SND - "Stdio" (Mille Plateaux)
.H - "1-3/4-6" (Hobby Industries)
the end of each year many people reflect on the music that was released
and compile top-ten lists of their favorites. I myself made a list of
favorites for the year 2000, and one of those that made the list was
a record called "Travelog" by the British micro-techno duo SND. Up until
that point Mark Fell and Matt Steel had been releasing SND singles independantly
on their own label and had released their first full-length "Make SND
Cassette" on the German label Mille Plateaux. Their releases were diamonds
in the ever-expanding rough of the "minimal techno" explosion, as their
unconventional approach to programming created a completely unique sound
that literally defined the term "minimal". Yet, like many of their more
experimental contemporaries, the sound they created was somewhat cold
and expressionless despite its uniqueness.
"Travelog" seemed to me to be a new beginning for SND, as layers of
warmth and a sprinkle of melody had been added to the mix. I actually
found myself humming along to those first two tracks on the ep and my
expectations for future greatness have been exceeded with their new
The SND sound is still intact: digital micro-clicks and micro-tones
connected through osmosis by millisecond gaps of silence, suspended
in virtual space by an underlying, warping synth or machinistic hum.
However, it picks up where "Travelog" left off with it's warmth and
adds soulful mini-melodies throughout many of the tracks, many of which
offset the rhythms, creating a more complex, and expressive SND sound.
As much as i appreciate their older records for their stark , sterile
approach, i do believe SND has created their best work to date with
this new full-length. Simply delightful.
On a completely different tip is Mark Fell's recent solo excursion under
the moniker of .H, for which he has released a six track single on the
Hobby Industries label. .H music veers away from the repetitive, rhythmic
clicks of SND, and ventures into completely new territories of complex
rhythms and textures. The first track is nothing more than a percussive
workout, which at first seems too complex for anything lacking Intel
inside to grasp. However, as it spits and sputters away at you, an "almost-breakbeat"
rhythm slowly seems to evolve. The single's remaining tracks have more
texture, are very abstract and require active listening. It's a very
adventurous record that hold your attention, and has that SND stamp
of digital precision.
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| February 2001 | Issue 11