Richie Hawtin has a grip of gear at his fingertips: turntables, computers, effects processors, drum machines, customized mixers, software programs, keyboards and scratch amps. And ten years into his skanking, cartoon-martian alter ego's recording career, he's a certified expert at twiddling every knob. But there is one particular instrument that Hawtin hasn't utilized in the studio -- until now. Closer, the first Plastikman release in five years, features the recorded debut of that instrument: Hawtin's own voice.

The man who crafted his own music-industry welcome mat from a bitter sheet of blotter paper is back in the saddle again, though few will recognize him. Hawtin finally muzzled the clippers responsible for mowing his follicles and allowed his bald scalp to sprout short blond hair. Also, the techno-geek spectacles were traded in for soft contact lenses (the white-out kind that Marilyn Manson often sports). Although Hawtin has toyed with his image a bit, little else has changed: Plastikman's taste for sparse minimal techno remains. Closer's production is so sparse, in fact, that listeners will notice a Nokia mobile-telephone ring on track five.

Plastik fans jonesing to get closer to the man behind the Plastik should charge Closer to their plastic loan shark.


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