Akufen
My Way
Force Inc.
2002
B+



montreal’s Akufen currently rides the crest of the burgeoning “micro-house” scene, which takes your average house track and blasts out the mid-range, leaving only low bass and high treble intact. Micro-house essentializes the house genre, doing away with superfluous divas and synth wankery, which often attempt to mask bad, derivative dance music. A micro-house producer lives and dies by his bass lines. Or his gimmick.

Akufen’s gimmick (if you will allow me to be reductive for a moment) is his use of pick-a-mix radio samples to create melodies. Akufen molds sub-second fragments of pop songs, people talking, and other auditory ephemera into burbling melody lines. The swooshing opener, “Even White Horizons” features Akufen’s micro-sample of choice – acoustic guitar strumming – along with other string instruments laced together into a beautifully gentle song. “Deck the House” (the first single) displays Akufen’s more traditional modus operandi: throwing a kitchen sink of samples together into what initially sounds like someone tuning their car stereo over a propulsive disco-inflected bass line. The result is funky and playful, two words rarely associated with the clinical micro-house genre.

It’s an irresistible combination that works again and again: contrast the repetitiveness that plagues most house (especially micro-house) with the extreme attention deficiency displayed by the samples. This alone makes a provocative mixture, but Akufen proves adept at pushing My Way into something more than the sum of its parts. “Installation” flirts with dub, using the same clatters and reverbed synths of Pole’s repertoire, but adds some subtle atmospherics that make it far more evocative. “Late Night Munchies” makes a pastiche of clattering change, combined with a high-tempo percussion that simulates the urgency of a stoner desperate for vending machine kettle chips. While never deviating significantly from his signature style, Akufen shows a surprisingly broad range.

Of course, no album can rest on the laurels of its gimmick (although Akufen’s gimmick transcends the label into a unique method). Luckily, My Way contains enough catchy bass lines and meaty hooks to keep your average Daft Punk fan enthralled. “In Dog We Trust” has a snarkily catchy bassline, while “Jeep Sex” offers a modern update of Giorgio Moroder’s sexy Euro-disco.

Ultimately, defining My Way as micro-house is another reductive pigeonholing of Akufen’s unique sound. The album’s burgeoning energy and cheeky humor clash irrevocably with micro-house’s rigid detachment (Akufen’s Montreal roots seem to inject some of the life of French disco revival). Suffice to say, if you have a booty ready for shaking, this is an essential release.


Reviewed by: Gavin Mueller
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01
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