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Micro House

Related: 2001 (coined) - history of house music - tech house - minimalism in music

Rhythmogenesis - M.R.I. [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The idea of house being micro is rather unappealing to me, like it's been co-opted by molecular scientists, or maybe its being shrunk back down to size by people intimidated by the generous, hedonistic, larger-than-life extraversion of its provenance. --espressowerk, 2004

Early 1996, a club in Meinz near Frankfurt, a Vauxhall-Arches-style catacomb carved into the concrete foundations of a bridge over the big river (whose name I forget). That's where I fell in love with house again, after a long period of thinking it the lightweight option c.f. jungle. Accompanied by Force Inc/Mille Plateaux boss and lager connoisseur Achim Szepanski, I'd came to check out a set by Chicago DJ Gene Farris of Relief/Casual/Force Inc reknown. Helped by copious alcohol intake and a contact high from the killer vibe in that murky crowded cavern, a revelation began to unfold: just how much fantastic music I'd missed out on through being such a monomaniacal junglist patriot, and the extent to which house had a rebirth of creativity in the mid-Nineties after a long null lull of tribal tedium and handbag hackwork. Farris played so much great stuff--from early filter-house/disco cut-up stuff to Relief-style nu-acid to stuff so techy, tracky and abstrakkk it was essentially what we'd today call micro-house. But if a single song can be said to have opened my ears it was when Farris dropped "Flash" by Green Velvet. When those double-time snares kicked in, it was one of those whatdafuck?!?!?!?! see-the-light moments. -- Simon Reynolds


Microhouse music takes minimal house to a new level, focusing on the essential dance-inducing elements of house music: the beat, the bass and the melody. Drawing from minimal techno and the glitch genre for its unique drums and chopped melody sound, it cuts house down to its bare bones.

Percussion in microhouse is reminiscent of tech house drums, replacing typical house kick drums and hi-hats with small bits of noise. Microhouse artists often experiment with different ways of sampling to achieve this. Vocals in microhouse are often very simplistic, nonsensical, and monotone in nature.

The term microhouse is usually credited to music journalist Philip Sherburne, writing for the magazine Wire in 2001. It is generally accepted that the genre began life in Germany in the late 1990s, urged along by record labels like Kompakt, Perlon, and Force Inc.

Notable artists

  • Akufen
  • Kit Clayton
  • Matthew Dear
  • Matthew Herbert
  • Monolake
  • M.R.I.
  • Ricardo Villalobos
  • Vladislav Delay (a.k.a. Luomo)
  • Martin Landksy
  • Michael Mayer
  • Tomas Jirku

    --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microhouse [Mar 2005]

    I like my house macro

    The idea of house being micro is rather unappealing to me, like it's been co-opted by molecular scientists, or maybe its being shrunk back down to size by people intimidated by the generous, hedonistic, larger-than-life extraversion of its provenance.

    I like my house macro: a big heart, a big kick drum, a big celebration.

    I suspect that the desire to shrink house music, make it manageable, make it tiny and controllable, may have an oedipal aetiology. That is, house is the teacher, the ancestor, the father of techno; and it dominates the landscape, towering above electronic dance music. This general perception of house as a father, the poundingly male rhythms underneath the ecstatic female vocals, and, perhaps, above all, the sexual confidence of all classic house unconsciously reminds us of our own fathers, with whom of course we could never compete, underendowed as we were in every way. What better revenge on the father than to shrink him (and perhaps his member) down to minute proportions? If we make the kick drum smaller, the hat tiny, each sound microscopic, we may then study the father with all the anal sadism of a scientist, between the speakers, away from the dance floor, away from women, away from mother above all: there are no ecstatic female vocals in microhouse. Learn his ways, perhaps; win back our mothers.

    And yet, as is the way with unconscious phantasy, the spectre of the enemy remains embedded in the solution: and in microhouse, the enemy is the bassline. It looms large behind the neurotic, finicky, asexual loathings of the rhythm, the shadow of the father, looming at the door, to catch the child engaged in sexual misbehaviour. No wonder, then, that microhouse sounds so paranoid and neurotic. --http://espressowerk.blogspot.com/2004_06_01_espressowerk_archive.html#108676085061594327

    Coined in 2001

    The term microhouse was coined by The Wire's Philip Sherburne in July, 2001

    From Stylus Magazine

    There is often a suspicion of new musical genres, as if new sounds don’t deserve a new vocabulary. Perhaps the richest recent trend in electronic music is tech-house or microhouse, which—especially for what is considered a minimalist genre—has, in the past few years, been almost improbably varied and engaging. A label coined by The Wire—as these things often are—microhouse is a rare tag that works as both a description of sound and a music-making process. (Glitch, for instance, is a sound that became a process; in dub the process became synonymous with the sound).

    Microhouse, which breaks house down its barest rythmic elements, may seem like a simple template but over the past few years a group of innovative, flexible producers have reconstructed them from the bottom up. Led by the German labels Force Tracks, Kompakt, and Perlon, they’ve reinvented and re-imagined the sounds of dance not unlike the way the Krautrock bands of the early 1970s did for a then-bloated rock. MRI—the Frankfurt, Germany-based production team of Frank Elting and Stephan Liec—jumped to the forefront of microhouse thanks to the hyperminamlist Rhythmogenesis and the inclusion of three of their tracks of Andrew Weatherall’s Hypercity mix.

    Now the genres are branching out into other hybrids— Herbert’s jazz-inspired torch songs, Luomo (Vladislav Delay)’s dancefloor miniatures; Kaito’s neo-trance; and Closer Musik’s pop house—so too are MRI. In this case, they are blending disco, R&B, and dub. The clicks and bits are still there, but they are a foundation for more traditional four-on-the-floor sounds than the central feature of the music itself. The pleasures may more straightforward—and this is one of the most obvious of these tech-house blends—but therein also lies an element of surprise from a duo whose debut record helped forge this minimalist revolution.

    Disco and house are musical cousins, but reductionism and a lack of excess aren’t exactly hallmarks of the mid-70s dance version of punk. Take away a few high-hats and bpms, adopt dry, flat vocals—or, more often, none at all—and you’ve got more of a new sound than a retro record.

    Most of the rest of the record is filled with extremes: more abstract beats or near pop-tech-house . With the exception of “Blue,” a reworking of the vocals of Aaliyah’s “Try Again,” over a bubbly, fizzling beat—it’s the pop songs that work the least. Like the work of Luomo’s similar but superior Vocalcity, MRI’s discoesque tracks, “Deep Down South” and “Tied to the ‘80s,” shine the brightest. They ‘re not only textural and sensual but have bass-thumping melodies to spare. MRI’s latest is at once endlessly melodic, effervescently textural and lusciously detailed, but is unfortunately dragged down a bit by a slavish attempt at diversity. This is another winning addition to the microhouse sound, but for the uninitiated any of Kompakt’s best compilations or Hypercity is the best introduction to this massively rich sound.

    -- scott_plagenhoef@stylusmagazine.com -- http://www.stylusmagazine.com/staff/scott_plagenhoef.html


    American music critic Phillip Sherburne unveiled MicroHouse via The Wire magazine in early 2001. Sherburne's definition was admirably open-ended: MicroHouse, to him, occurs when the 'fat' is sluiced off of the bloated body of house music, when all those histrionic vocals, anthemic riffs and slushy textures slide from the corpus of house, to reveal the brittle bones - rhythm and bass - that make house boom-tick. MicroHouse has parallels with the 'Clicks and Cuts' trope that took root in the electronic underground years ago, and several artists have straddled the Click/House divide - Jan Jelinek/Farben/Gramm, Thomas Brinkmann, Vladislav Delay/Luomo. Although at times homogeneous, 'Clicks and Cuts' offered not so much a definable genre per se as it did a praxis for music production which enveloped the glitchy 'cut-copy-paste' of DSP, the stripped-back error-tones of the Raster-Noton crew or Oval. It made for fascinating listening, but the glitch's austerity became an albatross - too much cut-for-cut's-sake, the glut of clicky DSP eventually bloated the body into a formalist, hermetic soundmass. --http://www.astronautsnotepad.blogspot.com/2002_11_24_astronautsnotepad_archive.html

    Akufen is the musical pseudonym of Montreal, Canada based artist, Marc Leclair. Leclair makes electronic music that is often described as minimal house, minimal techno, click hop, or microhouse.

    His 2002 compact disc release entitled My Way introduced his concept of "microsampling", which was essentially a way of using extremely small and short clips of samples he had randomly recorded off of F.M. radio broadcasts as a key musical element.

    Leclair has also gone under the pseudonyms Horror Inc., Nefuka, and Anna Kaufan. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akufen [Mar 2005]


    1. Clicks and CUts - Various Artists[1 CD, Amazon US]
      Starting with Warp's Artificial Intelligence releases, the compilation CD has become to electronic music what the 7-inch single was for indie rock, and Mille Plateaux's compilations have been of consistently high quality. As the liner notes for this one succinctly put it, "You have come here, you must think about minimalism." There's quite a variety of minimalism on display: the highly melodic but still mind-bendingly strange work of Wolfgang Voigt (calling himself All here, better known as Gas); an austerely beautiful Ester Brinkmann track; the subtly propulsive rhythms of Frank Bretschneider and Farben; and edgy, bordering on grating pieces from Kid 606 and Kit Clayton (two of a handful of Americans in an otherwise heavily Northern European crowd). The sonic density and style varies from one track to another, but they are all minimal to the extent that each attains cruising altitude within the first minute or so, letting the listener choose whether the resulting state of mind is one he or she would like to be in for the next four to five minutes. Although the aesthetic unity of the collection is its intent, the CDs do serve as a useful consumer guide, giving a good introduction to many names that may be familiar but are often attached to pricey imports. --Bob Bannister [...], [...]
    2. Green Velvet - Green Velvet [1 CD, Amazon US]
      Chicago's Curtis Jones (a.k.a. Cajmere and Green Velvet) is, by far, on of the top producers of house music in the world. In the mid-'90s, his self-run record labels, Cajual and Relief, spearheaded the continuing renaissance of the genre with distinctive tracks that delivered a powerful dance-floor rush and gave DJs a deep arsenal of guaranteed crowd pleasers. While his Cajmere tracks are upbeat vocal workouts, it's his work as Green Velvet that continues to fascinate and gain legions of new devotees. Jones sets his GV material on a bed of dark, relentless, dirty beats, while adding his own twisted vocal flourishes that are one part Gary Numan and one part Bauhaus. Each track has a distinct narrative (i.e., a tour of a night club or an imagined reincarnation as a drop of water); the results are both frightening and hilarious. Long out-of-print on vinyl, the new Green Velvet CD combines such "classics" as "Flash," "Leave My Body," and "Answering Machine" with more recent material, including the fantastic Giorgio Moroder-inspired drive of "Coitus." --David Prince for amazon.com
    3. Hypercity - Andrew Weatherall [1 CD, Amazon US]

      Another mix disc by aficionado Andrew Weatherhall of Two Lone Swordsmen and Sabres of Paradise? Sign me up. Hold on, it's a stirred together collection of Germany's Force Inc and their sub-labels recent output (it appears). Meaning intricate, imminently danceable techno-meets-house is on order today, not the kind of music to grab the spotlight and run with it, but aptly suited to command your spirit all the same.

      M.R.I.'s 'To Be Honest' is a prime example of the operandi, with structured, building layers of muted drums and whispers, buried click-pops among the other surprises to peel back upon subsequent listens. Crane A.K.'s 'Polsterplanet' rides a shimmering synth over darting hi-hats while Safety Scissors' 'Form From Morf' seemingly spins back and forward sample snippets for a cool brain twister. Dirk Diggler's 'Silverfinger' is spot-on spatial minimalism dropping the pace before, by golly, an actual full-blown song ('Tessio' by Vladislav Delay alias Luomo) ends the glide on a warm, fuzzy note.

      There's not a bad track in the lot, and don't sweat the artist anonymity; if you recognize more than three anyway, it's time to join me in Music Junkies Anonymous. The term Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) having long been co-opted by the laptop warriors of the world and their fan base, I'm tempted to demand a moniker recall. 'Hypercity' truly represents music designed for the hips and aimed at your head, while leaving the spastic, glitch-probing on the hard drive. Richard Diaz for amazon.com [...]

    4. Rhythmogenesis - M.R.I. [1 CD, Amazon US]
      MRI is a relatively new outfit composed of Germans Frank Elting and Stephan Lieb, and this full length does an excellent job of establishing them in the current minimal tech-house scene. Most of the track on the album are over 8 minutes long and develop very well through dreamy chords, delayed synth-lines, deep bass, and quirky samples. Any fan of Basic Channel, Richie Hawtin, Maurizio, Theorem, Sutekh, Kit Clayton, Vladislav Delay, or Thomas Brinkmann will rank this album as a top of 2000. [...]
    5. Vocal City - Luomo [1 CD, Amazon US]
      Luomo is the newest alias of the artist known best as Vladislav Delay, whose austerely minimalist dub-influenced tech-house is the stock in trade of the Chain Reaction and (to a lesser extent) Mille Plateaux labels. The extent to which fans of that sound are interested in this release should be partly the extent to which their tastes extend to the application of that aesthetic to vocal house-music tracks, which is what Mille Plateaux's Force Tracks imprint was created to explore. Although the more abstract house producers have often treated singers as source material hardly different from the electronic elements of the mix, the notion that vocals represent a "human" element, or at least a connection to the world of song, is hard to shake. Luomo may indeed shake you of that idea, as the vocals are just another one of the many layers on these dense tracks, often not appearing until after many minutes of slow accretion of sounds, at which time a few words or phrases are electronically processed and looped endlessly. All of which makes the track "Tessio" even more startling, when a full-fledged multi-voiced R&B song worthy of the Paradise Garage suddenly appears. Even from a musician who has been heading in a half-dozen directions at once over the past year, this is quite a surprising release. -Bob Bannister
    6. Matthew Herbert - Bodily Functions[1 CD, Amazon US]
      For some there's an obvious path in life. Matthew herbert has been playing music for as long as he can remember, taking up the piano and violin at the tender age of four. His father was a sound engineer for the BBC, and as a result the young Herbert was exposed to his extensive collection of musical gadgetry that lay around the home. At school, a music teacher heavily into jazz and pioneering composers such as Steve Reich gave musical insights that were beyond his years, whilst at University he studied drama in a conscious effort to avoid the clutches of classical music training. It was during these years spent in higher education that he first began to use sampling techniques in an exploration of the relationship between music and performance.
      [Bodily Functions features] finely crafted tunes spanning deep house, lounge piano ballad, acid jazz, and more. Highlights include 'You saw it all' which starts off with a funky dance groove reminiscent of vintage Stevie Wonder, and the totally unique 'Foreign Bodies'. Evident everywhere is a well honed sense of composition. Lyrically, the songs are connected, and the story they tell provides the glue that bonds this album's eclectic mix of musical styles into a creative whole. Stylistically, Herbert is not on the bleeding edge anywhere here, his artfulness lies in his sense of composition and attention to detail. I would hesitate to call this album a work of genius, but it's far better than most. -- Zachary Carter

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