Record Review - 5 July 03 2002

At first pass, the extreme introversion of the minimalist dance style dubbed "microhouse" would seem at odds with its function as floor-filling fodder. But after disco's late-'70s fall from grace, much of what kept the music's flame alive came from producers like Arthur Russell, who went "deep," stripping its arrangements to the bone and replacing its romantic sweep with a narcotic nudge. Splitting the difference between the abrupt, cut-off musical phrases of laptop glitch-meisters like Oval, the filtered whooshes of techno at its dry-iciest and the warm post-disco thump of Chicago house, microhouse evokes the velvet-lined back room of a hip boîte rather than the packed, anonymous dance floor of a corporate superclub. It's dance music for headphones, rich with detail for anyone willing to meet it halfway.

Immer, the second mix CD by DJ Michael Mayer for the respected Germany-based Kompakt label, creates an inviting atmosphere that may be minimal but leaves no crevice unfilled. Many of these tracks — A Rocket in Dub's "Rocket no. 3," M. Rahn's "Toaster" — take typical deep-house elements (cocktail-jazz vibraphone, synth-string washes, poinging counter-rhythms) and wring them till they unsettle themselves; even the stuff that's easiest on the ears hints at menace. Indeed, Tobias Thomas & Superpitcher's "Unperfect Love Mix" of Phantom/Ghost's "Perfect Lovers" does drag the album into melodramatic goth territory — for nine-and-a-half minutes, no less. But it's rescued by Selway's "Flying Far," which evokes Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" as sung by a man trapped in a frozen lake.

The new double-disc mix by Londoners Swayzak may be twice as long as Immer, but thanks to a near-definitive selection of artists, it is perhaps even more accessible: Pile, Herbert and Ellen Allien offer textures crunchier than a bowl of Chex Mix, while Monolake and Akufen's tracks are oceanic enough to surf. But Luomo's "Synkro" gets closest to the heart of the matter, with its obsessive groove and yearning soul vocal: "Because you move/The way you move/I've got to keep on moving with you."

Lost in music, indeed.??