Boomkat Product Review:
Seth Horvitz's second Rrose album is a gloopy, sensual miracle, advancing the techniques they've been refining for over two decades and re-imagining minimal techno by harnessing the tactile gestures of deep listening music. Plenty of people have tried this, few have passed the muster: absolutely indispensable if yr interested in anything from Plastikman and Pan Sonic to James Tenney, Pauline Oliveros and Charlemagne Palestine.
We've always been drawn to Horvitz's productions, from their early glitch-heavy experiments under the Sutekh moniker through to their surreal, technoid collaborations on Sandwell District with legendary avant-garde player Bob Ostertag. But it was when Horvitz decided to advance their craft by studying at the prestigious Mills College that their solo productions began to move in time with their ambitions. Horvitz started learning piano at the age of 30, and felt as if they'd missed out on a proper musical education. DJing and producing for years, they'd began to lose interest in techno and attempts to infuse more musicality into the genre had been mostly fruitless. So hearing music like James Tenney's 'Spectral Canon For Conlon Nancarrow' while they were attending Mills was an opportunity to consider the sonic space of techno from a different perspective. On finishing their studies, Horvitz began to focus on subtle harmonic elements, leaving behind chords and melodies in favor of texture and pure sound.
If you heard 2019's brilliant 'Hymn To Moisture' you'll already know how expertly the producer was able to map out their new direction, and 'Please Touch' completely refines those ideas, honing into techno's body-focused sensuality while retaining its predecessor's alluring, psychoacoustic magick. 'The Joy of the Worm' lays out their concept neatly, melting a familiar, shifting beatbox rhythm - that's not a million miles away from Plastikman's hyper-minimal masterpiece 'Spastik' - into xenharmonic drones that usher us into a velvet-draped space where movement is mandatory. Slipping to the left of techno's established logic, Rrose imagines a world where the kick drum isn't the driving force behind the music, destabilizing the supposed hierarchy of sounds by prioritizing pure feeling. "Rrose follows the lead of the sound(s) rather than trying to impose on the flow of the sonic material," the album's press release states. "Each move changes the parameters of a track's evolution."
Typically, Rrose refuses to be locked into any kind of rhythmic stasis. The effervescent dancefloor pulses of the first two tracks are immediately vaporized on the horizontal 'Pleasure Vessels', that retains the same gooey sensuality while eliminating the beat. Like an early Vladislav Delay track chiseled into a whispered kiss, it's dubby but not aesthetically so, resisting the usual flexes to land in a zero BPM miasma of inverted body music. Lead single 'Spore' brings the raw techno throb back, but casts it in a new role, underpinning elusive acid wiggles and unruly pitch-fucked risers that dig into the brain like a leucotome. Rrose's skill here is in knowing exactly how a dancefloor works; a veteran DJ, they've developed an understanding for what exactly it is that guides us to move, and when it might work best. So when they interrupt the flow with quivering synth tones or undulating bass, it feels as if it's exactly what our body desires at that given moment.
Even the album's tracklist sounds as if it's assembled to mimic a psychedelic night out, staggering from the first movements and rejuvenating side-room breaks into the final act's low-lit machine funk. 'Spines' is so low-end focused that it reminds us how unimportant the 909 kick might be, losing the expected thud in whooping subs that pirouette between labyrinthine, metallic whirrs and dizzy psychoacoustic effects. And Rrose never shies away from swing - far from an academic exercise, 'Please Touch' is completely in touch with its physicality, not as an excuse to induce a march to a uniform rhythm, but to provoke us to let loose and find harmony in the glorious abstraction of free movement. We'd be hard pressed to find a contemporary techno album that's both so delicate and so deliciously erotic.