VA: Quartett EP
Level Records

Daniel Fritschi: Intonation EP
Level Records

Fax: Bilateral EP
Level Records

Level Records, a minimal-electronic label based in Düsseldorf, Germany and recently established by Daniel Fritschi, may remind listeners of Background Records, Andy Vaz's highly-regarded imprint also based in Düsseldorf. The connections only strengthen when one learns that Quartett, Level Records' premiere EP, includes contributions from Background Records alumnus Rhythm Maker (Stephan Schwander aka Antonelli Electric and Repeat Orchestra) and … Andy Vaz. None of which is cause for complaint, incidentally, as a larger helping of the quality material Vaz has been issuing since 1995 is more than welcome in these parts.

Quartett also features Oliver Hacke whose richly textured “Millepieds” floats tight, buoyant pulses through deep, echoing atmospheres in a style whose layered complexity belies its minimal status. Vaz likewise includes maximal detail in his slow burner “Glitchbitch”; emerging from a bed of crackling curdles, the piece sequentially layers jacking tick-tock rhythms, wavering washes, and flanged bass hits. Rhythm Maker brings contrast to the EP with a mellower, laid-back setting of blurry Rhodes chords and woodsy acoustic bass figures in “Citycriticism” while dubby echoes and brooding chords haunt the softly clicking patterns of Daniel Fritschi's debut outing “Vortex.”

Fritschi steps out of the, ahem, background for four deep tracks on his own 12-inch Intonation EP. In classic minimal fashion, “Flexion-wavelet” weaves a textured mass of bleeps, clicks, and mellow chords into lightly floating pulses joined by misty piano melodies. “Adrift” merges thick synth stabs and handclaps into more aggressive polyrhythms overlaid by funky blips. Electronic glissandi echo and bounce over a spacious, skipping groove in the slightly faster “Follicle Follies” while the chilled “Interglacial” drapes echoing crackles and crystalline rustlings over a curdling lurch.

While the label's first two EPs focus on Düsseldorf artists, the third, Bilateral EP, visits Fax (Ruben Tamayo) in Mexico for four exercises in understated beats and crunchy textures. Simple wavering chords and gossamer scrims breeze over a languid microhouse base and a whirring backdrop of soft granulated noise in “Coda” while “Llama” rolls out in a sweet, spacious glide. Though grimy beats elevate the attack in “Bajotierra,” “Piel” is the EP's most aggressive dub-techno banger. Despite their supposed minimal character, the tracks on all three EPs abound with depths of detail and gleaming surfaces.

June 2005