Triple R: Friends

Triple R

The play between tension and release defines much of the music I love. But with microhouse, those binary categories are flouted: The best of the genre embodies both things at once. The dance beats are exuberant--up to the point where you notice how uneasy they are. This weird, glitchy stuff makes your skin itch and unsettles your ears--until it seduces you utterly. Example: When Luciano's "Franky" comes up a third of the way through Triple R's Friends, and jolting channel-surfing sounds yield to a Revlon-commercial-ready groove, it sounds natural, not jarring. That's partly because this German mix-CD is already constructed from glitches and mistakes, and partly because there's still a homemade quality to this stuff, even at its glossiest.

Actually, you could describe most of Kompakt's output that way. The Cologne imprint may be the most widely respected dance-music label in the world right now. Friends, Kompakt's most recent DJ-mix disc, may be the most consistent demonstration of the label's strengths--namely, its gorgeous array of textures and grooves. On Metaboman's "Easy Woman (Robag Wrhume Mix)," a vocal sample whirrs by like a paddle wheel in shallow water, high-hats shimmer like gold dust dropped from a weather balloon, and somewhere in the middle there's something that sounds like a miniature card deck being shuffled at lightning speed. On Ada's "Blindhouse," two women chant, "Wonder why you feel good," while the darting basslines, skittering high hats, and a sweeping background sound offer answers to her question. And so do the ear-tickling clicks, snaps, and claps of Dialogue's "Gigolistic" and the libidinous bass groans of Michael Mayer's remix of Pwog's "Kind of Prayer."

But the disc saves the best for last. Superpitcher's remix of Dntel's "This Is the Dream" floats Benjamin Gibbard's heartrending, plainspoken vocals over suspended-in-ether synth pads. Faraway bells shaking ghostlike on the refrain seal the deal. And Oxtongue's "Delight" is a blissed-out vocoder blur that evokes Boards of Canada at their supplest. There's some tension in the swooping bassline, but it's so fizzy-lifting you'll barely notice until you listen closer--which, with Kompakt, is always the trick.

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