Last year must have been the year of the overload, and not only for pop music (and the Eastern Seaboard's electrical grid). While OutKast and Basement Jaxx were busy stuffing new albums with as much funky bluster as they could, the decidedly nonpop multimedia trio Rechenzentrum, darling of the art gallery circuit, proved that even minimal techno could be fattened up without losing its form.
The title of the group's second album, Director's Cut, hints at its will to excess. The package combines both a 64-minute CD and a DVD brimming with mottled film stock, spastic snapshots and brooding, impressionistic manipulations of found footage, set to the same 13 tracks that constitute the CD. Visually, content is hardly key; Rechenzentrum's imagery (blasted skies, sunbaked runways, raster lines) radiates mainly emptiness punctuated by arbitrary objects. While the audio CD at first might seem equally rudderless, a subtle sense of structure underpins its totalizing, all-inclusive sonics, in which every sound in the world is potential source material.
Rechenzentrum's compositions will be familiar to listeners of field recordings, classic musique concrète and Brian Eno's brand of aural wallpaper. On the opening "Guajaq Totale," a parlor piano tinkles forlornly while bells chime, bottle rockets flare and a glowing drone suggests an electrified horizon. But with "Lye," free-form audio tourism filters into a more meaningful structure as rolling loops coalesce into a dense dub pattern defined by an unmistakable, head-nodding rhythm. The rest of the album goes on to explore the balance between definition and dissolution, carving fine lines with drum machines and percussion samples, and then burying them in guitars, bells, clanks, static and even birdcalls. Like an archaeologist with a romantic streak, Rechenzentrum believes that structure finds its poetry in ruin. By piling innumerable layers of fertile distractions onto a cleverly constructed rhythmic base, the group has accomplished that rarest of feats in electronic music: It has created an album rooted in genre that manages to sound timeless.
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