April 2001 Reviews


Resuscitation (CD)
Ersatz Audio

Adult.'s longplay Resuscitation must be one of the most eagerly-awaited electro releases of this year. After a series of genre-defining singles for Adult.'s own Ersatz Audio label in Detroit and Holland's Clone Records, expectations for the album debut of this duo of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller (also the boss of Ersatz Audio) have grown into stellar proportions.

Ersatz Audio has been one of the most important record labels to update the early-80s synthpop and electro sounds to the harsh and ironic post-techno reality of the early 21st century, with cultish releases from Le Car, Perspects, Germany's Kitbuilders and Austria's G.D. Luxxe.

Adult.'s musical output is nervous and twitching, combined to the intentionally monotonous, sometimes mocking-sounding vocals of Nicola Kuperus, reminiscent of the new-wave ironists Flying Lizards. Fittingly, the electronic production sounds sometimes twisted beyond recognition, a real post-anything synth-vocoder electro-disco mutant. With shorthand lyrics concerning unfulfilled desires in the world of blatant consumerism ("Do you like my handbag / It's filled with lots of money / I want to spend my money on entertainment"), the end result often feels alienated to the extent of dehumanization and reads like a case history of a neurotic.

Adult. paints in front of our eyes the psycho-geography of bleak urban landscapes, with morbid eroticism straight out of J.G. Ballard's novels as illustrated by the photographs of Helmut Newton or the bondage-style human fetish sculptures of Allen Jones ("Sitting in dispassionate furniture / Not knowing what for"). In Adult.'s music everything turns into a fetish, even human relationships. Kraftwerk had their heyday of 'Home Computer' - we in our turn have the ecstasy of mobile communication: "Do you have a phone / I need to accommodate / my communication needs".

We have entered the hyperspeed era of collective autism where a bunch of lonely people can be locked in the same room, talking to their mobile phones but no one to each other: "You're on the phone / I look at you / I look at you cry / Binoculars on my eyes / How come no one's over". I want more, a 'New Object' - "can you entertain me" - but I'm still not happy.

It is people who exist here only as objects to each other, as means to satisfy an end - but: "When I touch your skin / I feel I have to wash my hands / Just when I think I'm in control / I fall apart again". The only solution then is to run away, again and again: "Sometimes I drive so fast / I feel I can't even breathe the air" and in the all-American way Adult.'s music is also about the fast cars: "Pull over now / exit here / Hi-way shops / frequent stops / Quarters and bucks / semitrucks / close the door / and have a seat"; "Past exit seven / Intersections come and go / From him to her, I don't know".

There's the existentialist 'Nausea (Restructured)': "You don't even know how I feel", with its post-Moroder disco bass, sleek synths and vocodered chorus. There's the self-explanatory 'Human Wreck (Radio Edit)'. This is the new generation spawned by The Normal's 'Warm Leatherette', Human League's 'Being Boiled', Gary Numan's 'Cars' or Visage's 'Fade To Gray' but stripped from the tacky (new) romantics - which still left some hope, at least - and filtered through the fifteen years of Detroit techno's urban decay and the digital dot.com era cynicism.

Slick, sexy and glamorous - just in the way of car accidents of Ballard/The Normal/Grace Jones/Chicks on Speed or the media spectacle of Concorde crash. This is an indispensable document for the future archaeologists who want to find out what went wrong with our era.

[Someone disagreed ;) ]

Various Artists
Heimelektro Ulm Populär Serie - Teil 1 und 2
Heimelektro Ulm (2-CD)

This sampler compilation of Germany's Heimelektro Ulm label offers a plethora of mellow electronic tunes for home listening, sometimes with a soft indie guitar pop flavour, sometimes with a taste of classical sound.

Pimui's 'Summse' combines glitchy urban dub with a mystical atonal piano. Nonplace Urban Field's 'Telefunkenhausen' is funky pseudo-African percussion rhythm with electronic dubby aftertaste. 'Body Mass Index' by Urban Soul Research offers after grungey guitar cacophony Seefeel-ish post-shoegazing melodies with lyrics in German. Hans Platzgumer's 'Coma' is a haunting 5/4 excursion with Indian sitar overtones. Lupo Borax's 'Modsoup' is moodful Kent-type guitar pop (the Scandinavian accent of the vocalist probably does it) with soft electronic backbeat. Another Pimui track 'Allnight' takes us to a gloomy Twin Peaksian ambient soundscape with a pulsing rhythm. Scarcubem's 'Trishon DBZ #02' is a lush-sounding semi-acoustic track reminding of Talk Talk's "Laughing Stock" era. Hecker's (of Mego Records fame, who also performed at Club Telex) 'cetScrap+00024' combines a melancholic "classical" cello to a menacing ambient background on one of the most haunting and moving tracks on this compilation.

The CD2 starts with 'R. Clicks' by Attention_Industries: this is a short jazz excursion. The cheeky 'I Am From Zimbababwe' by Solvent, a.k.a. Jason Amm, includes an 80s-sounding thumb bass on a glitchy urban dub soudscape. Jetzmann's 'Blue Chearleader' dives like a fish in deep, dark waters. THD's 'Indian Jungle' is another dark pseudo-jazzy electronic excursion with a sound of a monsoon rain. Sodaclub's 'Out of a Motion Into Devotion' goes into the IDM territory of Boards of Canada with a melancholic keyboard to eccentric clicks. Move D's 'Archer' is one of the highlight tracks on this compilation with its vocoder electro vocals.

A wide-ranging collection of intelligent dance music and electronic home listening sounds splitting and combining genres into something new. Heimelektro Ulm is definitely a label to look out for.

Copyright © 2001 Erkki Rautio. Reprinted with permission.

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