Monday, 5 October 2009

Pierre Bastien - 'Mecanoid' (Rephlex)

Bastien's got some major cred (I believe he plays on Berrocal's Paralleles which we'll get to, shortly) and here in 2001 he's built robots to jam with him. Perhaps he's so difficult to work with that he's driven away all human collaborators? (A feeling I can certainly understand). Well if you imagine this as a French post-prog audio Mystery Science Theater 3000 then you'll get the picture, except maybe Joel and his robots are all dressed up in lounge singer gear. The clicks and thumps played by the robots are regularly spaced, of course, and despite the wooly organic textural elements to their sound, it's undeniably machine-created. Bastien himself plays trumpets and pianos and African instruments I've never heard of, so you can't really say it's all thump-thump repetition, but it does feel like extended lock grooves that somehow change and shift while staying locked, if that makes any sense (it doesn't). This CD has always interested me because it's so clean, almost shiny, sounding like some novelty cabaret-electronica experiment except with everything sucked out of the middle. I admit the novelty of robots is what sucked me in but there's something wonderfully retro about this, like the whole idea of voluntarily engaging with semi-obsolete technology. Not that robotics is obsolete at all but there's certainly more practical and easy ways to create loops and sounds like this today - so it's more like a willing desire to use these techniques, like choosing 8mm film in 2009 or whatever. Which I'm totally down with, but I must admit that about 75% through this disc I start to get somewhat bored. Despite different rhythms and instrumentation it starts to get pretty samey, so maybe ten tracks of robots playing low key dance vibes is 4 more than I need.

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