When Ellen Allien ponders listlessly on Sool
’s Web site, “What does minimal mean for me? Minimal is just there,” the red flags go a-flying. Having recently become a heavily flogged catch-all for anything electronic lacking some load-bearing noise or a credible dance beat, minimalism could offer all sorts of departures for the Berlin-based DJ. In her case, minimal means ragged 8-bit knob twiddling and samples that sound more like loose plumbing than sturdy electronics. It’s an unexpected change of pace from her proven métier of hairy, livewire techno. Although not her usual, danceable self, Allien does make good on some of the genre baiting. Opener “Einsteigen” is an attentive riff on subway ambiance, bristling with airy pings and hushed footfalls. “Zauber” features a weedy clarinet line that proves the perfect foil for the album’s often lifeless clatters. But these are the exceptions; most of the album’s 11 tracks read more like “Caress,” a limp, futzing halfway point between dance stomp and minimal bauble. Gone are the subdermal hooks of Berlinette and the no-bones house of Thrills, replaced by loosely cobbled melodies sheared of pulse or interest.