Sterac aka Steve Rachmad: Secret Life of Machines Remastered and Remixed
100% Pure

Seventeen years on from its original release date, Secret Life of Machines sounds as fresh today as it must have when it first appeared in 1995. If anything, it's remarkable how fresh the Detroit Techno classic sounds, given the revolution in electronic production methods that have occurred in the time since its initial release. In fact, the recording was not only the first album Sterac aka Steve Rachmad released but also the first 100% Pure founders Dylan Hermelijn (aka 2000 and One) and Sandy Huner issued on their Amsterdam imprint. Secret Life of Machines now gets a new lease on life in this remastered re-issue, with that first part supplemented by Rachmad's own remixes (three on the CD and five digital-only) and another remix set by Ricardo Villalobos, Joris Voorn, Heiko Laux, Marc Romboy, and Nadja Lind, among others.

Rachmad crafted the album in a makeshift studio in his bedroom at his parent's house in which he somehow managed to squeeze the Roland and Yamaha gear he still uses today. The title track's a sultry hip-shaker goosed by a swinging bass line that breathes new life into the minimalism concept. On the melodic front, silky tones exhale like the softest of breaths, while the beat pattern, its hi-hats, snares, and kick drums clearly separated in the mix, oozes artful simplicity. Locomotive propulsion is the order of the day in charging cuts such as “Astronotes,” “Axion,” and “Thera,” but other tracks impress as much for other reasons. A glorious exercise in synthetic flavouring and counterpoint, “Mysterium” alternates between multiple layers of melting chords and radiant melodic figures in a manner that's so captivating one almost overlooks the insistent rhythm pulse percolating underneath. As headspinning are “Sitting On Clouds,” whose slippery drum machine rambunction suggests that the distance separating Sterac and Drexciya is, in this case, small indeed, and “The Lost of a Love,” a sultry moodpiece that begins to evidence a strong “Trans-Europe Express” influence when its booming rhythms kick in. In addition, the steely chords whispering through Rachmad's “Thera” remix lend the track a strong Basic Channel-Chain Reaction vibe (one could easily imagine the remix as the handiwork of Fluxion, for example), while his “The Lost of a Love” update offers a more extroverted and exuberant spin on the original.

What consistently elevates the material are its flashes of brilliance, such as the jittery flute-like figure that surfaces halfway through “Sitting On Clouds,” the arresting pitch-shifted intro that opens “The Lost of a Love,” and the sudden key change that occurs midway through the effervescent sparkler “Astronotes (2.5).” Here and elsewhere, Rachmad transcends the time of the album's creation by the inspired imagination he brings to the tracks' arrangements. Timeless is a word easily thrown around, but as far as a Detroit Techno context is concerned, Sterac's collection certainly makes a reasonable claim to being so.

July-August 2012