VA: Diaspora: Cottage Industries 5
Neo Ouija

Not only is it a surprise to find Neo Ouija rising from the ashes after a three-year interval, it's just as surprising to discover that the first of the two discs comprising its Diaspora: Cottage Industries 5 compilation is, of all things, melodic techno—a far cry from the melodic electronic sounds by Semuin, Sense, Seven Ark, and others that dominated the label's latter-day output. Not that there's anything wrong with that; if anything, it's a smart move on the part of new manager Martin Hirsch (taking over from Lee Norris who started Neo Ouija in 2000) given that thirty variations on a single theme would no doubt grow tiresome over a 150-minute haul.

In keeping with Neo Ouija's penchant for tasteful music-making, the techno on display favours melodic polish over hard-hitting ferocity. Highlights include A Made Up Sound's “Density,” an insistent stepper of melting chords and jacking kick, and “Public Service” by Remote_ which opts for atmospheric synths and subtle acid injections. Benjamin Brunn serves up a slinky treatment of Move D's “Anne Will” whose drawled “skin to skin…flesh to flesh” leaves little doubt as to which room the mood music's designed for. There's a jaunty synth-heavy shuffle by Fluxion (“DPoles”), rubbery bass thump and bubbly swing from Pridon (“Vidiomo”), plus sleek and sensual cuts by MXM (“The Untitled Deep”), Plexus Instruments (“Jean Luc Cannard”), and Dimitar Dodovski (“Aluminium Bend”) that neatly blend Berlin atmosphere with Detroit groove. Hirsch himself gets into the act with the softly rollicking Deer cut “Closet Gap.”

Disc two brings us to familiar Neo Ouija territory. Sense (Adam Raisbeck) and Kangding Ray (David Letellier) serve up gently lulling loops of starlit electronic atmosphere and voice gremlins in their “rain5” and “The Orange Song,” cubistic melodies and electronic faeries flutter over softly sashaying beats in Plexus Instruments' “The Setup,” and Maps and Diagrams' “A Fractious Apparition” dreamily drifts in an aquatic paradise. But the second half's more than beatless meditations. The laid-back clip-hop of Seven Ark's “Version 2” revives fond memories of Justin de Nobrega's 2005 release Noise of the New. Adding a rare bit of funk to the set, Build Buildings' “Letter Codes” merges crystalline shimmer with crisp head-nodding rhythms while Fell's “Put Your Hand in the Fire,” helped along by Scott Bruzenak's flute playing, adds a breezy slice of jazzy hip-hop to the collection and ricocheting splashes of percussive colour careen through nq's “Maiz Linkholm.” Moments of electronic boogie (Soundhacker's “Weata”) and wiry machine funk (Climnoizer's “Ser Doc”) appear too, before Honey Sacrifice's “Patine” eases the departing listener through a slow exeunt.

Let's hope the label succeeds in its new incarnation; certainly Diaspora: Cottage Industries 5 offers lots to dig into plus there's much to look forward to in the days ahead, with releases by Tilman Ehrhorn, Honey Sacrifice, and Nacht Plank (Lee Norris's ambient project) already in the pipeline.

October 2008