Being a dance-music producer in 2006 is daunting. Of course, you have to meet certain expectations if you want a snowball's chance in hell of getting played in clubs or securing spots on CD/LP/radio mixes (4/4 rhythms, a few breakdowns and build-ups to provoke arm raising and "woos," a bumpin' bass line, etc.); the trick is to embellish these constants with fascinating accessories. At this late date, conceiving interesting ways to accomplish that is nearly as difficult as a painter trying to conjure new colors.
Luckily, a handful of studio wizards fulfills the demand for inventively novel modes of sonic expression: for example, Montreal producer Mossa (Jeremy Petrus). Mossa has been insanely productive over the last few years, to the delight of adventurous techno DJs and experimental-dance-music lovers.
Recording for elite labels like France's Circus Company, Canada's Cynosure, Germany's Mo's Ferry, Seattle's Orac, and his own Complot, Mossa brings a distinctly racy, playful aura to techno, a genre that could use more such levity. But don't be misled: Mossa's music may display lightheartedness, but it shouldn't be taken less seriously than that of poker-faced laptop scientists like Monolake or Richie Hawtin. Mossa fills his compositions with enough curious tics, bold flourishes, and odd textures to keep any production geek gawking in awe for hours.
While we eagerly await Mossa's debut full-length, Some Eat It Raw (Circus Company), we can immerse ourselves in the many 12s and compilation cuts he's recently issued. To glimpse a style he rarely attempts, check out "Giant Footsteps" off the Mutek04 comp. It's a creepy, slo-mo funk trudge, before it shifts into the creaky schaffel (shuffle) stomp that Kompakt and Shitkatapult have documented so well. "Bucolik" from Akufen's Fabric 17 mix showcases Mossa's superb ability to weave tweaked vocals into stripped-down yet eventful techno. The title track of Mossa's Slavery When Wet EP (Orac) is a hocketing techno oddity crisscrossed with warped voices, bells, distorted metallic percussion, and strange gurglings. "Gastrula" rides a coffee-can percussion motif and an insistent high-hat skitter into deep inner space, with a cornucopia of disturbingly morphed voices wreathing the rhythmic spell casting.
On the You're Losing My Mind and Done by Zero EPs, Mossa makes a virtue out of jauntiness—a rare feat. This is funky, quirky techno à la Pantytec and Bruno Pronsato, as Mossa's Rube Goldberg-–machine dynamics recall cartoon-music purveyors Raymond Scott and Carl Stalling's shenanigans. Just when things threaten to get too cheerful, Mossa layers in slurred voices and queasy bass tones to lend an unsettling counterbalance. Ultimately, Mossa's skill for combining the lascivious with the ludicrous and the eccentric with the funktional elevates his work above the bulk of techno created today. Prepare yourself for dirty, flirty times. DAVE SEGAL
Mossa plays Tues Feb 14 with Someone Else and DJ Eddie at Baltic Room, 1207 E Pine St, 625-4444, 9 pm–2 am, $10, 21+.