Tesla286: Zukunft

A well-known platitude of reviewing states that every artwork should be assessed with respect to its own particular aims and goals. With that in mind, it wouldn't be all that fair to criticize Tesla286's Zukunft for being neither a game- nor life-changer. Its more modest goal—presumed goal, that is—is to offer the listener forty minutes of pleasurable listening, and on that count it succeeds. How interesting it is that Zukunft translates into English as future, given how much the album draws upon existing legacies. In that regard, the press release's statement that Zukunft “reflects our own nostalgic look on the once-upon-a-time-future” makes some kind of sense. Never before has the wealth of musical history been more alive and available than it is today, and consequently producers like Tesla286 can't help but draw upon it, whether it be as a matter of sensibility or simply sampling, in fashioning their own contributions to that ever-expanding totality.

More specifically, the recording often sounds as if Tesla286 disassembled classics by Kraftwerk, Drexciya, and Dopplereffekt and then put them back together in new combinations (“Frequency Society” and “Wurmloch,” for example, include voice samples that conceivably might have been found gathering dust in Kraftwerk's KlingKlang studio). Titling a track “Robot Love” clearly suggests Tesla286 isn't trying to be coy about acknowledging who his influences are; having said that, while there's no point denying how derivative “Robot Love” is, there's also no denying the potency of its groove. In addition, the album also sometimes plays as if Tesla286 has delved into the history books and threaded into the album's DNA bits and pieces of ‘80s B-Boy beats, Detroit techno, and Herbie Hancock's “Rockit.”

“Umlaufbahn” opens the album promisingly with its Kraftwerk-meets-Carl Craig vibe (obviously, even the title sounds Kraftwerkian), not to mention its wiry electro stabs, warbling synth effects, and effervescent funk groove. “Magnetic Fields” likewise plays like some uncovered Kraftwerk-Drexciya collaboration, while the Future Shock-styled drum machine pattern and synth stabs in “Tesla's Oscillator” clearly show Tesla286 riffing on “Rockit.” On an album where beatless settings are rare, the title track paints a landscape of utopian splendour in its sweeping washes and grandiose synth flourishes. Chattering drum machine beats and electro synth stabs are in plentiful supply on the eleven cuts, and fans who can never get enough of Kraftwerk and Drexciya should therefore find much on Zukunft to keep them satisfied.

April 2014