Saturday, 10 July 2010

Cuatro En El Planto

God damn I fucking love this record, the first LP by the downright extraordinary Austrian trio Elektro Guzzi (Macro Records). Seriously, I am in awe of this record, and I really don't say that very often. Elektro Guzzi have done something I've always wanted to do. They've made one of the finest techno albums I've ever fucking heard, using nothing but bass, guitar and drums. No synthesizers*, no samples, no sequencers, no drum machines, no overdubs. And no attempt to disguise the nature of the instrumentation, the drums sound like drums, not a drum machine, you know y're listening to three people playing live, not something pieced together on a sequencer grid. Don't think for a second this makes EG's music any less precise than if it was created using the traditional, electronic methods, this isn't a band, it's a fucking organic machine, a twelve limbed group mind with a metronomic drive that makes Can sound sloppy.

They'd been together for 5 years before making a single recording, (a 10" on Macro with, as on the album, Patrick Pulsinger co-producing and running the desk), and you can tell as soon as you hear the opening track "Hexenschuss" that they probably didn't get out much in those 5 years, so finely honed is the telepathy between these three musicians, a slowly evolving filtered bass riff and astounding straight down the line four on the floor drumming pushing the track ever forward, as the cymbals skip just like they should around the beautiful, chiming, clanging guitar stabs and swipes and it just builds, almost like the Necks at high speed, squelching bass and spiralling echoes rising in intensity and frequency and five minutes later it's over. Far too soon. You want more, you are now completely hooked on Elektro Guzzi.

I am anyway, hopelessly addicted. Any band that can take two of my favourite, and seemingly diametrically opposed, things in music, the simplicity and flexibility of the improvising power trio and the machine funk precision of proper fucking techno and marry them in such an utterly convincing manner, to produce something this taut, this composed, this arresting, is worthy of my love and my money**. I love the fact that there's no attempt to make the bass or the guitar sound more synthy, bass guitars have a very different kind of low end spank than synths do, the initial attack of finger or pick on string can produce a real gutpunch in a way that synths find hard to match, no matter how low they go, a synth can massage yr liver, but a bass guitar can kick a hole in it, and there's no mistaking Jakob Schneidewind's bass sound on this album, no matter how filtered or fuzzed it is, for a synthesizer. It drives the music forward in a very different way than a synth would, even playing exactly the same line, because that very physical part of how the sound is produced is readily apparent on this record, you can hear the fingers, the string, the impetus, in a way no synth can ever quite seem to emulate convincingly and, along with Bernhard Breuer's jaw dropping drumming***, it gives the music a distinct physical presence that's very unusual in a traditionally electronic genre .

Bernhard Hammer's guitar though, is what really surprised me, no riffs as such, no melodies as such, it often functions more like tuned percussion, soft, almost Sonic Youth like bell chimes, gamelan and steel pans in a hall of mirrors, pops and cracks and whirring machinery, bowed harmonics swelling like clouds growing and the sound of rulers pinged on desks, there's more so-called extended technique on display here than on the last 400 fucking free improv records I've heard, and all of it far more convincingly utilised. When he finally does play something vaguely "normal guitar" like on "Franz", the LP's final track, it's an almost shocking moment because you've spent the last hour immersed in this glowing, shifting rhythmic landscape you've almost forgotten y're listening to a trio playing live and it's jolting, the most traditional guitar sound on the record becomes one of the oddest. Very few musicians can pull that off, to take a listener so far from their traditional expectations of an instruments role, that the sudden reversion to type makes yr brain double take, a perceptual backflip which makes everything seem upside down.

Fuck it, what else can I say? Well, getting Patrick Pulsinger to mix the fucker was a masterstroke as well, the album sounds fucking fantastic, somehow warm and sparkly, and most definitely live. Just go to their myspace and watch the videos, download the live set on Resident Advisor, a single 47 minute beast of a live set, buy the album, and come join me in my new habit.

As Nice Pete would say,"good music, well played by men"§.

*Like it used to say on Queen LPs.

**And my bad pilled-up dancing.

***Seriously, the man is un-fucking-believable, like a funky orrery.

§From Achewood, the brilliant cartoon strip by Chris Onstad, which gave the world my favourite fake book title ever: Deconstructing Hawkwind Mythology.

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