VA: min2MAX

VA: Keeping the Neighbors Up All Night

With both labels rooted in Canada and sharing a mutual passion for the underscore, Quebec City's Pertin_nce and Windsor's Minus would appear to have much in common. And, as revealed by their latest comps, both do traffic in related brands of jacking techno minimalism, with Pertin_nce's 303-loving artists evidencing a more pronounced acid bent. Admittedly, to outsiders one minimal techno imprint is pretty much the same as another. To insiders, however, differentiating gradations in sound, style, and quality between superficially similar labels are obvious. In this comparative case, both discs feature tracks created from common elements (e.g., skeletal beat patterns, acidy bass synths) but the Minus camp's fresher handling of its more cerebral material reveals greater imagination and innovation.

If anything, Keeping The Neighbors Up All Night's opening salvo, Jack Unit's “Abstinence,” lays bare Minus's indubitable influence, with the cut employing a Hawtin-styled oscillating pattern alongside its skeletal pulse. Jack Unit's clubby cut is a disc standout, as is Sapin's “Igloo,” a buoyant and bleepy marriage of fragmented arcade melodies and garbled android voices. The acidy “Minimal and All” from Sex Drugs & Drag & Drop is memorable too, and the disc's other cuts—grimy dub-techno, electro bangers, snarly old-school acid—are likewise decent. Keeping The Neighbors Up All Night moves away from techno-based material in its final quarter towards more experimental, textured tracks—the pinballing beat patterns in Turner of Wheels' “Modern Castles Orange Cloud” crackle like oil broiling in a frying pan—but the 14-track collection cumulatively impresses less for riffing excessively on established conventions and breaking little new ground.

Minus's min2MAX doesn't deviate radically in format or style from last year's stellar Minimize To Maximize but that's no bad thing when the quality level of its 12 tracks is so high. The artfulness with which Heartthrob assembles “Baby Kate” is masterful, for example, with the tune slithering in dark, schizoid manner, driven by a burbling synth bass and a rocking creak on the one hand, and horn-like synth blasts over a brooding base on the other. The sound design crafted by Minus artists is arresting, like the owly whirs that chirp over a naggingly insistent bass pattern in Troy Pierce's “GRVL” and the R2D2 noises that Tractile layers in “Unquenchable”; imagine a microphone buried inside an insect-infested patch of ground with the results woven into dubby techno and you'll have some idea of what Niederflur's “z.B.” sounds like.

Arguably, the disc's peak is WiNK's nearly 10-minute “Have to Get Back.” After opening with a low-pitched looping wave accented by a nautical ping, tension builds with blurry ponging patterns and an insistent bass drum. The piece abruptly stops, just long enough for a tiny voice croak and shotgun clap to puncture the stillness before soldiering on, the groove intensifying with off-beat hi-hats and marching snare patterns. Filled with multiple strokes of such genius, WiNK's piece is an extraordinary example of techno boldly transported into alien spheres. The disc also includes cuts by Magda, Marc Houle, Gaiser, Loco Dice, and JPLS, with only Konrad Black's too-repetitious “Gink Gank Gonk” a disappointment. The 79-minute min2MAX includes no sweaty anthems, just ultra-refined minimal artistry and non-stop invention.

July 2006