drog_A_tek: Too Late To Care
Inner Ear

Had a group of teenagers grown up listening to nothing more than Miles Davis's On The Corner and Lech Jankowski's Institute Benjamenta plus any number of albums by Throbbing Gristle, Sonic Youth, Suicide, and Einstürzende Neubauten and then formed their own mutant experimental-punk outfit, something like the audio-visual outfit drog_A_tek might very well have been the result. Formed in 2001 in Athens, the septet lays down its stylistically wide-ranging pieces in real time, with a post-session cut-and-paste methodology bringing coherence to its free-wheeling improvisations. The musicians, of Greek descent and identified as Koke Nunu Fossa (guitar, loops, noises), Elektroware (keyboards, effects), Monochrome (keyboards, electronics), Bombie Baumann (bassist), S.T.M.C (trumpet, vocals), Paranormale (tapes, melodica, zournas, casio, vocals), and Voltnoi Brege (the credit reads: “plays nothing”), —use their gear to sculpt atmosphere more often than play conventional songs (though they do sometimes do that, too).

A great deal of the recording, whose material was produced between 2005 and 2011, is bleak in tone (“Bridge Two” and “Deep One,” for example)—no surprise there, given that it focuses on “anonymous feelings of hopelessness, rejection, failure, [and is a] brief narrative of resignation from life.” Laying the matter to rest, we're told that Too Late To Care is a “black album.” None of which means, of course, that it isn't worth one's time and attention, just that the group has a penchant for the darker sides of human experience. That's apparent from the first moment when a grey cloud of gloom hovers over “Avalance,” and the sombre meditation “I Can't Hold On Love” likewise seems bereft of hope. The pensive, slow-motion atmospherics of “Endmbient” ooze an end-of-the-world feel, while a small degree of dread fuels the tension that builds in ponderous scene-paintings such as “Bridge One.” 

Elsewhere, a trumpet's pinched wail bleats through “Action” and then resurfaces amidst the jazz-punk carnage during “I Like”; an exotic side of the group comes forth in “Aput Aspell On You,” where a voice hiccup suggestive of a Muslim chant appears against an ethereal, collage-styled backdrop. The group's livelier persona surfaces in a punkier track like “I Touch”; though still dark and downtrodden, such material exudes a high energy that's obviously absent in the atmospheric moodscapes. Heard in the context of the album's dark instrumentals, “Hula Hoop” even starts to resemble a reasonably conventional pop song—if one can call one darkened with raw vocal distortion and a diseased electro-punk groove conventional. Moments of beauty do occasionally appear amidst the smoldering remains of this ruined terrain, however, such as when “When You've Done It All” overlays loops of guitar-generated slivers with a series of late-night trumpet musings, and the material is certainly presented impressively, arriving as it does in a large format gatefold sleeve housing two twelve-inch vinyl albums plus a CD containing all of the music in a secondary format.

February 2012