Zeitgeber: Zeitgeber
Stroboscopic Artefacts

The obvious question for every listener coming to Zeitgeber's self-titled debut album for the first time is whether the collaborative project will lean more towards the style associated with Lucy, aka Stroboscopic Artefacts head Luca Mortellaro, or Speedy J, the Rotterdam-based techno producer Jochem Paap whose career extends back two decades. Put simply: will Zeitgeber perpetuate the visionary future-techno style of Lucy or focus on techno of a more traditional and classic kind? It turns out that the alias has been well-chosen, given that the German term ‘zeitgeber' loosely translates to ‘synchronizer' in English, as the album, the result of eighteen months of work, generally presents a fusion of the producers' styles instead of an either-or proposition. If anything, the project finds the two embracing the more abstract and experimental end of the electronic music spectrum, while still including enough beats-centered tracks to keep techno heads happy.

The opening track “Closely Related” establishes the recording's experimental tone right away. Eschewing conventional dancefloor beats, the track instead whirrs and convulses like some aged machine frustrating a user's attempts to activate it. That explorative bent reasserts itself on “Skin,” a slithering salvo of grinding rhythms and strafings of white noise. The techno side of the equation begins to enter in during the second piece, “These Rhythms,” which sees skittering rhythms writhing elastically, as if trying to break free of the straightjacket they're wrapped within, and more overtly blossoms in “None of Their Defects” when an insistent beat pattern pulsates within an ultra-thick cloud of crackle and thrum. Fittingly, the closing piece, “Display 24,” seems to offer a near-perfect fusion of the two dimensions in being wildly experimental and rhythmically powerful at the same time: during its eight-minute run, a ghostly choir drifts through a dense, crackle-smothered mix, while underneath a heaving, industrial-styled rhythm keeps up an incessant and merciless clatter.

It's the album's longest tracks that prove to be the most satisfying as they allow the two to go deeper into abstraction and fully explore the potential of a given track's possibilities. Sound design is always at the forefront, but it's complemented by track development, too. “From Here” serves as a good example: on textural grounds, it's a rich, tactile amalgam of micro-flutter and tribal rattlings; compositionally, the material slowly swells in intensity as sounds incrementally accumulate and reach a dizzying climax. The album's culmination is reached, however, in “Now Imagine” when a tribal-techno beat pattern relentlessly pounds for ten motorik minutes alongside violent gusts of wind and dust. Here and elsewhere, melodic phrases intone but are only faintly audible when they're reduced to a blur by the omnipresent windstorm. It's no coincidence that “Now Imagine” is arguably the album's peak moment and the track that comes closest to replicating the style of Lucy's 2011 opus Wordplay For Working Bees.

June 2013