ELLEN ALLIEN: Sool (BPitch Control)


Posted on Jun 2nd 2008 12:04 am

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Ellen Alien: Sool

BPC 175
BPitch Control 2008
11 Tracks. 52mins54secs

Given Ellen Allien’s close links with the Berlin techno scene, this album is probably going to come as a surprise to many. While it does not abandon the dancefloor aesthetic of earlier records, the beat count has certainly slowed and a more inward-looking sound has superseded the skeletal techno of old. Whether the helping hand in the studio of fellow Berliner AGF has contributed to this more reflective sound is not easy to say, but the cut-up, Schaefferesque sound experiments of AGF’s Words Are Missing do definitely seep through into the mix from time to time on Sool. Perhaps this change of direction is a sign that Allien is moving away from the modern minimalist scene she has done so much to shape. But if not, it does at least suggest her sound is drawing on new sources. And after the largely disappointing Boogybytes techno compilation she DJed earlier this year, this would be no bad thing.

Of course, Allien has not abandoned her roots altogether. The beat is still there, but she seems more interested this time in exploring the empty spaces around it. As well as AGF’s chopped-up vocal twists, the record is swathed in robotic glitches and dark, synthesised atmospherics. And often the essence of a track is to be found lurking beneath the bass and beat template, where creeping melodies stir. The slow-burning Caress follows in this vein, unveiling itself piece by piece as the mechanics of the track slowly intertwine. Elsewhere, drums and bass are put to more playful effect on Bim and Sprung, where AGF’s fingerprints are more evident. Simple melodies are slowly enveloped in glitchy electronics while the framework of a beat gradually unwinds.

If at times the overall aesthetic of the record is a little unforgiving, we could blame this on the minimalist principles that are supposed to underlay it. But it is not so much minimalism that lies at the heart of things here as a denser, more studied take on techno itself. Sool only seems like a minimalist record in the sense that the palate she uses is restricted to what fits in with the overall vision. But where too much minimalism ends up sounding bland and repetitious when following this model, the material here is complex enough to overcome such a problem. And, at times, she broadens the sound of the album entirely – with a breathless Enoesque ballad on Frieda and a warped, extended oboe solo on Zauber.

There is still room for more straightforward dancefloor techno, as on Its and Ondu, but these are where the album is at its least interesting. Instead, it is the interconnecting lines between AGF’s dark, isolationist electronica and the more conventional beatscapes of Allien’s sound that bring the richest rewards. Where this fusion goes from here is anybody’s guess, but Sool offers some intriguing photographic negatives of today’s techno scene.


Ellen Allien | BPitch Control
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