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Camea: Clinkology

img  Tobias Fischer

To this day, the word „DJ“ has retained a somewhat crude, unartistic ring. To Brooklyn-born Camea Hoffman, meanwhile, it is a philosophy of life. A former piano- and clarinet-student who only discovered house and techno as late as her college days, not a minute goes by without her rethinking her approach, refining her technique or rearranging her mixes. As with many latebloomers, the sensation of having so much to catch up on has led to perfectionism, to a level of professionalism, proficiency and insight rarely achieved by those to whom things came quick and easy. To Hoffman, the studio is not just a creative space, but a natural habitat where she'll spend hours working on new production ideas, organising tunes, preparing for upcoming sets or just discussing thoughts and concepts with her husband and label-mate Tim Xavier. Business matters and personal issues are intricately conflated, with even some of the vinyl cutting being done by Xavier on his own cutting lathe. Within an environment as obsessively revolving around music as this one, running her own label, Clink, is obviously not just a regular dayjob. Neither is compiling and mixing the first Clink-compilation – rather, it is a challenge demanding an ambitious creative response.

Just how little Clinkology has in common with your average mix-CD typically quickly demoted to the sales-bins of record stores is already becoming apparent a few minutes into the album: The first six tracks literally fly by, with  two clocking in at a mere fifty seconds. As with the overture of a classical opera, Hoffman manages to introduce almost the entire repertoire of musical elements, styles and motives which will take on a deeper significance over the course of the next hour within this highly condensed space: Alien sound effects, spooky sub-bass pulsations, casually drifting drums, vocal samples occasionally snippeted into tiny sound particles and then woven into otherwordly melodies, ghostly organ sounds playing ghoulish harmonies. All of them will, from time to time, take the lead in the mix, shifting from the background to the fore like soloists in a jazz group. After this introduction, meanwhile, Clinkology enters a phase of cosmic drift, with pieces like „Le Plaisir“ pitting naked beat loops against sexy spoken word contributions and all but stopping the clock's hands. The notion of considerably speeding time up, only to bring out the epic, floating nature of the more extended cuts even more is ubiquitous here, as long, immersive segments are separated by tiny islands of sound. With its system of inner references and thematic development, the album is really turning into a single, epic composition – a clinkophony, so to speak.

At the same time, Clinkology does work as a representative overview of the label's current aesthetics. In its early years, from the imprint's inception in 2005 until 2009, Clink focused foremost on an extremely reduced take on minimal, on lonely bass drum poundings serving as a foil for playful, almost pedantic micro-sound manipulations. Camea's „Dub me tender“ marked the changeover to a new horizon, which is why it is certainly no coincidence that it is the most recent track here. All of a sudden, the grooves were lush, seductive and swinging, considerably more organic and rich in detail. Behind them, a wide and mysterious space opened up, which, despite its objective non-existence, took on an almost physical quality. The task consisted not of carefully placing sonic objects on this white canvas, but of polishing it until its surface took on a meaning of its own – hence the title of an earlier 12inch, „Voiding the Fill“. On Clinkology, Camea extends this seven-minute space of her breakthrough EP to epic proportions, gently pulling the listener into a world which is as immediately gripping as it is alien and intriguing: Rhythm is reduced to its fundamental formants, an alluring abstraction gradually disappearing in the listener's mind to let intuition take over.

Clearly, then, Camea has taken minimal down a perfectly natural, albeit it not immediately obvious path of progress. Her methodology may still be derived from house, but the aesthetics are culled from dub, echo and the art of reductionism taking over from tangible themes and the gradual accumulation of elements. It is telling that the album was realised not in one go, but through a series of in-depth studio manipulations, as part of which the original tracks were spread out, edited, cut and looped as well as by splitting the underlying pulse into four separate channels. Suddenly, all but inaudible counterpoints are opening up in between the chinks of the original beat, like particles of dust gathering in the grooves of an old vinyl record. One could, of course, interpret this meticulous attention to detail and the inherent challenge of creating a similarly cohesive and seamless flow as the natural result of a latebloomer's tendency to constantly push her boundaries. And yet, there may be more at work here. The cohesiveness of the trip suggests that one is being taken to the source, to the one place, where all of the differences and counterpoints bear no relevance: Camea's head, into the at once tiny and infinitely fantastical world of her mind, where questions are spinning violently like samples running in an endless loop.

DJing is a form of communication here, taking place in the solitary moments usually reserved to contemplation or silence. Whenever I listen to Clinkology, I picture it being recorded in an otherwise empty room at night: The window's open, the night's flooding in and the world's a wondrous membrane sounding with the promise of a thousand undreamt dreams.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Camea
Homepage: Clink Recordings

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