VA: Now 02

VA: Now 03

Naysayers continually muse on the demise of electronic music in general and IDM in particular but, by regularly issuing fabulous tracks, labels like Germany's Underscan handily silence such doomsayers. The label continues its Now series of four 12-inch EPs with the second and third installments, 20-minute discs that extend the stylistic range far beyond strict IDM.

Now 02 includes contributions from Scanner (Robin Rimbaud), Onethema (Simon Petre), Quench (The Funcken brothers), and Rod (Rod Morris). Originally composed for a movie and installation about trains (“Soundtrain”), Scanner's “Interreum” sculpts menacing ambiance. The piece opens with interweaves of string tones that are all but swallowed by an escalating, relentlessly churning pulse that consumes everything in its path. Onethema eschews samples for whirring machine noise in his squiggly smattering of futuristic hip-hop business “Monocarpic” while the Funckens merge magnificently punchy beat splatter with chiming melodies in “Slick.” Somewhat surprisingly, Rod's “Santa's Factory” trades the sublime melodicism of his All My Love EP for a slamming exercise in metallic beat squelch.

Bogger (Berliner Oliver Kiesow), Dalezy (Ronny Engmann), Frank Bretschneider, Everest (Bern 's Matur Hügli and Michael Meienberg), and Menu:Exit (Underscan founders Ralf Pytlik and Markward Wagner) appear on Now 03. The strongest tracks bookend the disc, with Bogger's “Honz,” an incredible slice of reptilian electro-boogie destined to top 23rd century playlists everywhere, opening the set and Menu:Exit's awesome “Querverweis,” which starts out resembling an escapee from Pole's bunker before morphing into a crushing, convulsive groove of hammering machine dub, closing it. In between, Dalezy coaxes a driving if brief sample of robot music titled “Silkweed” from an old Commodore 64 computer, Bretschneider merges serpentine bass lines, voice samples, and twitchy percussive elements in the loose, dubwise “Polaris,” and Everest pair delicate melancholy melodies with thwacking electro beats in “Separate Room.”

To these ears, tracks by Scanner, Quench, Bogger, and Menu:Exit stand out as particularly strong, but it's silly, really, to highlight certain pieces over others with both discs so uniformly strong.

December 2005