Gajek: Restless Shapes

Matti Gajek's idiosyncratic debut album, Restless Shapes, came to fruition after Chris Clark passed some of Gajek's mutant material on to Monkeytown overseers Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary). Being oddball music connoisseurs of a particular stripe themselves, the German duo were naturally struck by Gajek's electronic music and decided to issue the material, which now comes to us as a thirty-four-minute mini-album whose twenty-one short tracks are collected into three multi-part wholes. There's a vertiginous quality to Restless Shapes that's generated by the rapid shifts from one intricately entwined part to the next. No breaks or pauses occur within any of the three pieces, and consequently a dizzying effect arises when one brief scene morphs rapidly into the next. Just as one is getting acclimatized to one part, the next arrives, forcing one to become oriented all over again.

The opening “Curved Engines Pt. 01” immediately captures the unusual character of Gajek's music. Animated by rollicking piano and percussive patterns, the mechano-styled material seems more like machine-generated music than anything played by a human. Following that eyebrow-raising intro, Gajek proceeds in the subsequent five parts to subject its affable melody to warped variations of one kind or another, with endless swirls of piano and percussion patterns locked in various kinds of energized embraces.

In place of a piano melody, “Restless Water Shapes” emphasizes instead a repetitive rhythmic pattern that likewise gets stretched into multiple configurations during its eight sections. But while rhythm might be the primary focal point, wordless vocal fragments, ostinato piano playing, and organ-like tones also figure into Gajek's grand design. The elements babble frantically, resulting in a kind of musical glossolalia, and while the second piece differs from the first, the relentlessly repetitive character of the music remains in place throughout, reinforcing the machine-like impression made by the thrumming music.

Repetition infuses the seven-part “Moving Glasses,” too, though this time in somewhat more club-like manner. But while synthesizer arpeggios and pounding beats suggests a connection to techno, even if a tangential one, the piece is too shape-shifting to be tied down to one style only; a case in point, “Moving Glasses Pt. 03” fluctuates between playful synth-pop and industrial-ambient styles during its two-minute run, while the fourth part opts for something rather more primal by comparison. As is sometimes the case, describing the music as electronica, no matter how generic the umbrella-like term might be, would appear to be the safest bet. To Gajek's credit, nothing quite like Restless Shapes has been produced that I can recall. It might not be sui generis—no music is—but it is definitely a rare and unusual form of musical creature.

January 2015