Isolee - Western Store

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Fans of German minimal techno / house producer Isolee (real name Rajko Muller) may have been wondering why he was so quiet in the interim period between his 2000 classic debut album ‘Rest’ and 2005’s acclaimed follow-up ‘We Are Monster’ – in reality during this period, he was simply concentrating on remixes for other artists as well as dedicating himself to vinyl-only releases through Playhouse. This compilation ‘Western Store’ represents a considerable boon for Isolee collectors who don’t normally pick up vinyl, as it gathers together all of the various tracks released previously only on 12”s during those ‘missing years’ as well as many of the vinyl releases that preceded ‘Rest’s release, in total covering Muller’s output from 1997 through to 2003. With a broad variation in styles ranging from minimal dub-techno right through to up-front house, compilation of the various tracks on ‘Western Store’ has been capably handled by Muller’s longtime peer and friend Jorn Elling Wuttke (himself one half of the feted Alter Ego duo), and to add even more plusses to the package, he’s also astutely included Freeform Five’s stunning full ten minute reworking of Isolee’s minimal house classic ‘Beau Mot Plage’ as an additional bonus.

Opening track ‘Bleu’ leads things off on an undulating minimal dub-techno tip reminiscent of Rhythm & Sound, crisp, buzzing house snares adding momentum and impetus to a shifting landscape of almost subliminal sub-bass tones, refracted melodic fragments ringing back and forth through the mix through rich dub-delay FX as metallically-processed traces of Muller’s own Gallic vocal intonations pitch and roll against the beats – a suitably impressive emergence into the opening minutes of this collection. After this comparatively understated opening, the sparkling ‘Initiate II’ goes for a significantly more club-friendly vibe, with Muller’s thin vocals evoking associations with Bernard Sumner’s clipped delivery – a comparison brought to the foreground even more by the clattering Chicago House melodic elements and washing synth pads, which certainly call to mind that Manchester band’s Hacienda-oriented house remixes around the time of 1989’s Ibiza-inflected ‘Technique’ album.

‘Monitor’ meanwhile provides an example of the sort of directions being explored by Muller prior to ‘Rest’ as well as pushing things back towards minimal dub-techno ambience, with crisp micro-house snares threading their way through a backdrop of warm, swelling ragga-tinged bass tones and vaguely funky analogue synths as curiously enigmatic distorted sounds add a vague element of menace to the otherwise idyllic atmosphere, before ‘Surfers’ toughens up the tech-house rhythms whilst also injecting a tumbling robotic vibe courtesy of some suitably effective clattering electro percussion hits and squealing, meticulously processed electronic noise bursts that almost verge on acid at points. ‘King Off’ takes this flirtation with electro even further, with buzzing distorted acid 303 squawks making their way over an icy backdrop of buzzing analogue synth bass and vaguely martial drum machine rhythms in one of this record’s most skeletal-sounding inclusions, while epic nine-minute long track ‘Lost’ (the most recent track collected here) offers up this compilation’s most main-room oriented and Chicago house-tinged moment, unleashing a veritable maze of streamlined electro-funk bass synths as bright keyboard melodies, traces of acid squeal and what sound like sampled guitar chords glide over the multi-layered rhythms. Finally, the inclusion of the full ten minute version (both Parts 1 and the lesser-heard Part 2!) of Freeform Five’s fabulous ‘Beau Mot Plage’ remix at the end represents another classic moment sure to devoured eagerly by those who’ve so far only heard the considerably edited shorter mix, taking the original into brightly-coloured Rio Carnivale atmosphere, as massed Brazilian female vocal samples rolling against a backdrop of fluid batucada rhythms, electro synths, snaking flutes and jazzy piano chords – a suitably spectacular ending, indeed. All in all, ‘Western Store’ is sure to be greeted eagerly by fans of Isolee who’ve so far only enjoyed his two album releases, and indeed the contents of this compilation are so strong that they easily stand alongside ‘Rest’ and ‘We Are Monster’ as a cohesive artist album in their own right. Once again, you’ve also been saved the significant time and $ involved in tracking down some seriously rare vinyl, so the both the hardcore Isolee afficionados and the newbies are beautifully catered for at the same time – nice one once again, Playhouse.

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