Ellen Allien and her label, BPitch Control, are dominating the techno landscape, so it’s no surprise Allien is holding court with an album that’s about as straight-up as it comes these days. The rumbling goodness that is an old-fashioned synth that doesn’t quite reach back to the Detroit days isn’t a disappointment when it’s being thrown around by an all-accounts expert. But in a genre that’s desperate for new ideas, Allien’s lack of advancement on Thrills makes for a little less enjoyment.
Allien released her second full-length, Berlinette, in 2002. That album, her last proper full-length until Thrills, was a few new ideas rolled into a dark glitch monster that was a little too ironic for my taste. It hit the kids right where they wanted it, though, and Allien’s been kicking out the Berlin jams ever since.
Techno’s always been hit or miss with me. I much prefer the admittedly gayer Chicago-style blips to the dramatic underpinnings of the ping-pong ball that Germany knocked to Detroit to start a rally. But there’s no denying Allien’s talent, and it’s in full display here. “The Brain Is Lost,” with a steady beat and vocals and synths battling for ultimate dark-lord supremacy, towers above the rest of the album. Knock the volume up in that sweaty underground club you’ve been meaning to start and watch the bodies writhe as the strobes kick in and the leaks from the sewer above start leaking.
Still, most of us listen to music at home and in the car these days, and Thrills can be lacking in its titular requirement there. Songs that pump the bass are great when your friend hands you a purple pill, but once you get to the ninth five-minute song that doesn’t switch up enough to act like it cares about you, you start to wonder if maybe you should see other records. “It’s not you,” you tell the simmering bass and the swirling, effortless effects, “it’s me.” And with one last goodbye, you give that micro-house record you’ve been thinking about a call and make some plans to get really wild.