Available on: Bpitch Control 12″
After announcing her fifth album Dust, supposedly one of her most accessible and poppy albums yet, Ellen Allien goes and drops this bit of heady dancefloor filth on her own Bpitch Control label, a dense and sweaty twelve made with one thing in mind. It’s less friendly than her last one (‘Lover’ / ‘You Are’), going in a more bass-driven, almost dub-techno direction, more interested in tiny details; microscopic crevices and nicks on the surface, than standing out.
‘Pump’ plays out like rave in the desert, kicking up dust everywhere with its banging bass submerged in sand, ever-so-slightly muffled; it’s sort of like a slowed down ‘Enforcement’. Strange, mumbled vocals come in, referencing the sunnier, pseudo-tropical influence Ellen Allien has been into lately as seen on her Watergate 05 mix, but they’re not by any means catchy, and they dart in and out as unpredictably as everything else. The track snakes a zig-zagged path under the surface, occasionally coming up for breaths of air before descending back into the grainy sea: crisp hi-hats appear for a few bars before they’re swallowed up again, and there are points of the track where almost everything drops out, leaving one naked element almost completely alone like a series of micro-solos. At six minutes in, the track finally starts grooving until it naturally begins to wind down and ends rather humbly with a fade. The moody throb of the track recalls most obviously Basic Channel and more recently Peter Van Hoesen, rarely letting up its stern, straight-faced determination.
‘Feel Like’ is slightly more straightforward, a nimble bass riff hemmed in by suffocating percussion that feels like it’s perpetually descending towards the centre of the earth. More typical structures and sounds begin to emerge as hi-hats hiss and snap, but just like ‘Pump’, nothing ever really stays in one place for very long. As Allien intones the track’s title in her usual coy whispers it starts to uncoil, the bass riff loosening for a few seconds before snapping right back into place for another two minutes of stony repetition. The entire track plays off this elastic dynamic, stretching things out and tweaking them until the pressure is too much and the track resumes its original rigid structure. Eventually Allien stretches it so far that it simply breaks, the loose ends flapping in the wind as utter chaos commence.
You can hear her frantically trying to repair it as the track travels through several sparse, incomplete sections, but it never quite coheres, cycling through a number of odd grooves until it simply gives way, malfunctioning and grinding to an uneasy halt. Far from the opaque abstraction of SOOL and even farther from her poppier excursions, Ellen Allien’s latest single sees her plunging her tech-house-oriented sound deeper into the bowels of dub-techno than she’s been in a while, and surprise surprise, she’s great at this too.