You don't have to be crazy to get signed to Schematic Records, but it helps. The Miami-based label is mostly home to producers mapping out electronic music's most insanely chaotic and cerebral parameters (Otto Von Schirach, Richard Devine, etc.). By comparison, Dino Felipe comes across as Schematic's cool-headed, subliminal charmer. His three releases for the esteemed imprint have established Felipe as one of the most skilled American practitioners of the maligned, expansive genre known as IDM.
Felipe's solo debut, Flim Toby (2002), stands as one of the decade's most accomplished abstract-electronic albums. (Before this, by the way, Felipe played in the duo Old Bombs, who released a split EP with Wolf Eyes in 2002.) The intricacy and inventiveness of Flim Toby's productions never cease to boggle. Intriguingly baroque rhythms lap against tunes of alien charm; pointillist tone paintings burble and crackle, inspiring heretofore-unimaginable visions in the mind's eye. It's IDM, but not as most mortals know it, although the disc obliquely alludes to the rareﬁed machinations of Bola, Oval, Richard Devine, and Nuno Canavarro. "Rinse, Then Dry" is the dance-ﬂoor hit, if there is one here, but most of Flim Toby is not utilitarian, unless you consider ionizing your senses to be a functional activity. At some distant point in the future, Flim Toby may be used like a beneﬁcent form of Muzak, pumped into buildings to stimulate creativity rather than to facilitate consumerism.
Felipe quickly followed his extraordinary ﬁrst full-length with the solid Xanaconversex EP (2002; both this and Flim Toby boast excellent artwork by Seattle's Shawn Wolfe). Xanaconversex explores both the harsher textures in the vein of Austria's Mego roster, whose artists apply academic rigor to extracting the most earwax-blasting sounds possible, and the playful, melodically ﬂighty work Mouse on Mars. On tracks like "Strictly Genericize," "Efter Lift," and "Phyllis," Felipe moves closer to his Schematic peers' angular aggression and epater le bourgeois tones while squeezing out the most ridiculous sounds from his gear.
I'm You (2004) is even more brazen and spasmodic than past efforts, edging into Devine/Von Schirach-style scorch-your-face tone bursts and volcanically jagged rhythms. It's hard to pinpoint why, but I'm You lacks the extraordinary otherness that Flim Toby boasted. It's still more idiosyncratic and adventurous than 99 percent of the IDM out there, but its palette of sounds seems not quite as nuanced as Flim Toby's.
In a radical departure from his past, Felipe recently formed Finesse & Runway with vocalist Melba Libia. Their self-titled CD for Schematic is clearly meant to be a more blatantly party-centric endeavor (the duo don costumes for live shows), as it features coke-rush booty/disco with tense, broken-beat techno. The record could be the soundtrack for that inevitable remake of Liquid Sky. DAVE SEGAL
Dino Felipe and Finesse & Runway play Sat May 28 with Samos, Greg Jaspan, and visuals by Milino at CHAC Lower Level, 1621 12th Ave, 388-0521, 9 pm-2 am, $8, 21+.