Neon: Works in the Mix
he kids say that electronic music is all about the rhythm—those into music for great melodies need not apply. Got news for you, dudes: most electronic genres got one rhythm. Shit’s all about the melody. If you ain’t got something interesting going on over top yr oonce, yr battleship’s sunk. Gregor Tresher’s new record, Neon: Works in the Mix, doesn’t change its rhythm up once. It’s pure electro stomp from the word go.
Sure, Tresher switches up his percussion elements along the way (Q: How important can a different (or extra) hi-hat be? A: Very.), but the focus here is the almighty riff. And when Tresher’s got a good one, things just fall into place. Of course, we already knew that anyway. All of the tracks featured on Neon have already been released on three Datapunk 12”s (Firewalls / Firebutton, Still, and Neon). So why bother? Well, you may be the average reader (i.e. the one without a turntable and the one that doesn’t download electro 12”s). And Tresher nips and tucks the originals to fit them into a cohesive whole (N.B. We’re not talking about the stupid music review “cohesive whole” here, we’re talking about the one where each track mixes into one another. (e.g. The one that makes you wish you could figure out how to make your CD player/iTunes/Zune not put that skip after each song. (i.e. a mix))) Got it? Good.
Of a piece with label head Anthony Rother, Tresher’s riffs are jumping-off points. He’ll begin an idea with one synth, have it taken up by another, viciously mirror the two until it becomes a monstrous and knotty mess, and then pull it back to nothing. Like dueling guitarists, Tresher plays elements against one another, teasing out epiphanies from the tension. Take “Firebutton,” the album’s climactic moment. Tresher brings in a two-note blurt of a melody that soon gets doubled by another, higher-pitched counterpart as an oscillator peers its ahead above the brutalism to add color. Eventually yet another version of the riff begins to echo in the background, milliseconds off-pace.
Much of Neon is like this, with Tresher locking into the groove and simply rocking as hard as he can for the duration. At times, it can get (gasp) repetitive. On “Still,” for instance, Tresher leaves a lesser riff to flounder and sheepishly returns after a five-minute smoke break to lead us triumphantly out of the murk into “On.” Of course, Tresher could’ve sung “Das Lied der Deutschen” for an hour before “On” and I still would’ve forgiven him—its distorted tendrils of melody are like Boards of Canada on steroids.
Disturbingly, the tracks from Tresher’s most recent 12” are the lowlights, trading in the refreshing brut-electro of “Still,” “Firebutton,” and “Doom” for things like “subtlety” and “delicate interplay.” Despite this (and perhaps because of it), Neon: Works in the Mix hangs together shockingly well. It’s, you know, a cohesive whole. In a world where untalented, young minimal turks can make a killing tweaking their Ableton settings for ten minutes and receive accolades for their “Villalobosian” characteristics, Gregor Tresher is a godsend. Sleep at your own risk.
Reviewed by: Nina Phillips
Reviewed on: 2006-12-08