Various Artists, Uncanny Valley 002

[Uncanny Valley]


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In the argot of robotics, the “uncanny valley” is the point at which an object meant to appear human becomes unsettling to an actual human. I believe music encounters its own uncanny valleys — the points at which a song sounds too reminiscent of that which came before it and sets off copycat alarms. Perhaps it’s telling Dresden’s Uncanny Valley label chose that as its name, as many of their tracks evoke the familiar aesthetics of dance music greats but manage to swerve away from the perilous gulf. In the process they’re bringing acclaim to newer Dresden producers, some of whom are already known — Jacob Korn and Break SL — and others who’ve yet to break through. Uncanny Valley 002 contains the debut of Credit 00; as well as the debut of C-Beams (the collaboration of Break SL and Stefan Menzel); and new tracks by Korn and Cuthead.

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Lead track, “Dance Away,” is a lighthearted introduction to the record rather than DJ fodder, a fact some critics have chosen to overlook in their judgments. This freestyle posse cut was born during a studio session between Korn and veteran Detroit producer Kelli Hand while the latter was in Dresden for a gig. Appropriately loose and joyous, the tune finds Hand offering shout-outs to her Detroit and Dresden crews, naming names and inviting each to “dance away.” Her smoky tenor sits above jazzy constellations of tickled vibes and broad horn hits, naked piano leads and splashy hi-hats. The intricacy of the arrangements won’t be lost on those who appreciate the premise of “Dance Away.”

Cuthead’s second UV appearance is another standout, one which approaches house through a hip-hop perspective in a manner redolent of Pepe Bradock. “The Sinner” tucks quick-cut electric piano chords into swung breakbeat patterns, sashaying to the dance floor on the arm of female vocals concerned about the fate of certain sinners. C-Beams make an excellent first impression with “Thumbling,” whose breathy chords, fattened bass line and inspired synth leads have the air of Derrick May’s early Transmat material but at a less frantic pace. The record closes on its slowest cut, Credit 00’s “Wave Memory.” Its fizzy strains crash and soar over spare but lead-footed percussion, recalling Kassem Mosse’s own slow motion efforts with cleaner timbres. For a record so clearly informed by recognizable sounds, Uncanny Valley 002 speaks to the ability of its artists to find new things to say in familiar tongues.

Blaktony  on January 25, 2011 at 5:16 AM

This track drips of originality & familiar soul (wouldn’t be surprized if K Hand were doin’ the vocals either).A great job & song, it’s got a lot going on….a steppy,after-hours house vibe i can dig.

Pinker than thou  on January 25, 2011 at 7:46 AM

Vocal on “The Sinner” is the opening of the Marlena Shaw live at Montreux record that was also used on Rose Rouge and probably a billion other tracks.

kuri  on January 25, 2011 at 12:31 PM

This C-Beams track is the winner for me. Loving the jazzy keys. And I agree on the comparison to Kassem Mosse on “Wave Memory,” very similar feel. Can’t help but feel like “Dance Away” should have come as instrumental as well. K-Hands voice is nice but the constant list of names is distracting from the song.

Per Bojsen-Moller  on January 25, 2011 at 2:49 PM

I’m with you Kuri, could definitely have done without Kelli’s vocals on “Dance Away”. I know it’s a shout-out track, but the vocals immediately stop me from wanting to include it in a set.

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