These days, the divisions are clear as mud. Whether you dig techno, hard techno, tech-house or minimal tech-house, you will inevitably be confused by the vast amount of musical styles and genre crossovers (as I am). That said, Ilio's Ethno Techno promises to further baffle your brain with its otherworldly beats, naked polyrhythms, sonic variety and infallible production. Born from the collaboration of master drummer/percussionist Bashiri Johnson; his crew of ethnic percussion experts; and Spectrasonics' loop daddy, Eric Persing, Ethno Techno is a collection of some of the wildest rhythms and stylistic fusions I have ever heard.
Each series of loops is divided into three separate categories: mixes, elements and remixes. Within any contained group, it's possible to find everything from phased-out bells and pipe drums to a bed of electronic kick drums, live percussion snippets played by Johnson or myriad combinations. Among other things, the multidisc set contains pieces of bolero, traditional African conga rhythms and futuristic hip-hop played on a variety of odd percussion instruments. You will hear heartfelt African rhythms played on the bata, conga, talking drum and dumbek, as well as modified rhythms celebrated on stranger noisemakers such as trash cans, pitch cups, Tek tambourines and things called “computer cans.” Some beats are more electronic in their overall sound, yet they may be embellished by a mysterious “hair drum” and a scrapping gong sound reverberating beneath an effected human voice.
In this collection, the traditional and the modern meld in seemingly effortless fashion. The remix work is inspired, and on more than one occasion, I listened with my mouth agape. Check out the Bolero Remixes for some cool tribal vibes or the Cosmos group for a sci-fi bell jam.
Ethno Techno comes in assorted flavors, including the two-CD audio version ($129) or a sampler-specific multidisc set with MIDI files and Groove Control — ready Akai/E-mu, Kurzweil or Roland formats ($299). The loops in Ethno Techno range from 70 to roughly 166 bpm, but with the Groove Control version, you will be able to change the tempo of any sample by retriggering the individual notes in perfect syncopated succession. See www.ilio.com/gc for a more detailed explanation of this awesome technology. Perhaps the best part is that you are free to remix any of Ethno Techno's raw one-shot elements to your liking. This immense library of sounds is easily a five-star collection that makes me wonder if Ethno Techno, or E.T., is from another planet.