Although at this stage he is ten years into his releasing career, most would agree that it is in the last couple of years that Johannes ‘Tin Man’ Auvinen has reached the wider electronic music consciousness, helped in no small part by allegiances to such respected institutions as Killekill, Pomelo and the Acid Test series from Absurd Recordings. Likewise his collaborations with the likes of Cassegrain and Donato Dozzy have contributed to this recognition amongst the house and techno cognoscenti, but really Auvinen’s success lies past these surface signifiers, instead emanating from his gifted reappraisal of one of the most well-worn sounds in electronic dance music. By rights acid should have hit a creative cul-de-sac a long time ago, and there is no shortage of artists flogging the same lysergic rave style for lack of a new path to tread, but Auvinen has always stood head and shoulders above the pack as a force for creativity and invention around the nexus of a TB-303.
Ode marks the seventh long player in his canon, and it finds Auvinen channeling his bubbling machinery into a more contemplative kind of throwdown. Melodic content has always been the guiding force in making the Tin Man sound a unique proposition, but the bright and snappy lilt of previous album Neo Neo Acid has been replaced here by a more mysterious shroud. The title track, which finishes off the D side of the record, is a prime example of this with its forbidding and forlorn peals of 303 spread out and heavily reverbing into space with a dark but beguilingly romantic refrain. It’s not obtuse or difficult music to grasp, far from it, but there is a sense that Auvinen has purposefully reined in the immediate wallop of previous releases.
“No New Violence” has an undercurrent of dub techno that buffets it towards a meditative headspace, while “In Your System” simmers industrial techno down to a soft murmur that becomes soothing rather than punishing, although of course the 303 reins supreme. In those two cases it does rather feel like a track has been comfortably forming before the overbearing synth comes marching in to remind everyone who is boss. It’s not misplaced as such, but perhaps a little stark in comparison to its rhythm section counterparts. “Depleted Serotonin” has a more cohesive feel as a more developed set of rhythms and effects gel with the poised 303, which in turn seems to bend more willingly to the context of the track to a fantastic melancholic end.
Indeed where Auvinen sounds less like he is playing up to his acid reputation, the results are far greater. “Vertigo” does a marvelous job of turning out deep techno with a strong narrative flow, building to a truly uplifting crescendo from more mellow beginnings, and the 303 is but a low-end bit part in a bigger picture. As well as their original incarnations, “Vertigo” and three others also have alternative vocal versions included on the album. Such a move is always going to be divisive with an artist making such club-ready tracks, not least where these turns feel like a very personal addition that pays homage to the new wave era (“Memorophilia” could certainly be a nod to Soft Cell without too much of a stretch). With the option to listen with or without Auvinen’s deathly croon, there’s no need to swear allegiance either way, although this reviewer would be content just getting down to the tracks in their instrumental form.
In the end, this latest Tin Man release succeeds where it deviates. His selling point has always been in providing a new route for acid to pass down, but he shouldn’t let that become his own creative millstone. Let’s face it, we all enjoy the sound of a 303 and Tin Man has always been a celebrated force in keeping the beloved squelch worth listening to, but it’s in the moments where the acid relinquishes dominance that Ode shines brightest.
1. No New Violence
2. In Your System
3. Depleted Serotonin
4. What A Shame