You: Electric Day
Bureau B

You: Time Code
Bureau B

Bureau B continues its vault-raiding in resurrecting two You albums from 1979 and 1983, a move that'll be of interest to fans of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and others of that ilk. On its 1979 debut album Electric Day (originally released on the German label Cain), Udo Hanten, Albin Meskes, and guitarist Uli Weber are augmented by drummer Harald Grosskop (one-time drummer for Klaus Schulze). Like other proponents of the genre, the Krefeld outfit grounds its pieces using hypnotic sequencer patterns and then couples it with synthesizer melodies and, on this recording, electric guitar and drums. With rambunctious drumming giving the already pulsating music a greater free-wheeling bounce, the title track and “Son of a True Star” are closer in style to prog-rock than the synthesizer music of Tangerine Dream's Phaedra, and “Magooba” and “Zero-Eighty-Four” likewise distance themselves from that purer style in prominently featuring raw electric guitar soloing. “Slow Go” does, quite literally, slow things down, with ample space devoted to the mellotron's distinctive sound and the twelve-minute running time affording ample room for exploration. Synthesizer showers appear halfway through, with the main synth melody ascending in a manner similar to Kraftwerk's “Europe Endless,” and the track finds You moving back and forth from krautrock to kosmische musik within a single piece. In terms of the bonus material, the long-form “E-Night” could convincingly pass for a Phaedra outtake, and the bonus cut wouldn't have sounded out of place as part of the original release. The same could be said for the others too (“H.Rays Identity,” “Hallucination Engine,” “Yousless”), and if anything they're at times more appealing for emphasizing the keyboard-based aspects of the band's sound. It's a generous collection, to be sure, with the original album's seven pieces supplemented with four bonus tracks totaling thirty-three minutes, making for a seventy-four-minute listen.

Of the two albums, my preference is for the 1983 release, Time Code (originally issued on Rock City Records), simply because the overall sound leans more towards pure electronic music with the guitar and drum elements now gone (though an occasional drum machine beat does appear). The album's also shorter at fifty-one minutes (including ten minutes of bonus material) and thus more easily digestible than the overlong Electric Day. Time Code finds the group reduced to Hanten and Meskes, and consequently the music feels more spacious and less cluttered. The sequencer patterns and synthesizer melodies are still firmly in place, but there's also a stronger command of song form (the poppy “Deep Range,” jubilant “Metallique,” and declamatory “Mission: Possible,” for example) and the music sounds fresh and more refined as a result. Sing-song melodies give some of the tracks a sugary, synth-pop boost, while other pieces are more experimental and wide-ranging by comparison (e.g., “Live Line,” which calls to mind both Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk during its nine-minute trip, and the brooding bonus track, “Zone Black”). One of the album's more memorable moments occurs when a Bolero-styled snare pattern anchors “20/11/28,” which is otherwise dominated by the sound of synthesizers and organs radiantly chiming at full volume, while, on this supposedly guitar-free album, “Bluewater Dream” oddly enough features a roaring guitar part that takes You's sound back to its debut album. All things considered, though, Time Code is the more satisfyingly realized and more mature-sounding recording of the two, even though both releases might have appeal to listeners interested in the history and development of electronic music.

September 2011