Release Date: Jul 15, 2014
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Techno, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Experimental Techno, Ambient Techno, Minimal Techno, Detroit Techno, Acid Techno
An absolute legend of minimal techno, Richie Hawtin's dark, submersive experiments with acid house basslines and spare rhythms as Plastikman have been partially responsible for setting up the framework for all electronic music that came afterward. His early-'90s albums like Sheet One were considered groundbreaking in techno circles and led to more shadowy, tortured ambient electronic textures on albums like 1998's Consumed. Though constantly working under some alias or another, the last proper album under the Plastikman banner came in the form of 2003's claustrophobic Closer.
When Richie Hawtin announced he was reviving the Plastikman name, many wondered if the growing popularity of EDM would infiltrate his moniker's steely sound. In the 11 years between releases, the Windsor-raised/Detroit-weaned producer's DJ sound became more absorbing and populist. But from the album's minimal title and cover art to the fact that it was recorded live from a museum (rather than an Ibiza club), it's clear that the Plastikman of yore is here to stay.
There was a point in 1993 when it was possible to conflate the likes of Aphex Twin and Plastikman. With their iconic avatars, both of these electronica artistic entities spoke to Philip Dick-ian replicas with their names, and both made exemplary album statements that year, Richard D. James with Selected Ambient Works II and the latter –the primary alias of producer Richard Michael Hawtin—with his acid to-the-point-of-blotter-cover Sheet One.
Considering Richie Hawtin, as Plastikman, has made no original tracks for the past 10 years, it’s a neat surprise that his latest LP starts with a near-masterpiece. For all of its ten minutes, ‘Exposed’ feels like a grand concept perfectly executed, the Canadian producer skilfully building progressions of sound from its squishy, regular opening beat. The remainder of EX fails to live up to its beginning (and could it be a sign of his decline that the best track here is a recycled classic?).
When Richie Hawtin was invited to play at the Guggenheim's International Gala last fall, he took the opportunity seriously. Instead of giving the crowd of celebrities and socialites a typical Hawtin set, he holed up and wrote an album's worth of new material. Plastikman material, to be specific, which meant brooding techno in the vein of his finest work.
For many, “minimal” is synonymous with “empty,” and Plastikman’s EX meets that expectation. The seven-track offering, sometime techno staple Richie Hawtin’s first Plastikman release in over a decade, was compiled for 2013’s Guggenheim International Gala, and it builds from a somber, myopic march into a soul-cleansing cataclysm of analog emotion. Still maintaining appearances and residencies in posh clubs across the globe, this is Hawtin’s stand as an aural artiste — teasing the exhibit with escalating synths that disappear into black holes and percussive melodies with no option but to collide.
“Bringing electronic music into the faculty of education – into universities and colleges – changes things. It helps legitimise and open it up to a wider… market, a wider audience. [It] sets the stage, I think, for new developments in electronic music, and openness.” There is a point in this statement, taken from a promotional video released by Richie Hawtin, at which he departs from sincerity.