Exercise One: Tales of Ordinary Madness
Momentum—propulsion—thrust—drive. These are just some of the words that come to mind as I listen to Exercise One's Tales of Ordinary Madness. Even a cursory listen to the nine-track collection attests to the astute characterization Marco Freivogel and Ingo Gansera provide of their ultra-exuberant Exercise One style, that it's like “driving a car called Techno off a cliff, into the sea of endless possibilities.” Together for a decade as a live techno outfit, the duo marks the occasion with both a new album and three vinyl remix EPs of their favourite tracks by Deadbeat, Alex Smoke, Peter Van Hoesen, Donato Dozzy, Anja Schneider, and others.
Apparently, a couple of years ago Freivogel and Gansera overhauled their live setup and re-embraced techno's roots by discarding the computer and arming themselves with analogue gear. The move was fueled in part by the desire for a more alive and spontaneous on-stage delivery, and it's this spontaneous spirit that lends Tales of Ordinary Madness such a dynamic boost and gives it such infectious appeal. That analogue character comes through loud and clear in “Verlooka” where the sizzle of drum machine rhythms appears alongside handclaps and the bright pitter-patter of burbling synthesizer patterns. It's with the advent of “Gatium,” however, that the album truly kicks into gear, largely due to the hot-wired cut's charging groove, a robust gallop that's as sweet as it is unstoppable. Adding to the tune's allure, cymbals ring and snares ricochet as Exercise One lifts the listener to a higher plane.
The so-called possibilities referred to earlier are very much on display in the album's explorative content. In a seeming nod to the ‘80s, the utopian-styled “Electric Glare (502),” for example, works some hammering B-boy breaks into its robotic, synth-prog framework, while “Stay” is as much an ambient-electronica meditation (replete with voice and ringing phone samples) as it is an analogue techno workout. As interesting as such diversions are, it's earthy heavy-hitters like “33 to Pay the Rent,” “The Raven,”and the epic, ten-minute closer “Look at the Harlequins” that one comes away from the album remembering most.
“It's hard to get lost if you don't know where you're going,” a male speaker intones during the album's psychedelic scene-setter “Same Story,” but, on the contrary, one comes away from Tales of Ordinary Madness convinced that Freivogel and Gansera (who also manage the Lan Muzic and Exone labels) most definitely know where they're going with their decade-long group project.