Isolée We Are Monster

[Playhouse; 2005]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: minimal techno, microhouse
Others: Boards of Canada, Luciano, Swayzak


The old mantra of the bitter music fan against the music that they just don't seem to "get" is "I could play that." Fortunately, I strive to be right there to provide that oh-so-clever retort of, "Maybe... but you're not playing that." If you can refrain from dwelling on my astounding wit for a moment, you might be disappointed to find that even I can slip into this sort of thinking, particularly in that domain of electronic/techno/dance music. Well, things have changed, and now "I am playing that." Luckily, it's all the rage, so I won't be subject to your mockery because you, dear reader, are likely also "playing that."

To return to the task at hand, when listening to Isolée's newest album We Are Monster, I'm struck with, "Gosh, I don't think I could play that." I don't mean that in some sort of virtuosic sense of, "Man, I really can't shred like Yngwie." Rather, it's so clever, weird, catchy and dance-y, I don't know how me and my dance-matic compatriot could write something like this. Belated introductions first, though: Isolée is the brain-child of Rajko Mueller, you know, that fella who released Rest. Well, he's back with ten new tracks to get you to shake your ass and brain muscles.

A supposed tribute to disco, minus the actual disco part, this is a grooving, fun record that is also utterly bizarre in that it seems to spin out of control and stay focused at the same time. The beats are generally kept simple and low in the mix, favoring 'real' instruments like bass and guitar, which may have actually been played by humanoid hands, and synths, more than likely played by robots under Mueller's command. Overall, he has a pretty remarkable knack for finding a snippet worth repeating and then, well, repeating it. However, that doesn't quite capture the bizarre things that happen while you are happily grooving to your little stronghold of repetition.

"Schrapnell" is probably the most emblematic track on the album featuring a catchy little descending chord progression, and is known to make people say things like "was that a harmonica? I certainly didn't expect a harmonica there." My favorite track, though, is "My Hi-Matic," probably because it is also the catchiest. Mueller's throbbing synth line paired with some bass yield chord changes of musical pleasure, over which a bevy of melodic components from trembling Kraftwerk-ian blips to phased atmospheric synths to guitar stabs are all given time. Things do get into weirder territory elsewhere on the album, but that's ok, unless you want all-catchy-all-the-time, in which case there's probably a lot of good music you hate. Overall, this record can be highly recommended if you like any of the following things: ass-shaking, catchy repetition, catchy repetition for the sake of ass-shaking. If not, you would probably still like it.

1. Pictureloved
2. Schrapnell
3. Enrico
4. Mädchen Mit Hase
5. Mi Hi-Matic
6. Do Re Mi
7. Face B
8. Jelly-Baby/Fish
9. Today
10. Pillow Talk

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