By sheer coincidence, as soon as I got around to buying Type’s double-LP vinyl reissue of Porter Ricks’ 1996 classic Biokinetics, a CD promo of the reissue ended up on my doorstep. This is helpful, because I wasn’t sure if side B of the vinyl version was supposed to be played at 45 or 33. At 45, “Biokinetics 2″ sounds normal compared to the rest of the album, but at 33 it’s slow and ominous. Turns out this is the correct speed, as it sounds this way on the CD. “Biokinetics 1″ is also slow, but playing it on 45 doesn’t make it sound any more normal, as it’s frazzled and obtuse. It still retains the repetitiveness of techno, but the abstractness and midtempo rhythm place it in a different category altogether.
Also by coincidence, I finally got around to buying Type’s reissues of Porter Ricks member Thomas Köner’s early albums Nunatak, Teimo and Permafrost. Teimo is easily my favorite of the three, as its use of deep bass tones seem to prefigure his Porter Ricks work most directly. Along with the deep bass and minimal beats, Biokinetics has an aquatic theme, as evidenced by the song titles (most of which either have the word “Port” or “Nautical” in the title) as well as the general submerged atmospheres of the tracks. “Nautical Dub” is a true 20,000-leagues classic, with the faintest hints of melody bubbling to the surface of an impossibly deep kick drum and gyrating bass. “Port Of Call” rises to the surface a bit more, but “Port Of Nuba” and “Nautical Nuba” both have the sort of convulsive rhythmic patterns (they don’t sound anything like “drums”) that Plastikman would use. The album is bookended by “Port Gentil” and “Nautical Zone”, both of which are 12 minutes long, and which are the most melodic and inviting tracks on the album. Even with these melodic elements, “Nautical Zone” still is covered in bizarre spongey atmospherics.
Obviously I can’t claim to have heard this album when it came out; the college radio mix shows that I grew up listening to in Connecticut in the mid-90′s were into hard, banging acid tracks, so I wouldn’t have discovered deep, dubby, minimal techno until I heard Plastikman’s Consumed in the late ’90s. I still think that’s his best album, but in terms of deepness, strangeness, and inventiveness, nothing really comes close to Biokinetics.