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Pavel Milyakov - La Maison de la Mort & Buttechno - Minimal Cuts EP Music Album Reviews

 The Russian producer better known as Buttechno applies his gonzo sonics to psychoactive ambient miniatures and joyfully off-kilter club tracks.

Buttechno is not a put-on. Despite the seemingly silly handle that Russian producer Pavel Milyakov deploys, the thrilling and exhausting array of tracks he’s dropped since late 2015 is without peer, be it in his home country’s own burgeoning scene or in the electronic music underground at large. Across music for Gost Zvuk, his own Johns Kingdom imprint, the Cititrax label, or Russian designer Gosha Rubchinskiy’s fashion shows, Milyakov often seems to try his hand at just about everything but techno. He’s liable to careen from screwball electro to lo-fi pop, wicked acid to cartoonish dubstep. Then again, he does drop heart-squeezing techno bangers with the best of them.

La Maison de la Mort emphasizes his minimal ambient side, which will no doubt only bring more comparisons to Aphex Twin. The album’s 16 tracks alight on weird dubs, hushed études, lashing noise, and what could pass for a lost theme from Stalker. The title stems from Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem of the same name, which you can hear recited in Russian on the opening track, setting the tone with allusions to cemeteries and the underworld. Milyakov adds just a hint of drone to the piece before it cuts off. “Bolotniy” has a pulse, but the sonics are otherwise skeletal. Milyakov sustains the mood with just a modulated bass and an ungrounded wire’s crackle to serve as a beat, redolent of the work of the late Mika Vainio.

Working with so few elements and instead letting his prowess for electronically manipulating sound come to the fore, Milyakov’s gradually shifting repetitions give the album a psychoactive feel. Long tracks like “Moon Pad” and “Flights” revel in their echo and decay, imparting a sense of melancholia. And while the bubbling arpeggiations and EKG thump of “Synthetics” don’t do much on their own, Milyakov suddenly scribbles feedback across it all like a 2-year-old with a crayon. The slowly-plucked strings of “May Guitar” lead into some slinking static before suddenly dropping us into the razor wire shrieks that comprise “Virus Saw.” But such restraint at times makes the tracks stagnate. “Octa Amb Plucks” gurgles upward and back down, but one might wish that the bits of hi-hat sprinkled in midway through might have taken the track elsewhere.

Milyakov returns to his Buttechno alias for a four-track EP on Anthony Naples’ Incienso label. While minimalism remains the modus operandi, the ends results couldn’t be more different: Minimal Cuts is geared towards the club rather than a desolate interior headspace. Even when making dance fare, Milyakov always keeps some discombobulating quirks in the mix, never quite letting the tracks align with the grid. A chirrup of cheap electronics gives “Rz Bass” a screechy edge to its first half before Buttechno lets the body-jacking groove take over. He dabbles in the squelching frequencies of a 303 for “Orient ACD,” but holds those queasy tones for an extended time, triggering extra drums a hair early. It’s slight but just enough to throw you off. “Dubber Funk” is erected with some scraped guitar bits and globs of bass to ricochet all over the beat. It’s a dub techno track in the Basic Channel vein, but Buttechno pushes the echo and delay to a ludicrous extreme, the peak of the track feeling like a bouncy ball in a hall of mirrors. “Dub Hole Funkin” also uses a sliver of guitar—this time with some wah wah thrown in for added wobbliness—as well as a drum sample clipped too soon and what sounds like exhaling through a straw. No matter the sonic minutiae in his hands, Buttechno pushes them all towards a sense of maximum joy.

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