It’s fitting that motorik, a genre that fetishises the future has been subject to a renaissance in the 21st century. Technology is catching up to the neon dreams of Kraftwerk and Neu! and now those dreams seem nearer. As I type my entire music collection is housed in a small computer: if that doesn’t sound like a step closer to the world of The Man Machine, I don’t know what is.
And so bands like Warm Digits, The Oscillation, Cantaloupe, Camera, Plank and Eat lights; Become lights have dusted off motorik and tooled it up for a new generation. it’s all here, the slavish dedication to 4/4, smooth propulsion and shimmering electronics that eagerly awaits the Space Age.
Even the name itself reflects the desire to consume and commune with technology in a surprisingly pragmatic update of the Eucharist. What is technology if not a replacement for religion? And what more natural a dream for a technophile than the ability to devour your household appliances?
The band is mainly the work of Neil Rudd, aided by a gang of noise makers and Heavy Electrics is their second album. As title’s go, it has a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin beauty. Let’s travel back (not a very motorik notion…) and dig into the album’s innards. Meanwhile, in an attempt to take the music review to a new level of interaction, feel free to guess the sources of the three fictional drugs mentioned below.
‘Bound For Magic Mountain’ gets under way with quarrelling alien gurgles atop a rigid, overworked rhythm. It could almost be The Clangers at a rave. A guitar bursts in with waves of effects. Energetic and chaotic, Heavy Electrics submits the listener to a sensory overload of movement.
‘Heavy Electrics’ struts in, powered by a bass spoiling for a fight with razor-sharp guitar in tow. At the 90 second mark the motorik groove hits, pushing and thrusting like Robocop (not ‘rococo’ as spell check suggests) in a game of British Bulldog. This is a stellar piece of mechanised groove, past 4 minutes stabs of solar flare guitar rain down. More exciting than a glass of moloko (A) and a bit of the old ultra-violence.
‘Syd Mead Cityscapes’ brings the tempo down and unwinds over 9+ minutes like a reticulated python unfurling after a nap. Pulsing bass and questing electronics beguile the listener. In truth the title provides the best description. Syd Mead was a visual designer who word on Blade Runner, Aliens and Tron, so if you want to hear a song perfect for soundtracking Rick Deckard hunting Nexus-6 androids, this is the album for you.
‘Terminus IV’ takes half of it’s 10 minute running length to power up. When it does huge guitar stabs jostle with bustling drums and probing electronics. many of Eat lights; Become lights songs sounds frantic, teeming with life and unknowable, like starting an Iain M. Banks book halfway through. Once more a shining guitar offers a path through the maze of mayhem.
‘Sunrise At Marwar Junction’ is another title that helps the listener along. Blissful vibes permeate, closer to Tangerine Dream and Cluster. Google tells me Marwar Junction is in Rajasthan, some way away from Mars then. Stately and serene, the song saunters by in a dreamy haze. It’s strange disconnection offering an escape from the oily sweat of the rest of the album, like taking an overdose of JJ-180 (B) and waking up hundreds of years in the past.
After a chilled out ride through the middle of the album, ‘La Kraut’ takes us back into warp speed, a head spinning death dash. A compulsive bass riff gives way to a crystalline guitar solo and back again, the two ideas working together and tangentially, as if the listener has taken too many hits of Substance D (C). Intoxicating.
‘Runners’ is a neurotic perpetual motion machine, the audio equivalent of a blinking light in the night. An insistent bassline hammers to the tune of white noise. Approaching 3 minutes the song settles down with a degree of clarity descending. When the drums kick in halfway through the paranoia is over and release is provided with an addictive mid tempo groove. Gradually turning up the heat this would sound great in a warehouse in the small hours of the morning, sweat dripping down the walls and the colours of the strobes burning your retinas. Getting faster and faster the song builds to a literal heart pounding finale.
‘Carousel’ sounds like a symphony of radar. Uplifting and transcendent it once again proves that motorik strives towards utopia. One criticism I would level is that the trick of having a slow first half and a frisky second half wears thin by the end of the album. While ‘Carousel’ does offer a last chance to enjoy what Eat lights; Become lights do so well, maybe ‘Sunrise At Marwar Junction’ might have made for a better way to round the album off, offering a come down after the giddy excitement of ‘Runners’.
A sprawling collage of space ships, robots and endless neon-bathed cities is splayed across Heavy Electrics. It is a huge album of dazzling vista’s, portrayed in head spinning panorama’s. Yet a sense of fun and the urge to make people dance is never too far away which provides the band with their immediacy and the true nature of their importance. In thrall to the unknown glories that wait us, this is a vital, bold and exciting off-world adventure.
And the answers for those taking part at home:
(A) A Clockwork Orange (B) Now Wait For Last Year (C) A Scanner Darkly