Prequel Tapes: Inner Systems
Blurry radio transmissions emanate from some industrial bunker; pulsating sequencer patterns and mutant techno, stripped bare of beats, ripple through granular, sheet-metal haze—these are but a few of the ethereal sounds flickering forth from Prequel Tapes' debut full-length. In accompanying text, the album's creator, Marco Freivogel, waxes nostalgic about youthful days listening to The Cure, KLF, and Future Sound of London and his stumbling first attempts at music production using a Casio FZ-1 sampler, Korg MS-10, and drum machine. With time and maturity comes a growing sophistication yet also a concomitant distancing from innocent origins, and it's the latter that drives Prequel Tapes to reclaim that past—or at least try to—by returning to analog gear, vintage synthesizers, and long-retired formats. Drawing upon decades of exposure to rave culture, industrial music, and other electronic mutations, Inner Systems can be heard as one person's life story distilled into audio form.
The project name, by the way, wasn't arbitrarily chosen: the material includes sounds lifted from DAT tapes of recordings made between 1989 and 1991, and the project in general plays like a glossolalic to-and-fro between the past and present. While there's not a strong stylistic similarity between Prequel Tapes and Kraftwerk, the former does share with the latter a nostalgic affection for earlier times now only accessible through memory, and Inner Systems also sometimes suggests what the modern-day spawn of Radioactivity's experimental vignettes would sound like transported to the present age and expanded upon.
Though the album's designed to be regarded as a total statement, there are differences between the eight tracks: “Under Your Skin” grinds with industrial purpose, its nightmarish sound design intermittently punctuated by war zone blasts and strangulated churning, whereas the ghost of ‘80s techno shadows “When We Fall Into the Light,” even if the synthesizer-heavy material does often feel on the verge of splintering into rubble. It's hardly the only one that does so, but in its relentless compulsion to shape-shift and mutate it's perhaps the album track that best captures the project's tone. In expressing a wistful affection for the past, projects of Freivogel's kind often, if only implicitly, cast a negative, even hopeless eye on the present and future. Inner Systems refreshingly does otherwise in the way it occasionally infuses its material with uplift. That's nowhere more audible than in the title track, which pulsates with a dynamic, clangorous energy that encourages rave-like abandon and begins to feel like a kind of controlled ecstasy.