Dartriix: Dartriix

Aoki Takamasa: MIRABEAU EP

Aoki Takamasa: PARABOLICA

VA: Hub: Solo & Collab 2004-2005

Paris-based Japanese artist Aoki Takamasa weighs in with two superb vinyl releases on Yoshihiro Hanno and Fumiya Tanaka's Op.disc label, the first, MIRABEAU, an EP appetizer and the other, PARABOLICA, an eight-cut, double-vinyl release. Takamasa's material is remarkably crisp and meticulously assembled and, though it is ‘minimal,' it's never predictable as he constantly exploits his tracks' shape-shifting potential by eschewing repetitive loops for organic development.

The EP opens with the title piece, a beautiful sampling of glitchy minimal techno-funk crowned by a humongous bass pulse that burrows through the cut's underside like a gargantuan mole. “ASCARI_Wet_Condition” oozes funk too but at a slinkier and slower tempo, with accents as sharp as scalpels and the vocal slices as thin, while “SF-variation” lumbers with a clip-hop lurch. The whirrs, clicks, and syncopated funk rhythms that power “ROGGIA” suggest that Takamasa has more in common with the laboratory sound design strategies of Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) than he does your prototypical Kompakt techno stylist. (Ryoichi Kurokawa's video treatment of "MIRABEAU" is also a marvel to behold, as the director's geometric visuals synchronize perfectly with every one of Takamasa's wipes, scratches, smears, pops, and clicks. Throughout the five-minute piece, crimson and black skeins of grid-like structures and spidery lines morph relentlessly against a white background. If anything, the perpetual re-shaping only further focuses one's attention on the multitude of rich detail that characterizes Takamasa's music.)

As strong as the EP is, it's frankly bettered by the absolutely fabulous full-length which pairs a thunderously grooving “MIRABEAU” reprise with the lethally jacking “DEGNER” and the title track's rumbling pulse and tight, pinprick swing. The album's eight tracks include no shortage of techno-funk but Takamasa adds soul to the proceedings too: “ASCARI_Dry_Condition” tests the waters by layering soulful vocals over a swinging funk pulse, before “I'm a Part of It” plunges even deeper with a straight-up funk groove propelled by a monotone vocal (“I'm a part of it / I'm just a part of it”), soulful chords, and a tsunami bass pulse. Another highlight surfaces near album's end when Takamasa scatters the shredded coo of Tujiko Noriko (with whom Takamasa collaborated on the joint FatCat release 28) over the pop-funk of “27th.” Put simply, a mesmerizing set.

Yoshihiro Hanno (aka Radiq) and Fumiya Tanaka not only oversee the label's doings but also collaborate and issue material under the name Dartriix. Jacking pulses dominate the three cuts on the duo's self-titled EP yet the two still find ways to spin inventive variations on the theme. “Awareness” gets off on the good foot by showering a pumping groove with muffled voice edits, but it's the tune's rippling dub effects and slithering, low-slung bass lines that distinguish it most. Equally solid are “Solidification” with its marauding bass buzz and “Pendulum” which sweetens its burbling pulse with jazz touches (percussive splashes, piano figures, and careening snare hits) that keep the interest level high throughout its nine kinetic minutes.

As if those releases aren't spectacular enough, Hub Solo & Collab 2004-2005 spreads Op.disc's 12-inch catalog over two discs and supplements tracks by Aoki Takamasa, Radiq, and Fumiya Tanaka with those of associated artists. Though the music might be filed under ‘minimal techno,' it's anything but predictable when it so mutates so restlessly throughout a given track. Nao Tokui's “Fauna,” for instance, opens with glitchy techno-funk smothered with Chain Reaction smears but then gradually develops a warm, house-flavoured swing as it rolls through a bed of soft crackle. A library of glitch textures—clicks, scrapes, sputters, bleeps, wipes, muffles, and scratches—surfaces throughout the discs' twenty subtly-grooving cuts, with Radiq & Fumiya Tanaka's “Trojan” and its weaves of rattles and whirrs the perfect exemplar of the style.

Collaborating with Taeji Sawai, Takamasa maintains his league-leading batting average with the mercurial strutter “4Tech With PK” and “BBBB” where drum hits collide with wipes and myriad other grime while a rolling bass line sleepily rumbles underfoot. Radiq's “Nova Express” likewise impresses when Fender Rhodes chords add a jazzy vibe to its razor-sharp skip and scratch. Eater's ““Rock” Expert,” on the other hand, is more suggestive of trance than techno in it pairing of bright, shimmering waves and brief drum episodes. In Fumiya Tanaka & Radiq's “A Nude Contract,” driving hi-hat and bass drum patterns generate a relentless uptempo pulse while a cloud of haze and crackle swirls overhead. In essence, the discs combine orgiastic, computer-generated whirr and click with the pulsating punch of rolling bass lines. In fact, the orgy turns literal in Eater & Compositionist's “Hana” when the angelic sighs and grunts of female voices float above a sparkling base of clicking beats and glimmering chords. In short, Op.disc's marriage of shape-shifting, tribal-funk beats with deep dub textures offers an endless source of pleasure.

April 2007