BPitch Control has a hat trick going with its recent and upcoming releases. February saw the release of Sascha Funke's second solo album, Mango; in March, label head Ellen Allien offered up her installment of the label's mix series with Boogy Bytes 4; and this month she'll be dropping SOOL, her fourth solo release. They're keeping things minimal, but still managing to inject warmth into the too often clinical genre. Berlin remains the center of the techno universe.
Mango is the kind of album that might not exhilarate extreme techno diehards, but it holds enough pop appeal to bring minimal to the masses. With its layers of piano or guitar, the album is never banging, but rather subdued, almost acoustic. It relaxes rather than agitates, even when it takes a rare glitchy turn. The album doesn't uncover new ground, but it's inoffensively good, accessible enough that it deserves a spot in the rotation when coming down from a long night out.
Equally inoffensive, but not as good, is Allien's Boogy Bytes 4 mix. It has its moments but on the whole doesn't stand out as much more than an adequate mix, a captured moment in time for minimal. If you already like what Allien does, you'll be fine, but this isn't going to create converts.
More likely to spread the Ellen Allien gospel is SOOL, due out May 27. Nominally a solo album, SOOL is, in fact, a collaboration with fellow Berliner AGF. Allien calls SOOL "subtle, mysterious, and minimal," and says, "SOOL is everything, everyone, and none—SOOL is a phantasm, a creation, which reflects the album's atmosphere, and also my person." Uh, huh?
As mysterious as that sounds, the loftily ambitious album doesn't lose itself in pretension. Instead, its tracks spill like billowing smoke, taking up all space available but remaining ephemeral, with every sonic element in exactly the right place at the right time. It's a beautiful piece of work, from the video-game soundtrack of "Its" to the melancholy "Frieda," which, like many tracks here, benefits from some well-placed whispers. If only every flirtation between minimal and experimental resulted in music this gorgeous.
Ellen Allien and Sascha Funke play Thurs May 1, Chop Suey, 8 pm, $12 adv/$15 DOS, 21+. With Jacob London.