A Million Little Pieces
Richie Hawtin’s selection of “Plastikman” as a techno nom de plume was a prescient one. Mimicking his cartoon-hero namesake, Hawtin can stretch his dancefloor resources far beyond those of his rivals. Unfettered by any secret identity, Hawtin proudly displays this talent on his third “DE9” mix, DE9: Transitions.Decks, EFX & 909 tested 1999’s limits of manual mixing, while 2001’s DE9: Closer to the Edit highlighted what Hawtin could do with souped-up hardware. As the number of songs on DE9 mixes has increased, their recognizability has decreased, and with DE9: Transitions Hawtin extends this inverse proportionality to infinity.
Here he uses Ableton Live software to manage often microscopic samples from more than 100 compositions by mainstream acts like Carl Craig, Detroit Grand Poobahs, and Speedy J, as well as cognoscenti like DJ Slip, Pantytec, and Cabanne. These form the DNA of a brilliant mix of minimal techno with jazzy Detroit inflections.
True to its name, fans of more fleshed-out electronica may find they hear an album-long transition: The BPM is in lock-step for the duration, with few dramatic peaks and valleys of sound even on longer centerpiece tracks like “Weiter Noch,” “The Tunnel,” and “Visioning.” If you enjoy dancing to laptop grooves, however, you’ll eat this one up and ask for seconds.
At its core this is still just sampling, but the breadth of Richie Hawtin’s skills (not to mention his sonic library) transcends “DJ” and “producer” labels. By commanding a veritable orchestra of other people’s songs, he comes closer to the posts of classical music: composer, arranger, conductor. That’s what makes DE9: Transitions such a stunning technical achievement.