Monday, March 28, 2011

"Thought Leader"

Song: "Cog"
Artist: Thought Criminal
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"Thought Leader" [This song is from a Submerge Records compilation entitled Follow the Leader]

Last October, I attended a Blonde Redhead concert in Detroit with my friends Tim and Jess. Electronic artist Pantha du Prince was the opening act, and--possibly as a love note to the minimalism and repetition of Detroit techno--performed a monotonous set that evinced none of the detail-oriented expansiveness of his 2010 album Black Noise. Clearly he was doing something up on the stage, but as Tim pointed out, it sounded like he'd simply set all the loops on his laptop to 120 BPM and his spontaneous involvement in what we were hearing was limited to occasionally fading elements in and out of the mix. Others in the club seemed satisfied, but my friends and I were bored stupid. (Blonde Redhead was terrific, however.)

I mention this because I freely admit that I may be a little stingy with the credit I'm willing to give certain electronic artists for the amount of plate spinning that goes into their compositions if the audible proof of that effort isn't immediately evident. Basically, I feel guilty for how often I've thought that house music is the refuge of producers who aren't ambitious or talented enough to attempt anything more complex; I know that not all house music is off-puttingly simplistic, but you can easily get away with that sort of thing under the house banner. Which Thought Criminal do, judging solely by "Cog." Listen very closely, and there are indeed a few different timbres and minor rhythmic flourishes that saunter through the song, but the two-note sequenced bassline that anchors the song is five minutes of unchanging tedium. Sure, you can dance to its beat just as you could dance to an unbalanced washing machine if the rhythm were steady, but this would be underwritten even as incidental music for a club scene on Walker, Texas Ranger. I keep thinking, "I must be missing something," but I am ultimately forced to conclude that there's nothing to miss.

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