Mike Shannon, Memory Tree


Art by Liu Bolin

[Plus 8 Records]


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While it’s higher profile offshoot label M_nus continues to tread water and slowly transform into some sort of sci-fi cartoon series, Richie Hawtin’s original Plus 8 imprint keeps on putting out quality techno releases with a lot less frequency but a much higher level of quality across the board. Veteran Canadian label-skipper Mike Shannon (of Cynosure label fame) is the latest producer to come aboard, and his third full-length album is a polished and accomplished foray into rhythmic tech-house, as comfortable on a home stereo as it would be on an adventurous jock’s playlist.

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Shannon establishes his sonic palette right off the bat with “Beyond Incubation,” a mid-tempo excursion full of deep, dark digital notes and hard-hitting mechanical tones and beats — in short, the classic Plus 8 sound. With track two, however, Shannon steps on the accelerator. Opening with some static and waves that give way to a lightly tweaked sliding riff and a cracker-crisp snare beat, “Mercury Mile” (also featured on the album preview “Memory Seed” EP) rides a series of shifting and overlaid melody lines and rhythms that don’t stand still for many measures, moving from one squirming, ever-ascending motif to another. This isn’t the circular, minimal composition of the M_nus camp; this is the stuff that F.U.S.E. and Jeff Mills and even early Autechre was built on.

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Shannon sticks to a core of sounds, but not to styles or particular rhythmic patterns. For example, “Wolf Module” guest star Mathew Jonson helps Shannon program some synths into a bouncing, effects-laden acid workout, all hi-hats trying their best to rise above the gnashing teeth of the main riff. “Uno Para el Sol,” on the other hand (with Vincenzo), uses a deep-house rhythmic pattern, softer chords and some jazzy Rhodes mini-runs to create a jacking, late-night atmosphere. Closer “Closed Question” embraces the classic Detroit sound, while “The Love Fry” has some industrial overtones.

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Although Shannon bounces from style to style, he doesn’t stray far from his chosen sound sources and the album is kept unified as a result, a satisfying top-to-bottom listen. If you’ve been lamenting Hawtin’s lack of musical output and questionable marketing moves of late, at least be assured that someone over at the home label still has a fully functioning set of ears and a desire to sign talent.

james kartsaklis  on September 30, 2008 at 8:15 PM

most excellent tunage, mr. hutlock. thanks for the heads up (and the hilarious scathing remarks w/r/t mns)

petepete  on October 1, 2008 at 6:04 AM

This sounds really good, will definitely pick this up. Oh and by the way, it’s Uno Para El Sol, not Pero.

eric cloutier  on October 1, 2008 at 7:20 AM

between this and shed’s “shedding the past,” i’ve found two of the best albums i’ve heard in a long, long time. my two picks from the album are “enero” and “dr. x,” with “la tenation” the selection of the two digital only tracks.

mike shannon has always been a phenom when it comes to producing bouncy, heady, yet very danceable tracks. i was quite worried when the four tracker came out on plus.8 – i’d figured the guy had totally lost his touch – but then the album dropped and i was pleasantly reminded at why i love this guys production.

Joe  on October 12, 2008 at 9:59 AM

i think what you meant to say here Todd was ‘THIS IS SERIOUSLY FUCKING GOOD’

hutlock  on October 12, 2008 at 7:51 PM

Yes. This is seriously fucking good.

(Steve likes me to explain a little bit more sometimes though…)

Joe  on October 13, 2008 at 1:46 AM

you did a good job – i got the message and you were right!

bernardo  on November 17, 2008 at 1:20 PM

I think like many I was concerned to see Mike Shannon on Plus 8 and took a while to check this out. Having now heard it several times I can say that this is seriously fucking good too 😉

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