Elektro Guzzi: Circling Above

It's interesting that Elektro Guzzi originally recorded Circling Above as a Tapeworm cassette release, considering that it arguably casts the Austrian live techno trio (guitarist Bernhard Hammer, bassist Jakob Schneidewind, and drummer Bernhard Breuer) in a more definitive light than has been captured on the numerous releases the group's issued on its home label Macro. As fabulous as Macro releases such as Parquet and Observatory are, Circling Above has one thing they don't: two long-form explorations that exchange the concise track lengths on previous Elektro Guzzi outings for extended workouts of up to a half-hour duration.

The towering opener, “Circle One,” does much more than simply reaffirm the indelible character of Elektro Guzzi's sound. Yes, it shares with the trio's other recordings thrust and muscularity, but it also dramatically brings out an African dimension that had heretofore only been hinted at in the group's music. And that “Circle One” lasts twenty-nine minutes doesn't mean that the trio simply drags out a jam to its limit; instead, the music unfolds with the same kind of logical purpose as a regular Elektro Guzzi piece but in this case for a longer spell. And a spell it certainly is: the longer playing time bolsters the hypnotic effect of the music by allowing the listener to surrender to its gyroscopic whirl without pause. Powered by Schneidewind's pulsing throb, Breuer's percussive invention, and Hammer's psychedelic flourishes, the material unspools with the dizzying drive of a feverish African dance.

“Circle Two” is about half the length of the opener as well as slightly slower and more subdued in its attack. Rather than thrusting forward, the groove plods, though it does begin to pick up steam as it approaches the halfway mark. Even so, compared to the opener, “Circle Two” meanders more exploratively and seems to unfold with less single-minded purpose. Like some miniature reprise of “Circle One,” “Acid Bonus” caps the release with six minutes of fuzzy guitar textures and uptempo bass-and-drum thrust in a concise package characteristic of the kind of track featured on the trio's other releases. Still, as credible as the two shorter tracks are as Elektro Guzzi productions, “Circle One” overshadows the others to such a degree, one could make the argument that it might have been better served had it been presented as a single-track EP.

May 2015