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Hobo: Trackz (M_nus)

Joel Boychuk is Canadian-born but relocated to Berlin some time before beginning his minimal techno project Hobo in 2008. Anyone acquainted with Richie Hawtin (a.k.a. Plastikman)’s label M_nus ought to have a basic idea of what to expect here: the label does, after all, typically live up to its name. Taking a cue from Hawtin’s own Concept 1 series in the mid-90s, M_nus releases generally abide by the old adage that “less is more,” even if every once in a while less is, well, simply less. The makings of dancefloor functionality are nearly always present: a persistent 4-to-the-floor kick, a tiny, crisp hi-hat for ease of mixing, a propulsive, simple bassline (often monotone), succinct, sparse sounds to accent the structure – but rarely anything highly decorative, melodic or lush. M_nus is about subtracting and they take it pretty seriously.

Trackz does not really surprise in this sense. The question is whether it is a bad thing when a label delivers something that is pretty much what you might expect. Are the aesthetic boundaries implied by a label’s embrace limiting enough to merit criticism, or is it just setting the tone for something special to happen within? In the case of Trackz I’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s a little bit of both. On a first pass, it’s hardly surprising although never boring. The first half of the digital release’s eight tracks (the digital version packs 4 extra “trackz” compared to the vinyl) falls in line with the M_nus modus operandi, but then things evolve into a different light, between the bulbous stride of “Orange Dyno” and then the outright funk of “Howard Watson S Jam.” It’s a surprisingly melodic and catchy tune amidst the more typical M_nus aesthetic. And that said, there are still some truly killer minimal burners on here: “Touch” is handled just right with its vocal sample punctuation and intermittent zips of sound, and “3rd Dimension” reminds me of Aphex Twin’s darker moments put through the Berlin minimal machine.

Hobo Official Site | M_nus | Discogs