Elektro Guzzi: Clones

It's one thing to be able to sustain a listener's interest across an EP; it's quite another to do so for the duration of a ten-track full-length, and even more noteworthy when the band in question is an instrumental trio resolute in its allegiance to its ‘live techno' ethos. Yet that's exactly what Elektro Guzzi does on Clones, its recent album-length collection for Macro. Seven years on from its first, self-titled release, guitarist Bernhard Hammer, bassist Jakob Schneidewind, and drummer Bernhard Breuer continue to find new ways to hold the listener's attention without deviating from its trio format.

Clones actually appeared prior to the group's latest release, the EP-length Parade on Denovali. That in itself isn't terribly significant; more so is the fact that the EP brought three trombone players into the fold, a move that might on paper suggest a radical change in Elektro Guzzi's sound. It turns out, however, that even with new musicians added, the trio's penchant for propulsive, kinetic groovesmithing remained firmly in place. The same can be said about Clones, though in this case a guest appears on a single track only, namely Redouan Bariane, credited with congas on “Voix.”

It takes no more than twenty seconds for the Viennese trio's particular brand of atmospheric electro-funk to assert itself, which it does ever so beautifully when “Room” rolls out a thrusting pulse in lockstep with a surprisingly dubstep-inflected bass throb; throw in some atonal shards by Hammer and you've got a delicious sampling of Elektro Guzzi's sound, not to mention a dynamic scene-setter for the ride to come. With Bariane's congas adding to the charge, “Voix” stokes serious heat in the rhythm department, especially when Breuer supplements the percussive attack with shakers to complement his kit playing. A few new wrinkles surface along the way: “Slowfox,” for example, not only lumbers at a slower pace than is usual for an Elektro Guzzi production but feels looser in execution, while an unexpectedly delicate side of the group emerges during the aptly titled “Pillow” thanks to Hammer's slide shadings.

In every case, song structures are discernible, and the tracks feel as if they were methodically sketched out beforehand but then executed with the visceral intensity of a live jam. And though guitar, bass, and drums might be the only instruments involved, the three players resourcefully coax a wide range of textures and colours from the gear. There are moments during “Wood,” for instance, where a trippy organ appears to have muscled its way into the mix, and Breuer operates as a one-man percussion section without any seeming difficulty whatsoever. As always, the three convincingly simulate the image of a single, lazer-focused organism whose various limbs operate independently yet synchronously. To that end, the album title and recent band photos featuring Kraftwerk-styled replicants of the band members also reinforce the man-machine concept. The fact that Hammer, Schneidewind, and Breuer are still capable of spinning fresh new variations on their project theme so many years after its inception is in itself impressive.

January 2017