Andrew Duke

Highest Common Denominator

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For his contribution to Piehead's 2002 series of limited-edition CD-Rs, Canadian electronica artist Andrew Duke turned playful. Highest Common Denominator presents six remixes and as many collaborations. The range of "partners" ensures a very diverse-sounding record -- maybe a bit too eclectic, to tell the truth, as Duke doesn't have a strong enough "personal touch" to give the impression that the whole album moves in the same direction. First up are the remixes. Duke revisits and spices up Mister Nobu, Aaliyah, Chicks on Speed, Club Telex Noise Ensemble, the Blameshifter, and Pink Floyd. Yep, good ol' Pink Floyd. If you don't pay attention to the track list (and assuming you are acquainted with the song), chances are you'll never identify that three-minute track as being a heavily reworked loop from "Echoes." Less drastic but just as entertaining are his takes on Aaliyah's "Try Again" and Mister Nobu's "Machine Machine." The second half of the disc features collaborations with Monolake, I8U, Polmo Polpo, Dalglish, Building Castles Out of Matchsticks, and Kim Cascone. The I8U track is disappointing. Is it that Duke wrecks up her fragile microsound textures or that she failed to understand the lightness of this project? On the other hand, the other duets are excellent. "Oceana" (with Polmo Polpo) pumps up a lot of techno energy, while "HFX + HAM" (with Building Castles) pairs electronic drones with glitch work. The album ends with what sounds like a cyberspace (unless it's shortwave?) conversation between Duke and Cascone about the tension between how long an artist wants his CD to last and how the consumer wants "more minutes for his money." By the way, the disc clocks in at 41 minutes 39 seconds. Playful, I tell you.