Richie Hawtin | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I've often had trouble with the records Richie Hawtin releases under the name Plastikman--but not because of their rigorous abstraction, which I actually have a taste for. After all, those tracks, as well as work by other "complex minimalists" like Jeff Mills, Surgeon, and Richard Harvey, are meant to be stacked and interlocked with others, and their clicking beats and vaporous feel leave plenty of space for that. My problem is that too often Hawtin puts theory before pleasure--and that's why I flat-out love Decks, EFX & 909 (Novamute/M_nus), released last year under his real name. Its grooves seem as intuitive as they are cerebral, and since it's a DJ mix it sounds relatively fleshed out, though it's still far from grandly orchestrated. Hawtin has done a lot of careful work to make the album sound organic and spontaneous: he's mixed nearly 40 records over, under, and through each other, including contributions from the artists above and some of his own stuff, and augmented them all with the digital processors and Roland drum machine of the title. (The liner notes even contain a detailed chart showing just when a particular track enters or exits.) Decks doesn't quite reach the ecstatic heights of Jeff Mills's Live at the Liquid Room, Tokyo (React)--a brutal, passionate 1996 mix that's the techno equivalent of the first Ramones album--but it's livelier and more physical than anything Hawtin has done since the classic early-90s singles he recorded as F.U.S.E. and Cybersonik for his +8 label. He collects his source material into an undulating wave of polyrhythms reminiscent of gamelan music--and he should be able to pull it off live, too, since he's using the same gear he does in the studio. Saturday, 10 PM, Harvey Expo Center, 17100 S. Halsted, Harvey; 773-404-9225. Directions to the venue are available at

Michaelangelo Matos

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J. Caltice.

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