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Plastikman: Closer

Album: Closer
Label: Novamute

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The term "minimalism" gets tossed around to connote almost anything small and precision-minded, but sometimes it takes an album like Plastikman's Closer to recharge the word and all it suggests. The alter ego of scene-making techno ace Richie Hawtin, Plastikman has been synonymous with minimal techno since the early '90s, when he released an album with cover art famously squared off and perforated like a sheet of LSD. Druggy menace holds sway over Closer's murky moods, but more integral is the eerie feedback between wired brains and the machines to which they're still learning to respond. "Ask Yourself" opens with a darkly intoned robot voice chiding, "I'm just a voice inside your head. I can't help you... Help yourself." It looks like an affirmation, but comes off more like a taunt, amid unsettling bassline wobble and short bursts of static that tear into dub pockets with sublime violence. Closer's metallic tracks couldn't be more stripped-down, but they make good on minimalism's aim to command space without necessarily occupying it. Much of the album favors beatless, ambient wandering, and even the most driven techno stretches use rhythm as a mood agent rather than a dance prod. Nebulous tracks like "Slow Poke (Twilight Zone Mix)" come and go without much notice, but their crawling hisses and gristly smears set up subtle movers ("Disconnect," "Mind In Rewind") that snap atmospherics into sleek, bleak grids. Closer doesn't place much value in techno's rhythmic priorities, but it casts a focused, vein-streaked eye on the ethereal tones that brace beats without the aid of scaffolding.