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Go BackNEO CLASSICA LP - Steve Rachmad's techno tale.

Posted: 26/2/07 15:41

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 The Dutch do many things brilliantly, including throwing parties with a verve and enthusiasm that puts most of the rest of the world to shame. But when you think of The Netherlands in relationship to dance music it's hard to scrub Tiësto, Armin, and Ferry et al. out of your mind. Peer beneath the frothing surface of the high-powered Dutch trance scene, though, and you'll find unexpected pockets of musical brilliance – and gifted stalwarts like Steve Rachmad. The Neo Classica LP is the latest in a production history that runs to hundreds of releases and remixes, and the freshest fruit of a career comparable to that of his German techno counterparts DJ Hell and Sven Väth.

Steve started buying records as a kid, making tapes the old fashioned way – literally cutting and pasting them together. By the age of 15 he was DJing around Amsterdam, and when Detroit techno came along it triggered a lifetime fascination. The only reason you might not immediately recognise the name Steve Rachmad is that he's had more production aliases in his twenty-five year career than most of us have had hot dinners: Ignacio, Dreg, Parallel 9, Adverse Match and Sterac Electronics, to name a few. It's been a decade since he released his classic album Secret Life Of Machines (as Sterac) and the aptly-titled Neo Classica proves his talent is as ripe as ever.

 Dance artist albums involve making choices your average rocker doesn't worry about. They can play n entire album in one gear, but for a producer the question is always – club or home listening? Concept album or collection of tracks?

Surprisingly few take the relatively straightforward but challenging option of writing what is essentially a club set. You can imagine it's a tricky business. Well executed, it sounds almost too easy. Badly done and it'll feel slipshod and lazy. Fortunately this is very much the former.

The rich orchestral overture of Prelude billows out of the speakers like grandiose title music to a film, setting the stage for the false calm of My Tikkie Tik's quicksilver electronica. Rachmad builds imperceptibly to the rattling tempo of A Fabla – whose bruising drumbeats are lifted by airy, organic synth sounds. Steve's a stickler for analogue sound. He bought a TR-808 way back in '85 and he's been collecting ever since. The warmth and immediacy of his style is most evident on perfectly wrought minimal (in the old school Detroit sense, not the modern German sense) tracks like Ubatuba Blues with its earthy, warehouse vibe, and the sharp-edged Humpin'.

Short, sweet electronic interludes intersperse the ever-building club tracks as he toys around, DJ style, with the sounds. An unexpected burst of acoustic guitar (Interlude Minerva) juxtaposes with the tough electro-influenced beat of Levigi, heightening the sense of occasion. Tough, robotic techno laced with distorted vocals on I Am A Machine is introduced with a blink and you'll miss it moment of tranquillity, Interlude Gaudium. It sounds a bit tricksy on paper, but flows effortlessly when you hear it. Which is, ultimately, the point of any dance album.

If you want a collection of loosely related club anthems you can always buy a Ministry compilation. Neo Classica represents the next level in dance music: a compelling narrative handcrafted with care.

Rating: 7/10

Title: Neo Classica
Label: Sino/Technorient
Date: February 2007

1 - Prelude
2 - My Tikkie Tik
3 - A Babla
4 - Ubatuba Blues
5 - Atcipitro
6 - West Point
7 - Interlude Adflatus
8 - Arigato
9 - Interlude Gaudium
10 - I Am A Machine
11 - Interlude Susurrus
12 - Electronic Afternoon
13 - Humpin'
14 - Interlude Minerva
15 - Levigi
16 - Interlude Altus
17 - Panorama

Words by Cila Warncke