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Stefan Goldmann & Finn Johannsen - Macrospective


There was a time when mix CDs meant something. It was all about the journey. Or maybe it was an attempt to distill the nightclub experience. Or just a shit-hot mix that you could listen to over and over again, learning the in, outs and transitions off by heart because there was nothing else to listen to. I loved them. But now? When there’s an infinite number and variety of excellent podcasts, promo mixes and online streams, even I ask what the point is.

The argument from labels and DJs appears to be that the mix CD is a purer essence of the DJ’s art: 70 minutes of perfectly-mixed inspiration, the whole greater than its parts. This is of course bollocks. Commercially-sold mixes are a cash cow cynically milked to wring the last (or only) drops of value from single releases - with the now ever-diminishing side-effect of building “brand awareness” for DJs. They had their 15 years of fame, now they’re thrashing around in their death throes and we should probably put them out of their misery.

That’s one opinion. But it’s clearly not shared by Macro, who in the spirit of co-founder Stefan Goldmann’s excellent “Everything Popular Is Wrong” article, have decided to embrace the increasingly unpopular format in a revolutionary and unique way for Macrospective Volume 1. Both CDs contain almost exactly the same tracks, but mixed in a different order, with Goldmann and other co-founder Finn Johannsen taking a disc each. Goldmann’s mix is “architected” and Johannsen’s is off the cuff. And, er, that’s it. Unfortunately, “unique” is not a synonym of “inspired”.

Don’t get me wrong, the actual content is excellent. Macro have carved out a niche since the most recent explosion of German electronic music, releasing techno pigeonholed as minimal but with a tricksy avant-garde edge that keeps things interesting. Thus, the bumping tech-house of Goldmann’s own “Lunatic Fringe” and “The Maze” is counterbalanced with clicks, whirrs, static discharges and dysfunctional vacuum cleaners (one of my favourite sounds). On Tuomi’s “Expense Of Spirit”, an addictive groove is further enlivened with revocalled bars from underrated MC William Shakespeare. Sonnet 129 to be exact: making it one of the few house tracks in history to actively encourage prudish behaviour. The divisive Goldmann remix of Santiago Salazar’s “Arcade” slaps an entire pan-Asian orchestra on top of a reasonably straightforward techno drone. And a personal highlight is Raudive’s “Brittle” - hypnotic techno with a snatched vocal sample nagging at the edges.

So far so good. Unfortunately, it counts against the album that the Macro oeuvre is so cohesive and solid. The mixes struggle to sound that different from each other - about the only thing I can say is that the Goldmann mix seems to build up to a single peak, whereas the Johannsen mix dips around more. For me, the only interesting part of the concept is this implication that a DJ’s personality is down to the tunes they pick, and not the order they play them in. That’s quite slim pickings for the fanfare it’s presented with.

It’s hard to recommend Macrospective Volume 1 as a purchase. Macro would perhaps never be so gauche as to consider a target audience for the album, but I can’t help thinking there isn’t one outside of a presumably small cadre of Macro completists. Fans of Johannsen and Goldmann as DJs would be better off listening to one of their online mixes (such as Johannsen’s excellent podcast for, ahem, this site) where they can let their eclectic tastes run more freely. Those wanting an introduction to Macro are served by one of several promo mixes knocking around. And punters who want to support a boundary-pushing and occasionally excellent techno label might just be better off buying the releases. If Macro wanted to support that, this album would work better as a digital release in the vein of the more recent DJ Kicks albums - a full set of the tracks, with the two mixes as album-only bonuses. Even a freeloader like me would get off my high horse to get behind that.

Sam Stagg

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