As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Ellen Allien.
The phrase ‘intelligent dance music’ has slowly metastasized from wise explanation of blips and beeps into a thriving genre that has made inroads into mainstream music in various incarnations. The inherent beauty of the IDM movement lies not in the need to coax dance from listeners but the idea that rhythm can create melodies where once none existed.
It’s this principle that has guided the work of Ellen Allien for a decade, and despite the critical backlash that hampered her popularity during the back half of the Aughts Allien’s latest album for Bpitch Control, Dust, shows no remorse for Allien’s past failures. Rather, Dust is an album triumphant in its bare bones. IDM has often drenched itself in Technicolor dream coats in an attempt to garner a seed of attention but there is little flash to be found during Dust. The result is ten songs of restraint, toying with the idea of space and atmosphere rather than the gaps desperately grasping from some rhythmic fill-in.
There are moments of dance music’s past, particularly during Dust‘s back half (“You,” a plucky Britpop ditty; “Ever,” twitching with kitchen sink percussion and hopped up on trucker speed) but its reflective nature wins out. “Should We Go Home,” blends the fear of the unknown with the sexiness of intrigue while “Sun the Rain” sneaks up as a surprising nod to early 90s Europop more in tune with The Cardigans than Aqua. Dust won’t make IDM fans glitch with delight nor will fans of ambient and experimental gravitate towards the album’s more sensible tones but Dust serves as evidence that Allien’s talents are strongest when she balances her many ideas with the concept of space.