He's recorded for years under monikers like F.U.S.E. and Plastikman, but techno producer and DJ Richie Hawtin has put his real name on his most recent work, the mix CD DE9: Closer to the Edit (Novamute). That's probably in part because people in the dance community have been referring to him as "Richie" all along, the same way guitar freaks just say "Jimi"--but dropping the pseudonyms also implies a desire to strip away nonessentials, which perfectly suits techno's most notorious minimalist. Using Final Scratch, a brand-new system that allows DJs to play sound files like records (the digital information is stored in a computer but assigned a virtual location on a coded vinyl blank, which can be scratched and cued on a regular turntable), Hawtin has composed the sneakiest and most satisfying music of his career: bite-size chunks of over 100 tracks, strung together into a continuous but constantly morphing line of 99 percent pure beats and bass. It's in a live setting, though, where Hawtin's particular genius is most evident; two performances I caught recently were very different but equally intriguing. At a mid-September benefit for the New York City fire department, Hawtin bucked his reputation, not just easing off the hide-and-seek equalizer effects but dropping his customary cerebral austerity to play straightforward, uplifting party tracks--he spun as much house as techno. Then a month later he did a 180, returning to his usual sere grooves and manhandling his equipment until it sounded like the high, middle, and low frequencies were chasing each other cat-and-mouse style in and out of the music: he'd isolate the hi-hat and treat it with a spooky filter, pour down a thick layer of kick drum, drop in a luscious bass line, and then crank up the bottom to skull-rattling intensity. Hawtin used the Final Scratch system at that gig, as he will at this one--not least because it lets him travel with only two boxes of records. Thursday, November 15, 10 PM, Rednofive & Fifth Floor, 440 N. Halsted; 312-733-6699.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nicola Kuperus.