Elektro Guzzi: Observatory

KiNK: Under Destruction

Too much shouldn't be made of what might be nothing more than a minor detail, but it's maybe revealing that the sole personnel credit listed in Observatory identifies Elektro Guzzi as the entity responsible for the album's material rather than the three individuals involved (presumably, for the record, guitarist Bernhard Hammer, bassist Jakob Schneidewind, and drummer Bernhard Breuer). But that's maybe not all that surprising, given that the live techno the Austrian outfit produces is so kinetic, interlocked, and precision-tooled, the kind of thing one might liken more to the output of a single, multi-limbed organism than separate individuals. And it's also worth noting that while Salah Addin is credited with kalimba on “The Grist,” no instrumentation details are provided for the band proper, suggesting nothing more than the Elektro Guzzi name is necessary.

Though keyboards appear to have been added to the guitar-bass-drums mix, the band's sound hasn't undergone a wholesale makeover since its last full-length—when the trio's familiar gallop rears its head halfway through the opening “Rough Tide,” it feels like an old friend re-appearing at one's door—, but that's no cause for complaint when Elektro Guzzi's music and attack offer up so much pleasure. In the set's eight pieces, syncopated drum grooves and muscular bass lines go hand-in-hand with trippy guitar-generated textures, the music surging forward with fierce determination, Breuer's kick drum an insistent thump and Hammer's riffs a constant source of invention.

Anyone looking for a quintessential example of Elektro Guzzi's art need look no further than either “Trojan Robot,” a swinging slow-builder whose funk strut grows ever more seductive as the minutes tick by, or “Undulata,” an Afro-tinged workout whose dubwise textures exude a strong aromatic character; the band's earthier side also emerges during the album-closing “The Grist,” a splendid funk-tinged showcase for each member's respective gifts. As one absorbs the recording, it becomes clear that Observatory is an excellent choice of title, given that such an entity is solidly planted on the earth whilst having its sights set by definition on the upper reaches. At its core a real-time machine-funk unit, Elektro Guzzi is captured in glorious free flight on the fifty-minute collection.

Macro's other recent release is Under Destruction, the debut KiNK full-length from Sofia, Bulgaria-based producer Strahil Velchev. An hour-long set of so-called ‘post-socialist techno,' the twelve-track outing is worlds removed from Observatory in its electronica focus and digital production methodology. Velchev's tracks hint that he's devoted as much time listening to Warp artists as anyone coming out of the underground techno and house camps; certainly the bleepy synthesizer patterns and child-like melodicism coursing through “Summa Technologiae” suggest a strong affinity to Plaid.

Though the electronica-oriented opening moments of “Dama” inaugurate the album conventionally enough, the chirping “la-la-la-la” vocals (by Rachel Row) that eventually surface are cheesy enough to locate KiNK's sound comfortably within Macro's at-times wonky dance music universe. But don't think Velchev's KiNK project is a tongue-in-cheek affair: for the most part, he plays it straight and focuses tightly on crafting intricate electronica-oriented set-pieces, with some of them, such as “Kakavida” and “Tok,” packing remarkable amounts of detail into relatively short running times. And while it's not what one might label a club-based collection, it does include a small number of rhythm-heavy cuts: “Sintezator” derives a large degree of its slinky thrust from a woozy, hi-hat-driven pulse, and “Melodia” powers its sing-song melodies with a high-spirited kick sure to get people up and moving.

Most unusually, the ultra-motorik “Source of Uncertainty” captures Velchev doing a pretty convincing Elektro Guzzi imitation (“Povreda” also), even if the spasmodic keyboard effects identify the track ultimately as more KiNK than anything else. There's lots to dig into on the wide-ranging release, and the listener definitely comes away from it feeling like the trip was one well worth taking.

May 2014