Robot Koch: Death Star Droid
Robots Don't Sleep

Death Star Droid may be technically Robot Koch's debut full-length but the man's been around. That's evident on paper—his CV includes the Aftershocks EP, involvement in the club project Jahcoozi and post-rock outfit The Tape, plus remixes and beats produced for Infinite Livez, Rustie and Amanda Blank—but it's also immediately evident in the album's ten tracks. In constructing his pieces, he draws inspiration from a broad spectrum of artists and styles (he lists Slayer's Reign In Blood, Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and Wu-Tang Clan's 36 Chambers as favourite albums) but holds the material together via the omnipresence of Moog and Korg.

With hits wonky mix of bleep-funk, crunk-hop, and ten-ton bass wobble, the brain-addling opener “Death Star Droid” could be taken as a manifesto for Koch's sound. He's very much treading similar ground to forward-thinkers such as Flying Lotus and Hyperdub's new recruits (tellingly, Flying Lotus recently asked Koch to create a mixtape for the Brainfeeder podcast). “Away From” alternates between serenading episodes and blustery breaks, while “Hard to Find,” animated by a snappy head-nod pulse, blends micro-samples of treated voices, strings, and sputtering electronics into an entrancing snake-charmer. On the vocal front, Graciela Maria channels Jim Morrison in a dubbed-out cover of The Doors' “People are Strange,” Manya's breathy quiver lends Koch's bleepy accompaniment a sultry quality in “While,” and Nielson's vocalizing pushes the crunk-funk exercise “Heaven is My Real Estate” into a soulful zone. “Memories” continues that funky ride when it sneaks snippets of Rihanna emoting into its bleepy breaks.

As the hammering grooves in tracks like “Memories” and “Heaven is My Real Estate” show, Koch has got his bass-and-beats-science skills down pat (his past includes stints as a drummer in a punk and hardcore band), but the album's about more than beats. Koch cleverly sneaks a rich assortment of samples and acoustic instruments (piano, flute, strings) into the mix, in such a way that the tracks stand out as distinct from one another rather than merely alternate takes of one another. The album may be an economical thirty-four minutes, but it gets the job done despite such brevity.

December 2009