Get Your Groove On

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ots of music is sexy and plenty more aspires to be — especially in club culture, where going out with old friends and coming home with new ones is never far from anyone’s mind. So it’s not surprising for dance-music fans to encounter sexed-up artists like Peaches (whose Teaches of Peaches features the heat-seeking charmer “Fuck the Pain Away”) and record labels like the aptly named Naked Music, which specializes in funk-laden downtempo seemingly designed for erotic inspiration. (Apparently, so are the label’s album covers: their reclining, birthday-suited women look like they were taken off a special softcore-porn run of ’70s-era Fabergé Organic shampoo bottles.)


     By contrast, there is little overt raunch in the minimalist bump-and-growl of microhouse. The producers are generally German. They weld voluptuous beats to basslines so tactile you can almost touch them. In doing so, they replace the dance music’s lecherous caricature with something subtler but just as erotic. If disco, as funkmeister George Clinton once asserted, “was like fucking with one stroke,” in microhouse that single stroke operates like a stone hitting water, rippling in a thousand directions. Microhouse is make-out-and-beyond music, just as likely to send people home in pairs from the barstool as from the dancefloor.

The most intense microhouse evokes passionate sex, but there’s a cool detachment that makes it somewhat elusive and, as a result, even sexier. Staticky clicks and squelching overtones evoke experimental techno, but its grating quality is offset by lubricious grooves. It’s like a particularly fluid fuck that switches into rougher gear when your partner’s fingernails rake down your back.


Herbert, Secondhand Sounds
(Peacefrog, 2002)

Hakan Lidbo, 06.10.60
(Mutek, 2002)

Luomo, Vocalcity
(Force Tracks, 2000)

Michael Mayer, Immer
(Kompakt, 2002)

Pantytec, Pony Slaystation
(Perlon, 2002)

Swayzak, Groovetechnology v.1.3
(Studio !K7, 2002)

Triple R, Friends
(Kompakt, 2002)

various artists, Superlongevity
(Perlon, 2001)

Though some microhouse artists incorporate sung vocals, more often the human voice is a fragment to be teased and toyed with. On Luomo’s “Market” and Markus Nikolai’s “Chitchat on Sunset Cliff,” moans, sighs and gasps are cut to ribbons and scattered throughout the mix. On Pantytec’s “Elastobabe,” a soulful male vocal barely surfaces before being snatched back into the ether. Even when a “name” musician takes center stage — like Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie on Dntel’s “This Is the Dream” — the vocals are murmured, not shouted; sometimes they’re barely audible, the sound of a face pressed into a pillow.
     Track titles like “Muff Diver” and artist names like Narcotic Syntax play up microhouse’s libidinous quality, frequently with a wink. But the genre’s sexiest quality may be its deviant playfulness. On Dimbiman’s “Hokule,” half a dozen particles zip in and out of the mix before an exhaled male uhhhh signals post-orgasmic contentment . . . or is it confusion?
     Good sex tends to incorporate both; it’s exploratory and risky, both aggressive and comforting. With its seething undertow and crackling whirl of sound, microhouse does something similar with music. It carves into a groove, then unsettles itself, staying in one place but exploring every possible detail.  


© 2003 by Michaelangelo Matos and Nerve.com.

Michaelangelo Matos writes about music and culture for Spin, Village Voice, Time Out New York, Chicago Reader, City Pages and many other publications. He lives in New York City and maintains two weblogs: You Can’t Wear Nail Polish to a Surgery and The Mix Project. And yes, that really is his name.