Various Artists - Shut Up And Dance! Updated

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When I first opted for this disc from the weekly review pile I expected it to be some new remix collection updating UK proto-breaks duo SUAD’s backcatalogue, but in this instance, the release itself has turned out to be something that’s arguably far more intriguing. Representing something of a forward-thinking collaboration, ‘Shut Up And Dance! Updated’ sees Berlin clubbing institution Berghain’s newly established Ostgut Ton label drawing together a stellar cast of global minimal techno talent together to compose music especially for the Staatsballet Berlin. A quick glance at the tracklisting certainly adds to the level of anticipation here, with nsi. (Max Loderbauer and Tobias Freund), Sleeparchive, Ame, Luciano and Luke Slater (in his ambient 7th Plain guise) all responsible for contributing one of five sprawling pieces here. Adding also to the intrigue factor here is the fact that while all of the featured producers were previously unfamiliar with composing music specifically for ballet dancers, they were also given more or less creative free rein, with no preconceptions supplied by the Staatsballet as to how each piece should work in its finished setting.

Nsi.’s epic fourteen and a half minute long ‘Bridge And Tunnel People’ slowly trails in through what sounds like delicate harp textures and delayed-out piano harmonics, the distant tentative sonar-like pings that crackle at the very edges giving way to jagged rushes of glitchy sounds and sub-bass rumbles. While a sense of artful chaos prevails at first, things soon lock down around a tight minimal techno bass pulse that sends things off on a gliding trajectory awash with ricocheting Detroit pads, jazz-informed cymbal runs and whirring electronic textures for its duration, resulting in one of the most immersive and cinematic ‘minimal’ listens you’re likely to have in quite some time. By contrast Sleeparchive’s comparatively petite eight minute ‘Perspective’ places pinprick techno kickdrums beneath buzzing distorted synth tones that add a slightly jarring edge, before contrasting harmonic tones rise up beneath in the mix and ‘smooth out’ the sense of competing rhythms considerably amidst icy snare programming.

Ame’s sprawling sixteen minute long ‘Fiori’ in many senses represents the centrepiece of this collection, emerging from fluttering crackles and tumbling arpeggiated synths down an epic, brooding path that fuse stray hints of Italo atmosphere with the synthetic grandeur of Vangelis’ classic ‘Blade Runner’ score to create what’s easily this collection’s most ‘massive’ moment, spectral vocal samples and all. Luciano’s ‘Drunken Ballet’ offers up what’s easily this collection’s most humorous inclusion, with “ooh” “aah” male synthesised vocal stabs tracing a path over the Chilean producer’s trademark dry-sounding, rattling beat programming, before sweeping thirteen minute long ambient closer ‘Symphony For The Surrealists’ offers a chance to catch Luke Slater in his beatless 7th Plain guise, in a suitably opulent closing gambit that calls to mind prime period Eno.

In this case, the unexpected collaboration between the club-based world of minimal techno and ballet’s ‘high art’ has certainly resulted in a fusion that sees the aforementioned electronic genre venturing into considerably less-travelled waters, and one that sees the above producers stepping outside the sorts of expectations associated with their usual club settings. Indeed, the contents here are definitely not ‘club’ tracks but instead immersive soundtrack pieces that would be no doubt fascinating to experience in action live at Staatsballet Berlin in a few scant weeks from now, when these tracks receive their premiere alongside dancers. A stunning and imaginative minimal techno collection that’s going to be difficult to top during 2007.

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