Akufen, the production alias of Montrealer Marc Leclair, has been making significant ripples in the microhouse world for years. His early singles for labels such as Trapez and Perlon established him as a talented producer with an ear for odd little samples and relentless yet restrained beats, but it was his 2002 debut full-length on Force Inc., the unexpected cut-and-paste masterwork My Way, that cemented his place in minimal techno's brief history.
Akufen cares deeply about process. By working within self-imposed constraints, he allies himself with other academic music makers such as Herbert or even Brian Eno, producers for whom theory and obstruction are inspirational rather than limiting.
With his breakthrough album, he introduced his concept of "microsampling," a technique in which the artist scans the radio dial and reduces hours of randomly recorded broadcasts into hundreds of miniscule samples. Akufen creates elegant dance music from this chaotic source material, locking every vocal snippet and stab of sound into precisely calculated rhythmic grids. Representing the fullest realization of microsampling's potential is the album's centerpiece, "Deck the House," an ADD audio collage laid over jacking beats and funky synths. Incredibly, Leclair teases fluid melodies and subtle harmonies from these disparate tones and textures, even stitching together fragmented voices to form vague vocal patterns. On "Late Night Munchies," the dial flipping becomes frenetic and the tiny samples swarm overwhelmingly only to break apart again. For the most part, Akufen keeps things light and moving, folding twisted bits of smooth jazz and Top 40 into his stuttering dance tracks.
Akufen's 2004 entry into London's long-running Fabric mix series, Fabric 17, showcases his skill as a selector, and serves as a handy rough guide to microhouse and minimal techno. He expertly mixes 21 tracks from the likes of Matthew Dear, Pantytec, and Herbert into one seamless concert of shifting moods, tense ebb and flow, and constant but variegated beats. The mix is a powerful demonstration of the great impact that can be made with small sounds.
Akufen has been relatively quiet since the Fabric series, releasing only a handful of remixes over the last two years, and he now faces the arduous challenge of following up a conceptually rich aural manifesto. His Fabric mix and live sets prove that he's capable of producing great music within the boundaries he's set for himself, but how will he move microsampling forward? Will it remain a self-contained experiment or can Akufen develop his technique into a fertile creative medium for future albums and other artists?
To put it another way, what was the last great Frippertronics record you heard?
FOR THE RECORD: The Hold Steady's Craig Finn said it best: "Everybody's a critic, and most people are DJs." In addition to writing for The Stranger, I DJ under the name Fucking in the Streets.
The Stranger has a history of allowing people involved in various arts scenes to write about those scenes; it insures that the paper has the best and most informed coverage. Being involved in the electronic music community doesn't compromise my critical abilities—if anything, it helps me stay informed and opinionated.
I want to be clear: If I DJ a show, it's no guarantee that it will appear in this space. But if I'm appearing with a worthy artist, I may profile them. If I'm DJing one of my regular nights the same night as an important electronic event, I won't hesitate to give that event the coverage it deserves. I will strive to highlight the best in electronic and dance music (or occasionally dissect the worst of it). Dave Segal set the bar very high, but rest assured, I'm a better critic than I am a DJ.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 26
Ninja Tune producer Amon Tobin has been branching out recently, recording video-game scores (Chaos Theory: Splinter Cell 3 Soundtrack) and collaborating with weirdo rocker Mike Patton (the track "Don't Even Trip" off Patton's Peeping Tom). The former highlights Tobin's ear for ambiance and pacing, while the latter is a dubby fusion of smoked-out triphop and Patton's own inimitable vocal stylings. Tobin's back catalogue is vast and his styles are varied; expect him to cover a lot of ground live. With Heavyweight Dub Champion, KJ Sawka. Neumo's, 925 E Pike St, 709-9467, 8 pm, $15 adv, 21+.
TUESDAY OCTOBER 31
Nick Catchdubs is rightly regarded as one of New York City's most adept party-starting DJs. His resumé includes numerous mixes, collaborations with the Rub, and a remix that pairs the Clipse's "Re-Up Anthem" with Eric Clapton's "Cocaine." There's also a costume contest with a $50 prize, the debut of TJ Cowgill's new T-shirt line, Actual Pain, and, of course, what Sing Sing Halloween would be complete without an ass-shaking competition? With DJs Pretty Titty and Fourcolorzack. Havana, 1010 E Pike, 323-2822, 9 pm, $4, 21+.