Nikakoi: Requiem For Deranged Robot
Laboratory Instinct

The last time we heard from Nika Machaidze was three years ago when he issued the Cyberpunk album under the Erast alias, and it's been six years since his last Nikakoi appearance on disc (Sestrichka and Shentimental in 2002 for WMF). As a return, Requiem For Deranged Robot couldn't be more audacious: it's two discs of new material, for one, and, secondly, its electroacoustic moodscapes are light years removed in style from the hyperactive breakbeat-oriented workouts of his past releases. The new release's oft-mesmerizing material filters sounds of piano and strings through an electronics blender, resulting in flickering ambient set-pieces beamed back to the listener from the 23rd century.

After moving from Berlin back to Tbilisi, Georgia, Machaidze recorded the album in a mere three-week flurry in 2007. Many of the sounds heard in the tracks, which are quite literally organic products of both pre-programming and improvisation, originated straight from the on-board speakers of a cheap Yamaha synthesizer that Machaidze recorded via microphone into the computer. He also made extensive use of Fruity Loops in order to manipulate the structure and texture of the tracks, resulting in material he says suggest “avant-garde architectural fantasies from the 1920s.” The unusual title, Requiem For Deranged Robot, stems from a documentary film Machaidze viewed during the time of the music's production, with the film documenting the re-utilization of a deconstructed U.S. Navy fighter jet's parts into everyday consumer electronics items (e.g., cell phones, CD players, microwave ovens, etc.).

Disc one contains two long-form settings, “System Switch Off” and “Disarrange,” the first an eighteen-minute journey marked by divergent and interlaced tributaries of staccato piano patterns and electronic flutterings and the second a denser mass of electronics and voice fragments of slow-moving character. Though both are generally equal in duration, the compositions couldn't be more different, sonically speaking: the sounds are “clean” and clearly differentiated from one another in the uncluttered first, whereas the second's multitude of creaks, ripples, and string tones melds into a multi-layered mass of cloud-like immensity. Though beats are absent in both, rhythm isn't: the first gains propulsion from the insistence of its piano patterns, the second from the surge of its humongous mass.

Disc two's dozen “Ghostfile” variations often resemble a dialogue between the natural sonorities of the piano and strings and the mercurial and shape-shifting miasma of electronic patterns and textures; the pieces, not incidentally, are often quite beautiful. The second piece presents a paradisiacal setting where piano, tinkling electronics, and strings coil around one another in seeming rapture, while mournful and melancholy piano melodies stutter through a pebble-strewn sea of effects in the third. The whistling tones and soft bass pulsations that breeze so tranquilly through “Ghostfile#08” make one feel as if one's floating on a cloud. The material at times sounds like nothing else heard before. “Ghostfile#04,” for example, finds a piano treading lightly through a forest of squealing micro-organisms while a ghostly lounge rhythm vamps as a light-hearted undercurrent. Though tiny electronic noises bleed in along its edges, the stripped-down “Ghostfile#05” largely focuses on melancholy piano ruminations, and with piano notes dotting its hazily textured landscape, the eleven-minute “Ghostfile#11” registers as a becalmed zenith of sorts for the second disc's style. Admittedly, there are moments when the emotional potential the piano and synthetic sounds bring to a given track is undercut slightly by an intrusive excess of electronic interventions (e.g., “Ghostfile#07”). It's a small price to pay, however, when Machaidze's bold and ambitious album offers so many rewards.

September 2009