Minimalism is one of the most misunderstood approaches to any art form. Its close cousin, simplicity, tends to give it a bad name, but true minimalism goes past simplicity to deliberately fashion a canvas upon which observers or listeners can cast their own experiences. Berlin-based Joachim Landesvatter’s sophomore release, LAX, does exactly that as it clicks, buzzes and occasionally thumps its way through an hour of expertly crafted minimal techno.
Even when it’s thumping, however, LAX probably isn’t going to rock many parties. This is techno for the contemplative; the nuances packed into every song make it tailor-made for headphones. The production stays sparse, allowing each sound to drift into the cosmos. A plucked bass note, a processed guitar strum, the creak of old wood floors — everything here forms a hypnotic rhythm that Landesvatter rides to great effect, adding synths and chopped samples to create melodies as subtle and affecting as the beats.
The most astonishing aspect of LAX is its relative neutrality. Is “S+F” sweetly optimistic or faintly foreboding? It all depends upon which elements you project the most weight. The tones and clicks lend a bright ambiance, but the crashing echo and the growling piano hint at more sinister intentions. You could play this game with virtually every track on this record, and sometimes more than once: most tracks fluctuate and evolve to cover a wide emotional spectrum.
Most people listen to music that either fits the mood they’re in or represents the things they’d like to be feeling. LAX does neither. Instead, its cleverness lies in its ability to exist in a middle ground that lets you make of it what you will. It won’t drag you through a preformatted process of concept and sentiment. The only thing Landesvatter guarantees is an album that entertains with its thoughtful palette of sounds. The rest of the process is up to you.