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SND - "Stdio" (Mille Plateaux)

.H - "1-3/4-6" (Hobby Industries)

At 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 full-length "Stdio".

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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[email protected] | February 2001 | Issue 11