Kevin Gorman, Elements Part 1

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[Mikrowave]


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Manchester’s Kevin Gorman isn’t one of those artists who tries to conceal the mechanics and methods of his trade. Nor is he one to dictate how and under what conditions his music should be experienced. His four-part “Elements” series for his own Mikrowave label will be available both on tangible vinyl and portable mp3 formats. The main talking points on the series, though, concern Gorman’s decision to offer each track’s individual components. In other words, you can get an mp3 of just the pads for “Hoodwinked,” or the bare percussion from “Insomnia.” You can even get “Cyclic”‘s toms as an isolated track. Not to mention alternate mixes. The first two installments are already out, and some of the material is even offered at no cost.

Mikrowave’s website states that the series is “geared toward digital DJs and laptop performers,” but this publishing model has much to offer home listeners too. Encouraging modification, subtraction, and reinterpretation, Gorman’s music shrugs off the sanctity of creator-defined “finished products.” Even a casual earbuds-in-cubicle consumer could feasibly figure out how to reassemble a favorite track sans hand claps, if desired. Beyond user customization, though, Gorman won’t even commit to his own setting preferences. Discussing this installment’s “Cyclic,” he has the audacity to tell buyers of the pad-laden record, “my favourite mixes of this track are the ones without the pads.” Part second-guess, part chef’s-recommendation, this underscores the series’ emphasis not on pressed, perfected tracks, but possibilities. All that might sound like a nice way to gloss over a wishy-washy resistance to finalizing an artistic vision, but a listen to Gorman’s textured, fluid, and quite singular mix for mnml ssgs should put to rest such concerns.

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Still, does “Elements” play once you’ve cleared away all the expansion pack rigmarole? Urgent, fierce techno, I believe it does. The opening remix of Zuni’s “Hoodwinked” is metronomic, thumping, and properly stunning. Simplicity is key here and on all the tracks. Despite all the pieces and patterns sold separately, the mixed “Hoodwinked” sounds pretty spare. Structured around a basic series of rises, one effect after another slowly increases in boldness and intensity, but without ramping up the aggression. The shimmering “Cyclic,” Gorman explains, was a product of noodling about with “pitching the bass drum up and down,” paired with some sonic inspiration from Sleeparchive. In the version pressed to vinyl, the experiment comes through as appropriately dizzy, even more so with the spinning pad tool. “Insomnia” rounds out the set with a pummeling parade of drums, a little textural twitter, smacking rimshots, and a springy bass effect, the combined effect like an alarm announcing peak time. Mark Broom’s a helpful point of reference here, where “Hoodwinked” ran closer to something like Marcel Dettmann. Both names already appear in the Mikrowave catalog, as does Tadeo, another apt comparison. Not only does “Elements Part 1” stand up on its own legs in the plug-and-play music arena, I’d argue that these tracks join the ranks of Norman Nodge and Sandwell District’s N/A remixes on the shortlist for the most effective techno the year has yet seen.

tom d  on May 27, 2009 at 5:32 AM

The track in the player is some seriously hypnotic stuff, love it, wouldn’t be out of place in a Donatto Dozzy set…

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