Isolee - "Thirteen Times an Hour" (Well Spent Youth)
Though Isolée’s last few 12”s have telegraphed the move, it’s still surprising how much Well Spent Youth retreats from 2005’s We Are Monster. Monster was as robust a minimal techno album as you’re likely to hear, and for me, it crossed into obnoxious territory. I guess the album shook up a fairly staid scene, but when compared to how a guy like Oni Ayhun brings a minimal style to the breaking point, its surprises don’t really justify the lack of focus.
If Isolée went further than We Are Monster, he’d probably end up alongside Sonig’s cheeky deconstructionists. I don’t think that’s what he was going for, at all, so with Well Spent Youth, he returns to the mostly pleasant sounds of 2000’s “micro-house” landmark Rest. It’s a smart move insofar as he’s ended up with a completely tasteful, warm album, but I’m not sure what the point of this sort of thing is anymore. As the underground tilts toward anonymous analog excursions or, at the opposite end, damn-near sexy house tracks from Kassem Mosse, Fred P., and the Rush Hour stable, where does Isolée and Kompakt’s brand of designer minimalism fit in?
Damned if I know. Maybe the heads have always had it in for this sound, but unless you’re a crossover success (e.g., Jatoma, Pantha du Prince, The Field) or a brilliant standout like Matias Aguayo, why should I care in 2011? Play Well Spent Youth and Rest back-to-back, and two judgments come to mind: either Rest hasn’t aged a day, or Well Spent Youth covers well-trodden ground.