Things larger than single simple statements aren’t always the most fun. Sometimes after a long time, despite the work put into of the message, you no longer wish to hear what the message has to say. Are we retreading the same waters? Why are we looking back? What have we missed and left behind in the forgotten long ago of our wasteful youth? The pieces are so familiar; the round bouncy kicks pushing the swelling pad synths, a little shuffle, and some shakers.
This process is where techno originates. It’s where a lot of us started the journey, but not a place you’d expect someone to end up. At this point it’s closer to the academic deconstruction and reconstruction of a group of tracks, and it’s a piece of art as much as it’s a boring lecture we’re being subjected to. If I heard this at a club from front to back, in its triple disk glory, the sound would be accompanied by individual conversations. Illequal is less a triple album, and closer to a set of dj tools based around a central idea approached from a variety of different directions. That’s definitely how I’ll be using this personally, but something else is missed when entirely viewed through that lens.
After making the mistake of listening to this from start to finish on day one when I received the album I realized that this had to be broken up. Hearing the same melodies and ideas repeated by several artists across 3 disks gets tedious, and so you have to listen to these on different days. Illequal is not a triple album to sit down and digest in its entirety. “Is it me, am I an asshole”, I ask myself knowing that I am. However on the other hand it’s a triple album, and who the fuck does that anymore?
Day 1 Disk 1
Tririum Circulorum’s theatrical opener is dark and heavy, almost baroque, with great space and texture. The mixes on the original Trium Circulorum tracks are impeccable, and each part is perfectly placed. Interpretive dancers move in my head, lights start to flash, and we end the first track to move into examinations of sonic texture. A lot of weird synth, string stabs, and thick bass are the focus here.
The third track is a trip into a broken world that’s rebuilding itself. Lots of the tracks Disk 1 have that vibe. Imagine those beach walker kinetic sculptures made of sticks and plastic found on the beach. These songs are creations of the process of their own experience. The sounds are exploring their own spaces and abilities, flowers of sound growing and filling the spaces, and unfurling in the morning before they wither and die. Track 5 is where the remixes begin with the Bass Dust tracks. Steps removed from the original, the remix for Illequal 1.1 is spinning and sickly.
Track 6 is very much similar to a panic attack, but it’s constructed with the sonic embodiment of what an MDMA “wave” is like. Disk 1 is a nice group of tracks to lose yourself in what you’re doing for a while. Disk 1 is conducive to creativity, at least for me, I’ve used this in several situations so far as a backdrop to other creative projects and it works perfectly. Bass Dust does such a good job differentiating and defining their mixes, and what they’re doing sonically, from the originals. They’re mushroom drunk versions of the original Trium Circulorum tracks, which despite the fact this was a triple album it was only the first 4.
Day 2 Disk 2
We open with a squishy mix of Illequal 1.1, and this is followed by a few tracks of Dub not Pop noodling around for their parts, but two tracks into Disk 2 and I’m more relaxed regarding my decision to switch to listening to the individual disks. When Disk 2 is stacked against Disk 1 there isn’t much to talk about. Independently it stands on its own as a whole. By track 5 we’re into genuine club music, and I’m definitely here for this. When listening to Disk 1 I remember thinking “I want to remix this and turn it into club music”. In retrospect a few people did exactly this. There are nice tracks here, airy synth, pulsing rhythms, and several trips into dubstep territory.
The Dublock remixes (tracks 5-8) are great, and are very much part of the fabric of early techno. The Luke Lund stuff for the last third is noisy, textural, and nice. It’s as if he gathered the weirdest objects he could find, hooked pedals to them, and then learned how to use them as instruments.
Day 3 Disk 3
Disk 3 was my least favorite of the collection. Rather than being a continuation of a journey, or its own independent piece, Disk 3 is a regurgitation of a theme. Illequal 2.2 is the best remix on on Disk 3. It’s because this track is the one that took the opportunity for a remix and ran with it. Instead of doing a re-master, or another mix, Trium Circulorum did a real re-imagining of the track here, and it shows. It was the furthest from the original, the only one where we didn’t just take the same samples from the first 4 tracks of Disk 1, and re-arrange them in a different order without making any meaningful changes to the tracks themselves.
An examination of a work such as this was destined to get clinical, it’s unavoidable with the volume of work being based around the small 4 track seed. Disk 3 was a little bit of a let down after the dreamy hallucinations of Disk 1, and the more dance approaches on Disk 2. Disk 3 is repetitive, and at this point it’s hard to tell if that’s because it isn’t as good as the first two, or if I’m over exposed after two disks based on four tracks and no longer get the same brain chemicals I’m looking for.
When I come into Disk 3 after a while of not listening to any of them it isn’t that this one is bad, it’s that it’s uneventful. Where the other disks are standalone pieces with cohesive ties, this one is closer to a collection of loose ends. Pieces that individually matter, but collected they become a mishmash of shiny parts without a working machine. In an album that is so long it looks like an oversight, but maybe that’s just my wish to consume larger format media, unprepared to take things one at a time on their own or divide them myself. My innate desire to be spoon fed your art because I am a stupid pleb, and you of course are a great artist (because why the fuck else would I write about you really).
At the end my opinion is that this is a good album, accompanied by a handful of good remixes, spread way too thin. In its entirety it’s useful as an examination, or a catalog of the artists who made it, and to be honest it’s best listened to individually by artist. I’ve had several great experiences just sitting down and diving into each individual artists interpretation of these first 4 tracks from Disk 1. It’s best consumed this way, and I highly recommend it.