Three tracks of chunky electronics from this collab from earlier in the year, which coincidentally provided a welcome reintroduction to the Machinefabriek oevre after a bit of an unintentional hiatus on my part. It’s good to be back, anyhow, and here Rotterdammer Michel Banabila brings some crunchier, asymmetric shapes to the smooth minimalism that we have to come to expect from Rutger Zuydervelt’s solo work. These instrumental pieces are almost songlike in their ebb and flow, their grind and squelch sometimes bringing to mind a more aggressive take on Cluster’s gleaming kosmische stream.
Animal is right there up in yer grill, an initial hectic mash of snaggletooth waveforms and angular beats quickly dropping down into brooding surges of reverberating metronome and grumbling synth drone. Restless, chattering textures spiral out in endlessly generating forms, loops whose centres can’t hold and gradually decaying chord sequences. Towards the end, a gorgeous swell of violins and keys appears from nowhere in a cloud of post-rock grandeur, before dissipating into wide-eyed droplets of melody. Stemmenspel, by contrast, is silvery and malign, pitching layers of hisses and descending high tones against a bed of undulating horn-like moos and ominous locomotive percussion, the sounds of stars crying out as they burn up in the atmosphere or tumble to an uncaring earth.
The album’s 18-minute title track is the main attraction, however, placing field recordings alongside sizzling digital sounds and metallic clonks and bongs in a perpetually evolving landscape. It’s cinematic at certain points, and although the narrative the duo are soundtracking isn’t immediately obvious t to us listeners, it’s still compelling stuff.
At first, there’s a touch of Will Montgomery’s work in sculpting field recordings in the way that the rustles of the wind and far-off traffic sounds meld with a repeated metallic ringing, a struck bowl perhaps, as well as malevolent electrical fizzes. The light-touch approach disappears after the first five minutes, however, with the extrusion of a deep low end throb into the texture of the piece, warping it out of shape even as it runs out of steam, shifting again into a woozy synth drift, the shimmer of its eternal sustain crisscrossed with gentle piano chords. These shifts in tone are dramatic, and get more so as the piece goes on, with sampled sounds of burning transmuted into doomy chords then low-key drones. The transitions never feel forced, somehow, and there’s at least an attempt at an emotional payoff as the separate chunks of sound are sewn together. This is an enigmatic and austere work, and if by the end we’re left wandering what exactly we’ve just experienced, well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.