Gowentgone, Under the Bridge EP

[Vidab Records]

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Oliver Deutschmann and Stephan Hill are the producers behind Gowentgone and the Vidab label. As noted on their website, Vidab was founded by the pair as “a platform to express their idea of timeless club music.” On the “Under the Bridge EP,” Gowentgone seem to be wrestling with two interpretations of timelessness: one being a historical standing, attributed to knowledge and appreciation of our predecessors’ accomplishments, and the second, a mental space we enter in the midst of a track unraveling its charms.

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In opener “Love and Respect,” Gowentgone loop a man’s voice orating, “His love for love and his love for women and family / Give him some respect, you know / Recording some new love music,” over a classic Detroit sound. Whenever contemporary producers use devices referring to the house music ethos, as in the case above, one wonders whether it’s just another ritual in consecrating club music’s past. When done cheaply, these exercises end up reifying the work of a bygone era, elevating it to an overly protected, artificial state, while the work in question –- what is being produced in our time –- ends up being a dud. The spoken word in “Love and Respect” helps cite Deutschmann and Hill’s reverence to Motown, but what does it say about their time and place in electronic club music? On one hand, Gowentgone’s high level of craft attests to their inclusion amongst Berlin’s techno elite: the spoken word becomes abstracted through being looped and sequenced with hiccups and cut-up voices; jettisoning its semiotic baggage, the words create a wormhole, drawing you deeper into the music. And while Gowentgone demonstrate the strength that comes from tradition, they show a weakness that comes from lack of fresh thought. Deutschmann and Hill make brilliant Detroit-inspired club music. But don’t we want to know what their music has to say about Berlin in the 21st century?

Gowentgone’s talents lie in how they braise an elemental beat with drone and reverb, combining and recombining groove and effects. In “Point Blank,” it becomes hard to tell where a cymbal splash ends and a drone begins. The finished articles result in hypnotic listening, which some might say evoke a feeling of timelessness. Ultimately, Gowentgone’s crutch is the language chosen to frame their musical ambitions (“new love music,” “timeless”), language connoting an obligation to not only look back historically, but to face the unknown and unexplored. One test of timeless house/techno is when we can hear the best work of our time and the best work of twenty years ago with the same ears. I think the next step for Gowentgone is to show us their potential to push a sound forward, as they’ve already expressed their appreciation of the past so eloquently. Until then, the jury is still out on whether this is indeed some “new love music.”

peder  on February 9, 2009 at 8:36 AM

nice review. a very eloquent examination of the dilemmas facing today’s house and techno producers!

fwiw i think this is a nice record, elegantly negotiating the fine line between respectful homage and shameless rip-off. looking forward to the oracy remix as well: http://www.discogs.com/Gowentgone-Remixes-2/release/1641726

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