Umwelt: Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation

Umwelt twists Kraftwerk's classic sound into viral electro mutations where decapitating breaks lash and viral synths groan and snarl by turn. Unlike his Düsseldorf brethren, the French producer's guillotine style oozes a brooding intensity one more associates with breakcore and industrial. Deep cuts like the steamrolling opener “Don't Trust Me,” wide-screen “Secret of a Black World Part 1,” and portentous epic “Elysium Planum” clearly demonstrate Umwelt's mastery of the style (he established himself as a DJ under the name Freddy J in 1993 and has been operating under the current guise since 1996) yet there are moments during the hour-long set when his locomotive squelch and doomsday moodiness start to seem a tad formulaic. Still, more often than not, something unexpected emerges to deflect the criticism, like the percussive riff from “Hot In Herre,” for example, that slinks its way into “Mogul Project.” And the title? ‘Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation' (GVS) refers to an experimental technique whereby a person's sense of balance is deliberately upset, forcing the subject to automatically veer left or right in order to regain equilibrium—Umwelt presumably aiming and largely succeeding (in brain-addling stormers like “Outlaw World,” “Alpha RF Meter,” and “Biological Entity” especially) at inducing a similarly disorienting effect in his listeners.

June 2006