VA: EXPANSION | contraction

It's not too hard to appreciate why Minus has its detractors. In their eyes, the label's material is so free of grit or rough edges, it sounds antiseptic and sterile. Certainly the skeletal style occasionally heard on the label's latest compilation EXPANSION | contraction will only add more fuel to that particular flame, and an album thematically devoted to exploring “the relationship between Sound and Silence” and “the balance, interaction, and interplay between these two opposing forces” won't win such critics over either.

But for listeners happily acclimatized to Minus's restrained handling of its minimal materials, there's much to celebrate about the new collection. Available as both a double black-and-white vinyl set and CD (only the latter includes Troy Pierce's “Oxytocin”), EXPANSION | contraction opens with a sleek slice of Consumed-styled Plastikman (“Risk Assessment”) before rolling out the funk in Heartthrob's (Jesse Siminski) “Roundabout.” The acidy tune's dirty backbeat swing and chattering handclaps presents a direct challenge to naysayers who contend that Minus's sound is too clean. When not digging feverishly into its tight, locomotive funk pulse, Marc Houle's acid-coiled “Porch” dizzyingly ascends and descends like a roller-coaster, while “Emissions,” the first track to be released on Minus by Dubfire (Ali, ex-Deep Dish), is a brutal stormer. Propelled by a rabidly insistent bass line, the almost eight-minute raver intermittently slows to a crawl before springing back to life with detonating starbursts. Solid too is Pierce's physically imposing, ten-minute “Oxytocin” which seems to sprout ever-more lethal tendrils over its writhing, amoebic swing with each passing moment. With crew members like Heartthrob, Houle, Gaiser, and Pierce aboard, Minus's EXPANSION | contraction sounds anything but clinical.

December 2007