Switched On – Mapstation: My Frequencies, When We (Bureau B)

mapstation

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Düsseldorf’s Stefan Schneider is the man behind Mapstation, a pseudonym he has used on eight albums since 2000. This is his eighth album, recorded in isolation between March and August 2020 – and because of that his usual penchant for including guest musicians had to be rescinded. He also scaled back the equipment used, paring down to an analog tape loop device, a Roland 808 drum machine, a Novation Peak synthesizer and a guitar – not to mention his own voice, which appears occasionally.

What’s the music like?

Schneider tends to operate towards the lower end of the frequency scale, which ties in with the influences he holds dear. Dub music and Krautrock are perhaps the two most prominent, while perhaps inevitably for a Düsseldorf-based musician the slower side of Kraftwerk and Hans-Joachim Roedelius make themselves known on occasion. So, too, does the music of Cabaret Voltaire.

Mapstation’s music is never over-reliant on a single strain, however, moving with fluid ease between moods and speeds and often maintaining considerable tension. My Mother Sailor has a sonorous lower range, while the Cabaret Voltaire influence comes to the fore on the short but sharp Train Of GerdaTo A Single Listener is an intriguing track, like a musician noodling on the pedals of an organ in a snowstorm. The bleeps and tones Mapstation uses can be intimate or expansive.

Does it all work?

Yes – though you need the right listening environment for My Frequencies to make a proper impact. Listening to it at home or in a studio would be the best environments, for the lower end frequencies to have maximum impact.

Is it recommended?

It is – followers of Schneider’s music will be pleased to note his quality threshold is still high…while followers of the Bureau B label will be satisfied.

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Switched On – Jimi Tenor: Ny, Hel, Barca (1994-2001) (Bureau B)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

NY, Hel, Barca are the abbreviations of the three cities Finnish producer Jimi Tenor has called home at some point in his life. They also form the title of a retrospective looking at his early career, a double album bringing together music made largely before signing to Warp. That means pride of place for Take Me Baby, the track that got him signed – but which we find is not typical of his output of that period. It is therefore up to Bureau B to give a balanced overview from his first six albums in total.

What’s the music like?

In a word, eclectic – but many more words are needed to do justice to the sheer variety of the sounds here. When Tenor (real name Lassi O. T. Lehto) embarked on his solo career in the early 1990s the presence of jazz was strong in his music, but this selection shows how he has used it to infuse a variety of genres.

Tenor can be something of a master in deep house (A Daughter Of The Snow), but thinks nothing of more wild, experimental musings like Tesla, where the saxophone takes centre stage. There is chunky and cheeky house, the best of which is a genuine anthem, Age Of The Apocalypse – and uncomfortably suitable for the present day, facing its demise but having a great time while doing so! Spell casts off its cares for a few funky choruses, Rubberdressing is as elastic as its name implies, while Sugardaddy throws a few glam rock rhythms into the mix. Then there is Take Me Now – still a deadpan winner 26 years on.

Does it all work?

Most of the time. Some of Tenor’s earlier productions show their age, especially the more salacious house tracks – but overall this is a really rewarding and stimulating collection of music. It is well chosen and well programmed, but shows off his original instincts. None of this music is routine, and a lot of it is really good fun.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. An excellent collection of a producer who has been a deserved mainstay of electronica’s top table for more than two decades, and whose music can cover a wide selection of dancefloors. It should encourage listeners to delve even further into his considerable early output. I know I will!

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This Spotify playlist very helpfully brings together all the tracks on Jimi Tenor’s collection:

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You can buy this compilation from the Rough Trade website here