Marc Houle: Bay of Figs

The most unusual thing about Marc Houle's Bay of Figs is its format: the release totals 48 minutes yet spreads its nine cuts across two 12-inch vinyl discs rather than a CD. That its contents aren't equally unusual shouldn't be construed as a criticism, however, as Houle masterfully adopts the ultra-clean and minimal Hawtin/Minus template to his own ends. Each track seems to pursue a different direction yet the collection's held together by Houle's compositional command. Certainly echoes of Plastikman emerge in the psychotropic “Bay Of Figs” when its blistered synths woozily rise and fall like a ship at sea, and the slamming “Lachs” is a classic example of Minus techno too. Houle deftly merges mind and body throughout: bubbly percolations give “Stacks And Stacks” a spirited bounce that nicely complements the burbling pulse below while the grooving “Items And Things” marries a subtle jack with electro buoyancy. Comparatively looser in feel, “Thirds In Trees” struts with a funky bounce egged on by handclaps and a backbeat arcade melody, and the wiry acid-techno of “Edamame” is similarly saturated with bleepy Nintendo flavour. Houle's material is typically clean, the notable exception on this outing the sleazy “Black Jack 13” which sprays sputtering machine noises over its lumbering, low-slung groove. Houle takes his work seriously but isn't averse to injecting an occasional moment of well-timed humour either, as shown by the clanking “Manager” whose rubbery bleeps and jaunty jitters bring the set to a light-hearted close (don't miss the elegant piano coda Houle tacks on while the credits roll). Bay of Figs is an ultra-cool sampling of Minus-styled minimalism.

September 2006