Ellen Allien (live in Dublin)
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Ellen Allien (live in The Twisted Pepper, Dublin)
Review Snapshot: Reductionist beats. Minimum melody. This is minimal techno. And this, is dull.
The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10
'You Are Here,' the barman's T-shirt helpfully offered. 'Here' was the Twisted Pepper, but with its faux fur lampshades, dicks drawn on tables and scabby carpets, 'Here' felt very much like a surreal 'There.'
'Why do I feel like I'm in the middle of a 90s Tarantino movie?' my gig partner quizzically spoke aloud. And I wondered the same thing. There was a tall man in an Indiana Jones hat walking around and a hyperactive guy in a pink top and a Pogo sign was stuck up with cable ties and a couple of couples sat, waiting.
The odd smells didn't offer any more coherence: The bar smelt of chocolate and cinnamon candles, the toilet's odour resembled boiled spuds and, eventually, the venue filled up with the scent of sweat.
Ellen, Ellen, Ellen. Are You Here? Ellen's set began late in the evening – at 12.30 she took to the stage with reductionist beats and a heavy bassline. This, I thought, will build up. This, I thought, will get better. Being used to the ambient electronica tones of Ellen's work with fellow German DJ Apparat, her minimal techno set surprised me. But then, I should have known better, seeing as her website bio explicitly states that 'techno and I have developed together.'
And it seems that techno has regressed in its development: Ellen's solo work did not get better for me. Her stripped down beats attracted a huge crowd though, all of who were clearly there to dance to the German techno DJ's sounds. People were sweating, dancing on the benches at the side, getting into it.
The splurgey audio samples and constellation visuals evoked an otherworldly Big Brother feel, where only minimum expression in art would be tolerated. Was I missing something? The crowd's participation, enjoyment and bopping made me feel I may not have understood the music. The climaxes were absent, the crescendos, the thuds and blips; instead one constant beat thundered and hammered its way into the next tune without letting up. But still, Ellen gave her all to the set and the crowd gave its all to Ellen.
Perhaps I should have listened to Allien's solo work before attending the gig. Perhaps I should have been on what the crowd was. Or perhaps minimal techno is a brand for the melodically inept, those satisfied with anti-climaxes. Could this be the apathetic monotonous hum that reflects postmodern life? Or is it just lazy music-making?
The evening left me baffled, tired and dry-mouthed. But the crowd's eagerness seemed to tell a different story. Any further insights?