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Review 

Richie Hawtin's Decks, EFX & 909

Wednesday, Nov 3 1999
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Richie Hawtin
Decks, EFX & 909
(Novamute)

This mix CD from Windsor, Ontario's Richie Hawtin just might inspire club DJs to work a little harder; too many have been getting away with submitting a blend of 14 tracks of current dance floor numbers as "their" work for far too long. No doubt, mixing records together well is a rare talent, but in the end, the sounds remain the same. Except by scratching or playing with the levels on the mixers a bit, a DJ using the traditional setup just can't change the information pressed onto the vinyl. Enter Decks, EFX & 909.

Hawtin, whose memorable career under Plastikman and other guises has been defined by constantly upping the ante, raises the bar again. He adds a Roland drum machine and an array of effects modules to his turntables and mixer, allowing him infinitely more latitude than the standard jockey to personalize the music. The result is 38 tracks of minimal techno and tech-house compressed into 61 minutes in which each song is simultaneously remixed by Hawtin and mixed into the others. It's a technique he first tried live at the Glastonbury festival in 1995 and has perfected since: During his set at the recent Coachella festival near Palm Springs, Hawtin coaxed these devices into an experiment in crowd control, bringing the audience to numerous peaks, finally climaxing with a drum machine solo -- not something you see every day from someone behind the decks.

While his techniques for bringing this concise and extremely tightknit mix together are genre-defying, the tracks he chose for this CD are not. Hawtin deviates only rarely from the Detroit and German aesthetic of stark, driving, repetitive techno -- there are surprise appearances of Nitzer Ebb's "Let Your Body Move" and a new school dub track from Rhythm & Sound to close it off -- but this is a purist's celebration of stripped-down machine grooves. Decks, Effects & 909 will convert absolutely none of the "heck no to techno" dance music-phobes. The transitions between tracks (and the intrinsic differences between them) are so subtle that the unacquainted will likely invoke the classic "it all sounds the same" argument. But after repeated exposures, the layered beauty of this monolithic mix is revealed. The kaleidoscope shifts slowly, but if you look closely, you'll notice the sands are moving in three dimensions, not the usual two of the DJ mix.

About The Author

Darren Keast

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