VA: Minimize to Maximize

Surprisingly, Minimize to Maximize is the premiere compilation from Minus, despite the Windsor-based label's seven-year history and its deep catalogue of releases by Plastikman, Theorem, and others. To its credit, the collection packages 73 minutes of new rather than recycled material and, consequently, offers a fresh take on the label's cool persona. While Minus predicates itself upon “theories of subtraction, advancement and experimentation,” it largely eschews fashionable tropes like glitch and chopped edits for robotic minimalism of the kind perfected long ago by label head Richie Hawtin.

Some pieces adopt a more academic approach (I.A. Bericochea's oscillating flows of minimal clicks and Plastikman's vertiginous field of fluttering pulsations) while others opt for funkier territory. In the standout “East to West,” Marc Houle slows a Starski & Clutch vocal sample to an adenoidal, even lecherous crawl over a spindly techno-funk groove. Brooklynite Magda merges a remarkable array of frog-like murmurs, smears, and voices fragments with shimmying rhythms and woozy clatterball patterns, while Heartthrob surrounds a percolating groove with an aggregate of staccato alien chatter. Tracks by Niederflur and Run Stop Restore (Magda, Troy Pierce, Marc Houle) are compelling too, as is Matthew Dear's android techno-microhouse fusion in his False outing “Traveled.”

Best of all, though, is Dinky Dog's incredible “UnEasy Horizons” where Dog first layers cycling swirls of airy spindles and prickly clatter over a gently rocking shuffle. Rather than riding out the groove, however, he then surreptitiously escalates the music to a tweaked peak, then detonates it after a hiccupping pause before having it resume its mesmerizing shuffle. The pattern repeats itself again and again, with subsequent climaxes exploding even more powerfully; distorted voices appear too, upping the dementia ante.

Interestingly, while other label comps showcase their rosters' stylistic breadth (~scape's But Then Again, Kompakt 100), Minimize to Maximize finds its contributors generally hewing to Minus's signature cerebral style. Far from constricting their material, however, the artists spin wildly imaginative variations on that template, even if those who deviate from it most radically leave the strongest impression.

April 2005