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set on exploring a dance-floor that doesn’t really exist yet…” Ian Maleney reviews the new album from Japanese Renaissance man, NHK’Koyxen.

While Lee Gamble’s cassette-ripping excursions into dance music history have grabbed most of the end of year headlines for Bill Kouligas’ PAN label, NHK’Koyxen‘s second volume of Dance Classics should not be ignored. Where his labelmate has made much of the elegiac, memory-driven highs and lows of the clubbing experience, Kouhei Matsunaga seems set on exploring a dance-floor that doesn’t really exist yet. Built on a techno template, his dance classics re-imagine old tropes in a colourful, bouncy new way. 

Where the first volume, released earlier this year, made much of glitching, verging-on-IDM beats, Matsunaga plays it much straighter this time around. At a moment in techno when it seems like the entire underground in swathed in tape hiss and protestations of analog authenticity, Matsunaga’s dedication to a futurist ideal is refreshing. Every sound is crystal clear, with its own purpose and place in the mix. It’s a tightly controlled sound that seems much more focused on the practical issue of dancing than the initial volume. 

112‘ is the best example of that new found club readiness, a seven-minute techno exploration that stomps around a minimal beat and plucked accompaniment. It modulates a series of loops over time, alternating them and combining them in new ways; the standard method of techno composition with a futurist set of sounds sounding as vital as ever. Following track ‘670‘ is similar in its simplicity, working a stiff groove that would sit well in sets at the Brainfeeder-influenced end of the hip-hop/techno crossover. 

B-side opener, ‘747‘ is the most abstract piece on offer; a short, beat-less run of warm chord stabs shorn of all resolution. It’s this ability to pare away the unnecessary that makes Dance Classics Vol.II a success, the sheer focus the project is what keeps it important despite the wide-ranging influences on individual tracks. The outrageous electro bass on ‘611‘ sitting beside the Berghain pulse of ‘45‘ and the broken beat of closer ‘601‘, it all makes sense in context thanks to the clarity of sound design and focus on strong, central ideas. 

At a time when the club seems hell bent on finding a way forward through the filth of old machines, Matsunaga’s colourful and clean re-interpretation of moments in club history provides an important alternate viewpoint on the shape of dance to come.

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