By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
If combustible yet controlled rock has taught us that you can plan an accident, dance music can make serendipity sound preordained. "My approach to sampling has taken [on] another meaning in the last 2 years," writes Marc Leclair, a.k.a. Akufen, in the liner notes to My Way, his debut album. "I've realized that most of the sampling artists out there were in fact robbing the actual hooks of valued parts of the tracks." So as both a corrective to Puffyesque hook swiping and a way of keeping himself challenged, Leclair decided to do things more randomly. The Montreal house producer began waking up and recording his dial twists on his regular and shortwave radio tuners, turning the most striking sound jumbles---static, music, voices, whatever came over the transom---into finished tracks.
Sounds abstract and boring, doesn't it? Well, you're half right. It's true that too often, the "glitch" approach in dance music comes across more like aimless channel-surfing than as a sort of idealized information overload. But Akufen proves a major exception. My Way merges two of house's more conceptual recent strains: the grainy, dub-happy "microhouse" of German labels like Kompakt and Perlon; and the fast-darting cut-and-snipped sample fantasias of the religiously minded New Jersey garage producer Todd Edwards.
Akufen has recorded for Perlon, and "Installation," a kind of creeping, photosynthetic groove that keeps moving even when it seems to stand still, sticks close to that model. But "Even White Horizons," which recalls early Nineties ambient techno at its best, has an itchy sense of impending breakout about it. So when "Skidoos," which recalls the autumnal grace of 808 State's "Pacific," gradually reveals the sample sputters from Leclair's airwave nickings, the stage is set for full-on ecstatic rupture.
That's what you get with the bulk of the album. Tracks like "Deck the House" and "Wet Floors" take Edwards's sample approach--dozens of snippets threaded together like a string of paper dolls in different shapes and colors---even further into the abstract. "Late Night Munchies" is a ten-minute tour de force of suspension and release, balancing a small handful of sound shards--glittering chimes, piano tinkle, dozens of unidentifiable clicks and clanks--over an insistent beat. By the time the album ends, with the pulsating "My Way," the randomized sounds have subsided, only to come out for an appropriately slaphappy encore. They sound exhausted, and I can't say I blame them.