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Cristian
Vogel: The Assistenz (Shitkatapult)

Whereas
their collaboration as Super_collider enabled Jamie Lidell to volley
into a fairly successful arc as a pop singer on a series of solo
albums (his awesomely obtuse debut Muddlin Gear not included), Cristian Vogel
has always seemed more comfortable exploring the outer limits of
electronic dance music, where genres are less applicable and rules
even less so. While he hasn’t so fully abandoned dance music as some
of his more severe post-2000 excursions would have initially
suggested, Vogel has proven himself to be quite versatile in his
talents, just as good crafting experimental performance soundtracks
(Music for the Creations of Gilles Jodin, on his own Station 55
label) as techno jams (2007’s The Never Engine, on Tresor). A healthy
middle ground seems to be his consistently strong output on
T.Raumschmiere’s Shitkatapult label, with The Assistenz feeling like
a logical successor to the cool depths of 2014’s Polyphonic Beings.
Surely there are nods to familiar genres and aesthetics, particularly
dub and its German counterparts (Rhythm & Sound and Pole both
come to mind in different ways), but Vogel is most inspired when he’s
moving to the beat of his own gear. It’s a fitting cherry atop a
string of remastered reissues of Vogel’s 90s output, much of which
has perhaps more predictable underpinnings in traditional techno and
dance music, but whose weirdness and “it” factor point to Vogel’s
more interesting evolution as a singular talent. “Snowcrunch” is
as aptly named a track as ever, with a deep, thudding low-end and icy
sheen gliding over and through its dubby arrangement.

Third track
“Vessels” chugs with the lurch of halfbeat dubstep, but Vogel’s
sonic palette feels crunchier, as equally influenced by the distorted
groove of late 90s LFO as anything from the Hyperdub or Tempa camps,
I’d say. Much like the arc of Polyphonic Beings, The Assistenz really feels
like it takes you places. From the abstract opener into the heavier
hand that follows, Vogel touches on staples like the 80s electro and
acid-tinged groove of “Cubic Haze” to temper the album’s coarser
edges.

When juxtaposed against an airy beatless piece like “Signal
Symbol,” he continues to keep listeners on their toes. Closer
“The Merman’s Dream“ somehow feels like an amalgamation of all of
this and then some, with a thudding, relentless thick snare and
staggered kicks, with sounds layered in staggered patterns that
simultaneously feel relentless and ever changing in their
relationships. If there were any comparison that seems fair, it would
be in post-2000 Autechre, but even still, Vogel’s tactics and
gestures feel distinctly his own. It’s a curious closer, with its
beats colliding together for 8 minutes before it stops as suddenly as
it started.

What makes Vogel’s output continually exciting and
inspiring is that across all of the waves he’s made in tinkering with
conventional genres and movements, he sounds his finest when
exploring the less obvious and sometimes uncomfortable spaces between
established and familiar genres, often blending rhythm, noise, and
timbre in unusual ways. Though I can’t help but wonder: of what does
the merman dream?

Buy it: Shitkatapult Shop