Diamond Version

CI

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When the Raster-Noton label's Olaf Bender (aka Byetone) and Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) formed Diamond Version, the experimental techno producers had been associated for several years -- as heard on their collaborations with Frank Bretschneider as Signal -- but they hadn't recorded as a duo. Rather than release their material on Raster-Noton, they signed with Daniel Miller's higher-profile Mute label. From September 2012 through May 2013, Bender and Nicolai issued five numbered EPs of pared-down, muscular techno. Rather refreshingly, there were no remixes; when the EPs were bundled later in 2013, a Martin Gore remix was added, but otherwise, the focus was on original material with tight quality control. CI, the first Diamond Version album, is a concise set that features edits of four tracks from the EPs: the driving neo-electro cut "Turn On Tomorrow," the gnashing "Science of a Better Life," the jittery "Make.Believe," and "Operate at Your Optimum," the last of which seamlessly incorporates noisy sounds from Atsuhiro Ito's Optron. The majority of the new tracks, like "Access to Excellence," "Raising the Bar," and "Connecting People," also have marketing slogan titles and seem even more physical since they're delivered in jolts briefer than those of the more dancefloor-oriented EPs. The duo also sought a handful of vocalists here. On opener "This Blank Action," Leslie Winer interjects with irritated barbs like "Congratulations on bein' a big fuckin' deal." Raster-Noton artist Kyoka adds more imposing phrases to "Feel the Freedom," the barest and most severe track on CI. As an instrumental, "Were You There" would easily fit into the album's fabric -- taut, irregular rhythms, hissing and probing effects -- but it involves an odd match with Neil Tennant's reading of the like-titled American spiritual. Otherwise, this is a fine exhibition of Bender and Nicolai's work in neatly condensed form. It isn't quite as thrilling as the EPs.

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