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Clicks & Cuts 2 (Mille Plateaux)

The artists involved in the making of both Clicks & Cuts 1 and 2 seem convinced that these collections are not just entries into some new subgenre of dance music. Instead, they insist that this experimental electronic music, in which most of the minimalist tracks feature clicking noises and glitch-like rhythms, is actually a movement. And with good reason. The presence of the characteristic clicks and cuts in most of these tracks has little to do with what subgenre of dance music the pieces fall into. For instance, there's a stream of glitched-out sonic hiccups and tape hiss floating through Frank Bretschneider's "Walking on Ice," yet beneath all the interference lurks some of the most beautiful rolling dub music ever concocted. And though Kid 606 cloaks "While You Were Sleeping" in a lethargic swath of interrupted data flow (like a CD in the throes of some serious skipping), he can't disguise the fact that it's quite a soulful house track. Just as the dusty popping noises that come along with sampling old vinyl have become an essential part of hip-hop tracks, the imperfections of the digital production process -- noises that usually indicate error -- are becoming a desired part of the product, at least for the artists on this compilation.

Still, there are tracks here in which the mechanical malfunctions provide more than just new aesthetic twists on old formulas. Thomas Brinkmann, Taylor Deupree, and Sutekh all turn in beat-free explorations of tone and space, while cyclo. and Pansonic produce a pair of odes to Morse code. Perhaps the most interesting contributions are those in which various forms of sonic detritus are used to construct otherwise "normal" techno tracks, resulting in a sort of "nanotechno." Take Håkan Lidbo's "Megalodon": The collection of tiny glitches that he mines is synchronized to form a veritable symphony, as each click, blip, and whir contributes to a complex rhythmic routine. Put on headphones, and it's a bit like silicon voyeurism, an immersion in the usually hermetic environment of the microprocessor. Auch, Farben, Alva Noto, Station Rose, and Andreas Tilliander make similar contributions, and each time, the results are breathtaking. Of course, the thrill starts to wear off midway through the three-disc set, which clocks in at over three hours.

More by Steve Boughton

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