Dub Tractor: More or Less Mono
City Centre Offices

Anders Remmer records alone as Dub Tractor and with Danish colleagues Thomas Knak (aka Opiate) and Jesper Skaaning (aka Acustic) as System, which recently released its acclaimed eponymous recording on ~scape; in addition, the three appear as Future 3 on the Morr Music compilation Blue Skied An' Clear. Much like System, Remmer's More or Less Mono is a subtle work, unassuming and low-key, but closer listening reveals it to be sublime chill-out music. Bombastic and histrionic would be the least appropriate words to describe it but this doesn't mean that it's not powerful in its own quiet way, given the meticulousness with which Remmer assembles each track. More or Less Mono retains similar elements to those found on System (e.g., warm, dubby backgrounds) but there are key differences. System hews to a singular style of nonabrasive, electronic dub throughout, whereas More or Less Mono offers greater variety in compositional range and instrumentation. Vocals appear on two tracks but they're of the unobtrusive sort, with Remmer softly repeating the title phrase on “I Don't Care” and gently intoning a modicum of words on the closing “Hum (Part 4).”

“A Second” immediately establishes a nocturnal mood with its laconic beat and prototypical electronica palette of clicks, crackles, and hiss. The dominant guitars and bass that introduce “I Don't Care” signal an expansion of the sound established by the opener, an impression intensified by the ascending vocal melody. The shimmering treatments and affecting melodies combine to make this track a superb exemplar of warm electronica. Bass and guitars again take centre stage amidst the hazy gauze of “Leaning” as well as on “More of Less Mono,” both masterful exercises in sound construction. In fact, the lead role of the bass on a number of tracks is reminiscent of how Peter Hook's bass is deployed on numerous New Order songs. “E47” is the track most reminiscent of System, with its dub bass line and restrained instrumentation of keyboards and glitch-laden percussion patterns. The dub character often appears via Remmer's propensity to loop instrumental backgrounds, giving them a laidback feel perhaps most noticeable in the loping groove of “Wait.” Both “Pep” and “50 HZ Guitar” are blissful concoctions of guitars and keyboards, while “Hum (Part 4)” ends the recording in the same dreamy manner with which it began, with its amalgam of guitars, electronics, and bass accompanying the whispered vocal.

More or Less Mono is relatively brief with its nine tracks totaling a mere 38 minutes. However, Remmer incorporates a wealth of sonic detail into these succinct snapshots that effortlessly merge precision programming of electronics with acoustic elements. The laudable attention to detail extends to the billowing, massive production style (courtesy of Remmer and Stefan Betke, who performed mastering duties). Given its unassuming nature, More or Less Mono will probably not be looked upon as any kind of a landmark, and its chances of appearing on a vast number of ‘Best of 2003' lists are slim at best. Yet in its own quite way (in a manner similar to other City Centre Offices releases), it achieves a marriage of electronics, acoustics, dub, and ambient electronica that is deft and accomplished.

May 2003