Under his best-known moniker Plastikman, Richie Hawtin produced influential albums like Sheet One, Musik, and Consumed in the Nineties that explored the darker, minimal elements of techno. Thus, it's no surprise that Closer, his first new Plastikman record since 1998, is an eccentric work overflowing with chilly, sometimes unsettling, extremes.
Closer isn't a club record, though there are dance tracks ("Disconnect," "Ping Pong") sprinkled among the lofty synthesizer monotones, persnickety percussion and beat droplets, taut textures, submerged bass lines, and digitally altered vocals. That's right: Hawtin sings on several cuts, including the eerie album opener "Ask Yourself," a conversation Plastikman has with himself: "I hear everything. Those aren't voices in your head. They're just the echoes of your indecision. Don't ask me. Ask yourself ... I am everything. Why listen to me? I'm just a voice inside yourself. I can't help you. Help yourself." By revealing some of his innermost thoughts, he is "closer" to the listener, or so the idea goes. While the concept works on "Ask Yourself," though, the same-sounding vocals get a bit tiring by the track "Disconnect," which features a sing-song delivery not unlike the late Jim Morrison's "Not to Touch the Earth."
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Closer is an introspective, sometimes self-indulgent, fastidiously produced album that's more in line with Hawtin's From Within ambient collaborations with composer Pete Namlook than his pummeling techno live sets. In other words, break out the headphones.