Ellen Allien Ellen AllienDust
It’s not hard to fall in love with Ellen Allien. I, myself, would be capable of burning down a house with my friends and family inside, like David Koresh, to win her favour, and have for some time been trying to find an ember of mediocrity, one tiny false step, a subatomic particle of a flaw that could make me doubt her, even a little bit. No dice. She has a special glow that places her above good and evil—this German is an icon of the coolest electronic music, whatever she does. To have a cathedral like BPitch Control at your service is important. Ellen has managed to become an experienced gondolier when it comes to navigating the lost rivers of Berlin. And this reputation is due in large part to the impact of her magnificent label, which continually sheds its skin like a snake, and has condensed the spark of the most nonconformist electronic music in its catalogue. It seems that you can tire of both her and her label, but there are always reasons to stay, or to go back to them. This is what we call “intrinsic quality.”
After “Sool,” our favourite Valkyrie’s umpteenth reinvention, it seems that Ellen has decided to rinse out what was left of the futurist abstraction she had stuck between her molars, to look for a new enamel—more in your face, more minimal, more synth-pop. People who break out in hives when they hear an electric guitar will have to bite down on something to stand the pain when they hear “Sun The Rain.” There is greasy-bang electricity, but there are also bubbling synthesisers, low-intensity electro, and Ellen belting it out fairly efficiently. The same is true of “You,” a crystal-clear waterfall of guitars and pop foam where the German musician once again blows bubbling vocals into the listener’s ear. But the trip is also unsettling, cold, aseptically danceable at times. Accompanied this time in the studio by her buddy Tobias Freund (50% of .nsi), the mother of BPitch has found a perfect spot in the dimensional plane of a cybernetic ectoplasm, a nano-organism designed to float from the sofa to the dance floor, an epidermal sound that seems to creak under a mantle of next-generation minimalism. There’s a whiff of Chile, a whiff of Germany, a whiff of rave, a whiff of pop, a whiff of after hours. So don’t let the guitars get in your eyes, most of the LP rests on a collection of technoid movements that exude electro, IDM, ambient and minimal, especially minimal. Like the vaporous minimal–with funky guitars echoing back to emo– of “Our Utopie,” like the ketamine minimal of “Flashy Flashy.”The most experimental polyrhythm is imposed in “Dream”: little crescendos of alien electronic, trance mantra, fewer layers of sound than the fart of a fly, and a sort of flute-clarinet-God-knows-what that fits in very well with the air of mystery of the court. “My Tree” is spectral electro with fewer baubles than a nudist colony on Formentera. This is music without any extras, buck-naked, exposed: the silences are barely filled with faltering rhythms, fleeting sounds, microscopic synthesisers. Then we come to “Ever,” perhaps the most Panoramabar song of the lot: nervous rhythm, IDM echoes, scales of aqueous melody, a minimalist shave, android chops. But my favourite movement is “Schlumi” – hyperventilated basses, a Luciano trot, cybernetic sounds to create a mood, bare sheet music, and a clear vocation for sounding like seven o’clock in the morning in any of the Berlin clubs that never close in all the livelong day. The best thing about this good woman is that she manages to shoot up your taste buds with the strange, sweet, chemical flavour of her city’s underground. She does it with every record, and every record is different. There is something in her various miracles that unfailingly leads us to the darkest, most futuristic clubs of Berlin. She’s still got that gift. “Dust” is more Ellen Allien than ever and, like each of her earlier albums, it is another step ahead. At times pop, at times minimal, the most cheered-for woman on the European techno scene has put out an exercise that receives high marks. I still can’t find any flaws. This is love. Platonic. Farewell.