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2011/04/29 / monteurhulot

EP // Touchy Mob – Atlantic Back

Ludwig Plath contains multitudes.

The introduction of microphones and amplifcation in the 20th century allowed the human voice to be used in new ways: in music, new subtleties could be captured, intimate vocal delivery could be combined with louder instrumentation; in the realm of politics, single voices could wash over immense crowds, to be used to great effect by democrats and authoritarians alike.

The former use of the microphone is now at the core of nearly all pop. In music, the latter purpose lives on most obviously in 4/4 electronic dance music. Techno and it’s ilk has something of an authoritarian component – it is not so much an invitation to dance as a command, and House music has a long history of referring to itself as a collective utopian form of deindividuation, a kind of centralized group rapture. Under his Touchy Mob solo moniker, Plath (who also plays with the excellent Polish soft-pop post-rock group Kyst, whose album Cotton Touch is available on a pay-what-you-will basis) has actually covered just such a house song, Efedmin’s “Just A Track,” trading bass thump and House preaching for acoustic guitar and mad prophecy.

Plenty of artists are currently combining the acoustic and the electronic, pop songwriting and digitally-crafted rhythms and textures, but Touchy Mob is particularly interesting in how he draws out the contradictions, similarities and complexities in the duality of amplification, the private and the populist. The relationship between artist and listener is not a simple sharing (or voyeurism), as with acoustic singer-songwriter recordings, or the command relationship between DJ and audience – when Plath uses the sounds of techno, it’s not so much impelling listeners towards a central will as it is expelling  internal idiosyncracies outward, capturing the personal subtleties and exploding them; authoritarian control by a single personality made impossible by the simulatenous electric splintering and obscuring of that personality.

Or, to be glib: if worriedaboutsatan is the sound of “Thom Yorke and Alva Noto falling asleep at Berghain,” then Touchy Mob is the sound of Phil Elverum controlling Paul Kalkbrenner’s mind.

The newest Touchy Mob EP, Atlantic Black, again shows just how adeptly Plath can jump from style to style. The immediately compelling title track is squarely in the tradition of recent Berlin tech-pop (such as that heard from Ellen Allien and Bodi Bill) while the next song burbles like a shortwave radio playing from a basement, “Crooked Lust” then fits that sound into the form of submarine R&B à la How To Dress Well; “Easy on the Eye” smooths out Burial’s back alley gloom, with “Baby Look” suddenly reverting to direct lo-fi folk-rock, only to end with the hypnotic spoken-word techno of “Ling Ling.”

All told, amazing.

If you head to the Touchy Mob bandcamp you can stream or download Atlantic Black, as well as his previous No and Yeah EP’s and the full length Pets of Plenty. Highly reccomended – everyone should hear all three versions of “Ferrytale.”

t.

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