, we are not subjected to any gaudy breakdowns, misplaced vocals, pianos or strings. Instead, this understated epic soars.

The low points of ‘Wenn Sich Die Locke Dreht’ aren’t really all that bad either. “Big Moog” is the weakest track on the album.  Locke seems to be trying to incorporate the earlier shuffle-funk stylings of Cajmere/Green Velvet into his arsenal, but it doesn’t quite work.  The moog also sounds a bit too emulated to take center stage.  But it’s really not a bad track either, and might fit snugly in-between a DJ’s favourite percussive minimal tracks. “Sternfeenwald,” which is a Locke remix of Matt Star, is a pretty after-hours track.  It does what it’s supposed to do, but then again, so does a lot of after-hours techno. 

The fact that these are the worst moments the album has to offer speaks to its overall strength of vision and execution.  It is certainly one of my favorite albums of 2009.  Hopefully, of ‘Wenn Sich Die Locke Dreht’ will help Locke gain recognition as a rising star in minimal techno, and as an electronic artist with a unique point of view, novel sources of inspiration, and a clear, concise and well-thought-out sonic vocabulary. 

Gustav Brown

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