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Phonique is Michael Vater, one of the many silent types in European techno who make the kick, snare, and hi-hat patterns that the more notable DJ names get props for playing. No more, as Vater drops his first album, which quietly yet firmly shows exactly who's boss. Opening with "For the Time Being," Kings of Convenience crooner Erlend Øye returns the favor for Vater's mixing of Øye's DJ Kicks CD. The minimal pulse and Øye's sigh of a whisper might sound annoyingly familiar to those well versed in the hushed microhouse style, but the song is followed up by "Café Monte Carlo," featuring Dixon of Jazzanova's Sonar Kollektiv. Here, the minimal pulse is replaced by a broken beat-flavored cadence that blatantly flaunts Dixon's involvement before the Germanic bassline pumps in. And at that moment, listeners hear that Vater is not merely a patsy, but in fact the ultimate silent partner, injecting his flair without demanding attention. He even boosts the Detroit Grand Pubahs' Paris the Black Fu well above anything on the Pubahs' own albums, with their ode to girls who are "Thick'n Rich." When left to his own, Vater excels at wonky tech-house, which itself is no small feat, tech-house being a style that gets harder to do the easier it looks. But unlike so many electronic albums that collapse under the weight of collaboration, Phonique is at his best when molding his grooves to fit a partner's form. Get him a bigger studio; he needs room for guests.

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