Diamond Version: EPs 2 – 5 (Mute)
This collaborative project between Olaf Bender (Byetone) and Carsten Nicolai (Noto), two of the proprietors of the Raster-Noton label, merges their talents in a way that not only plays to their strengths, but also with a tinge of dark satire. I already wrote about EP 1 back when it came out, but I’ve been holding off on the others as they have gradually trickled out over the last year or so.
EP 2 is perhaps the most humorous of the bunch, with pitched down, manipulated voiceovers of product sales pitches set to an industrial, mechanized groove that is distinctly Byetone in nature. When I posted about Byetone’s last full-length, SyMeta, I mentioned a few tracks being rock n’ roll in spirit and style. The palette of sounds was still 100% Byetone — deep bass, white noise, sine waves, etc. — but the attitude was rougher and ruder. “Turn On Tomorrow,” which kicks off EP 3, is the best raging Panasonic track that act never made. Its roaring, ascending grind adds frantic urgency to its propulsive rhythm section. And that propulsion is really at the core of most of these tracks. A mix of industrial textures, up-tempo, chugging grooves, and the occasional biting commentary or soundbyte about commerce and media.
EP 4 carries that personality, with a deep thudding rhythm kit and chugging, stuttering fuzzy synths providing momentum. How refreshing it is to hear these guys making music that’s downright infectious without sacrificing any of their uniqueness or edge in the process.
EP 5 comes full circle, starting with what I’d say is a rock n’ roll take on the disjointed electronic rhythms of one of their label cohorts, Grischa Lichtenberger, before throwing down some serious booty-inspiring electro. Both “Operate at Your Optimum” and “Sense and Simplicity” have an infectious physicality that would put it right at home in the center of any smart electro DJ set. Lean and mean, each of these tracks is smart and entirely danceable; perhaps some of my favorite stuff in the whole series, the intersection of mind and the dancefloor. “Make.Believe” ends the series with an undulating phrase of kicks and line noise before it fades away, like the tide going out.
It’s nice to hear these two artists collaborating with such exuberance; in stark contrast to the ethos of Raster-Noton, Diamond Version brings not only a playful spirit but a versatility for both the dancefloor or at-home listening that is refreshing.