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.