Various Artists

Ego: Live Sets at Club Ego, 1998-2000

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While American electronic venues must balance between the commercial and experimental components of the music in order to remain financially viable, the extensive network of government grants for musicians and art establishments in Europe assures that cutting-edge producers always have a place to showcase their sound -- even if that sound is extremely limited in terms of popular appeal. In this environment, it is no wonder that most of techno's edgy technicians are European. This double CD archives the three-year run of Club Ego, the Düsseldorf venue/art space that, similar to Berlin's WMF club, was home to techno's worldwide glitch and pop community. Championing electronic music that is simply too out-there for your average hedonistic nightspot, Ego also took the emphasis off of the superstar DJ, favoring producers who would perform their own music live. Twenty-one of these performances appear in part on this compilation. Yet for all of its artistic mandate, Ego was certainly the spot of vibrant parties, as is confirmed by the photos of smiling and drinking patrons found in the extensive booklet packaging. Disc one also demonstrates the party vibe, including hearty, if minimal, dancefloor cuts by Sutekh, Swayzak, and Markus Nikolai. But the really raucous performances come in the way of tracks that feature live vocals by Kotai/Bader, Chris Korda, and Khan, the latter of which makes comical rock star banter before shutting down the music mid-chorus, a mistake that confirms the human element behind the machines. Disc two follows the more experimental sound found at Ego events. Most of this is of the dub variety, relying on bottomless waves of bass to propel the music while echo and delay effects weird out the space above the rumble. High-profile experimentalists such as Kit Clayton and Monolake are shown to be no better or worse than lesser-knowns like Senking and Leandro Fresco. All of the selected works create a surreal and serene mood that relaxes the listener while still remaining interesting enough to retain his or her attention. Only the hissing static of the closer, Noto, goes too far left of center, challenging the notion of shapeless sound as music.

If one complaint should be issued, it is that all of these selections were taken from much longer and usually uninterrupted live sets. Therefore, a few tracks sound hasty in the way they start or stop. But it is clear that the compilers behind this set took a great amount of care into assuring that the hours of tape recorded live at Ego were properly represented.

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