Various Artists – Universal Quantifier (Halcyon Records)


Universal Quantifier

Halcyon Records hails late last year´s Universal Quantifier compilation as ”2014´s greatest album”. Couched in language normally reserved for seminars on the history of ideas or cultural studies, the label states its thesis that “the techne [i.e., “know how”] of techno is not the projection of a universal onto music, but a rejection of such universality.” This is a good thing, as we have been hard done by over the centuries by comprehensive ideologies. With the ambition of evolving into a cultural hub, Halcyon´s credo is that “techno music is techne and therefore points to anti-reality. Techno music reminds the human individual that the computer and computation itself is a human invention, and in a related sense, that existence itself is a human invention. The name techno is therefore quite appropriate. The actual sound of techno music has always been a disruptive, uncanny jolt; an artificial expression of pure technique. It is the technique of technique, made explicitly distinct from any content it might express or represent”.

Thus Halcyon strives in a quasi-Nietzschean manner to free us from the legacy of metaphysics, which it means is holding our culture back. By admitting the world is computerized, we free ourselves through techno and its reveling in techne. Techno as modernist architecture playing with the new materials of super strong glass and steel? design as its own intelligence? as hedonism? Art(ifice) for art(ifice)´s sake?

Headphones and hoodies abound in the artist portraits, but not a lady in the bunch. According to the notes, Universal Quantifier is a motley of dance floor tropes and subgenres, including warehouse acid, footwork, broken beats, juke, UK bass, post-chillwave, post-minimal, swing techno, Autonomic sound, etc., claiming DNA entwined with everything from jazz to Steve Reich. While techno friendly, your reviewer is not so techno savvy, so many of the genres and gents unknown to him might already enjoy appreciative fan bases and distinguished careers (like Hackman, DJ Pierre). I tend to swallow my techno whole, preferring a compilation well-curated in breadth and flow, and Universal Quantifier certainly is one of those.

Four tracks are brand new and exclusive to the handsomely-packaged double CD. Familiar names do in fact abound, including Dntel, Max Cooper, Dosem, Appleblim, Kanding Ray, Legowelt and Joey Beltram. Maybe Halcyon is right – this may be the best compilation of its year, with stainless steel production and smooth pneumatic reciprocation, and it certainly has made me curious about artists like xxxy, ASC, Stabber. Others might leave me cold but hardly disturb the long-lasting experience. I want to hear more of the playfully dread-inducing Raudive, the stripped-down drum circle R´n´B of Artifact, the digital carnavalesque of Chrissy Murderbot.

Halcyon means not to affirm an “eclectic cosmopolitanism” (vulgar, postmodern “anything goes!”), but a complex chain of connections and disconnects in a world within our world within and between ourselves today. Mission accomplished.

Stephen Fruitman


About Author

Born and raised in Toronto, Stephen Fruitman has been living in northern Sweden lo these past thirty years. Writing and lecturing about art and culture as an historian of ideas since the early nineties, his articles have appeared in an number of international publications. He is also a contributing editor at Igloo Magazine.

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