Harissa
Artists: 
Loco Dice
Cat: 
Cadenza 13
Released: 
20.11.06

Following the success of his enigmatic singles Seeing Through Shadows for Minus and Flight LB 7475 for Ovum, Düsseldorf's Loco Dice returns with a monster four-tracker, co-produced with Hannover's Martin Buttrich, the man behind one of this fall's biggest hits - Full Clip, released on Carl Craig's Planet E.

The four cuts on this doublepack EP are all monsters, between eight and 13 minutes apiece. Coming hot on the heels of similarly sprawling releases from Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano & Thomas Melchior, they confirm Cadenza's commitment to stretching electronic dance music's form to fit a more expansive frame.

These are anthems, but they're anthems of a different sort. While too many hits beat their riffs like dead horses and treat their listeners little better, Loco Dice turns their attentions to gauzier, wispier elements: ghost melodies, feathery percussion, iridescent timbres that flash once and are gone. These are tracks for clubbers who like their bumping subtle; they're cuts for headphone listeners who want to follow a corkscrewed groove until the g-force tugs their lips into a private smile. The four tracks sound simple at first - easygoing house rhythms, skeletal melodies, agreeable sounds and textures-but the more you listen, the deeper they get, multiplying their inner dimensions exponentially.

Raindrops On My Window, opening with clopping hooves and twittering birdcalls, feels like a journey through the forest back to civilization: a male voice mutters monosyllables, a female singer wails a near-Eastern lament, and the track's taut machine rhythms box in an unruly bassline that cuts corners with every bar, refusing to slot itself in 4s. The whole thing is dead simple, unabashedly dark, and delectably funky.

Paradiso is one of the gentlest tracks you'll hear this year, braiding keening keyboard lines and unfolding like a flower caught by time-lapse photography. Romantic melodies meet Afro-Latin polyrhythms; Steve Reich learns to jack. No tearjerker has ever waved its handkerchief so seductively. (The track is also something of a historical curiosity: with its chiming arpeggios and endless rotations, Paradiso provides the missing link between the music box and the turntable.)

Opening with agile woodblock melodies and fleeting scraps of woodwinds, Vamos a Cali hunkers down for the home stretch. Pastoral melodies twine themselves around a clean-lined lattice of clicks and hissing hi-hats; for the first five minutes, the whole thing is so delicate you'd barely know it's there. But as the song rolls on it fills out and tightens its hypnotic grasp, layering loops in four dimensions and ballooning classic minimal techno into something billowy; as it drifts higher and higher, its 13 minutes feel like an infinity.

They almost are: A Chico a Rhytmico reworks Vamos a Cali for a tougher crowd; those same harps and bells are here, plucking and pinging, but this time the beat is more pronounced, the finely tuned metallic percussion more insistent. This is no time to be sensitive; it's time to lean into the syncopations, slide with the low-riding bassline, and revel in the opulence of the spongy chords and silvery leads. It's honest-to-goodness hands-in-the-air time, no matter what the clock says, nor where the moon (or sun) is in the sky.

What all four cuts have in common is that they're all as strong and as smooth-as silk. That Loco Dice should come up with four new anthems is no surprise, but no one expected him to do this. He has taken house and techno to a place rarely visited in dance music: a zone where tenderness and force become one.

Cadenza 13