Guest blog: Passionate and sensual minimalism

by Suw on November 5, 2003

My first ever guest blogger is Bram Janssen, a Welsh learning, Dutch teaching mate of mine from The Netherlands. We first met several years ago in an online community called Gorpies, and will meet face-to-face for the first time in February when we're going to a Jerry Goldsmith anniversary concert in London.

Bram emailed me earlier today with this review of Steve Stoll's album Public Address Life which he'd written to post on Amazon only to discover that they don't have that album listed. Rather than see it go to waste, I've put it here for your enjoyment.

I might have more guest bloggers in the future, if I can find any guests to blog for me.

I started listening to Public Address Life wondering what a life performance by Steve Stoll would be like, as usually life performances by techno-artists differ greatly from their studio performances. Techno-artists feel the urge to produce something especially artful and crafty when there is no audience but for the voices in their own heads. They want the future listener of their studio-album to exclaim something in the sense of: “Wow, this man understands both ecstasy and intelligence, both synthesizer-trance and minimal beats, both drum ‘n bass and house!” et cetera. The result is albums with sometimes too much variation and too little sway – no matter how attractive and talented the compositions.

Life performances usually give the listener the opposite, as they are to be danced to, to be swept along with, like a good movie or a tale told by a talented storyteller. A good life performance is like passionate lovemaking: with a promising start – a thoughtful, attractive corpus – a contemplative, sensual build-up – and an explosive, consuming finale.

Sure, the music on Steve Stoll’s studio-albums have a variety in tempo and atmosphere, but he ever sticks to what seems to be his great passion: undulating percussion. And nowhere does he present his passion better than on this record. This 48-minute long heartbeat. Stoll’s music is minimal and wholly percussionate. He never pauses for strings, dark voiceovers or samples. The beat simply goes on and on, undulating. The wonderful thing about Public Address Life is – whether you’re dancing to it, having it as background music (or heaven help me, making love to it) – after several minutes, the beat disappears. It has become one with the pounding of your heart, hás become the pounding of your heart. What remains is the rhythm: the rises and falls of the filters, the high hats, the build-ups and breakdowns. The passion. Steve Stoll’s passion, and now your passion.

In my opinion, Steve Stoll is the Béla Bartók of Electronic Dance Music, the Philip Glass of Techno. He understands that minimalistic music, like no other, is meant to be tóld. It is meant to evolve as the minutes pass, surely but slowly. Like a primate evolving into a human, like a drizzle into a rainstorm, yes, like a smile into an orgasm.

It turned out Steve Stoll’s life performances are not greatly different from his studio work. Yet where his studio-albums contain tracks like beads of similar texture yet separated from each other, this record is a string of them. A train on rails, and you are trying to keep up with it. A train never slowing down, never stopping, but disappearing into the horizon, as your energy runs out in the end. Leaving you staring after it, and breathing loud with the hangover of ecstasy.

This one gets five stars.

Bram Janssen

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