Enough Records, 2014
Running the gamut from electronica, neo-industrial, techno and IDM, the German collective, Laboratory (aka “Traumwelt”) remixed Character-E, the 2010 release from another German outfit, Projekt Klangform.
Character-E/Traumwelt RMX is a 10-cut album that features remixed pieces from Klangform, a minimalistic, cyborg, beat-heavy musical outfit. I must claim ignorance in not having heard Character-E in its original, un-remixed format, before this one emerged, so I cannot compare the two.
However, just by listening to its current form, I get into this trance-like state, not quite mesmerized, but, definitely, a feeling of grooviness and a textured atmospheric cloud washes over me. The album is an amalgam of drone, dubstep, techno, ambient and some industrial bits and pieces.
In the early part of the album, its ambitious soundscapes are really quite thrilling. There’s a kind of novelty to this particular album, even though, of course, the music is nothing new, but it’s the way that the pieces wax and wane, sometimes as a solid steel, object: heavy, yet, able to get off the ground and soar into the ionosphere and then ever higher; even made of such strong stuff as to be able to withstand the fiery path of earth’s atmosphere. This is an apt description for the first five cuts, whose unbound beats and buoyant, dynamic energy, keep the listener in throes of dervish-like manias that are, at times, irresistible.
Then, somewhere between the seamless, energetic wavelengths that pulsate, oh-so-erotically, exotically and with a headstrong passion, which would be between “Character-E ([revolting: Robot n])”, whose title suggests chaos, breakdowns, hysteria and “Traumwelt ([angstrom: Institute])”, the “Robot Revolution” seems to either be put down by outside forces or dies out of its own accord, or lac thereof, after which, the music takes a turn for a slowed-down, but steely, watchful eye of an electronic but intelligent sentient being that keeps a vigil for peace and security, the soundtrack turns to a more deliberate, driving and alert state, with a bit of drone thrown in for a calming effect (on the “robots”).
All this sounds like great science fiction – and who knows what the person/people making the music were thinking while composing this album?
Finally, we come to the last tune on the album, a 16:24 length tune, “Character Traumwelt-E ([mono: F])” which starts out with the same chill-out, drone state, but it’s almost akin to a suite: that is, it has several differing parts to the whole. After a slower start, the tune then gravitates back to the style of the beginning of the album but then proceeds to outdo, even that: instead of just regressing to a state of chaotic, throbbing, techno gyrations, this one gels into a muscular, pumped up techno jam, which takes us away from the drone part of the album and manages to spellbind the listener with a rhythm that backs a wonderful “finale”. Sometime after the 10-minute mark, you suddenly find yourself irresistibly drawn to its pulsating, rhythmic, synthesizer crescendo that builds up to a fever pitch: celebration, the evil robots have been destroyed, there’s a festive mood, combined with an almost martial stomp that makes you wanna dance, dammit! And, since it is the “finale”, it has to end, eventually, so after the grandiose bliss, the song spirals downward, into a milky essence that has a dream quality to it. The music lingers a bit, still moving, not static, but like a spinning top, it eventually slows down and by the time 16:24 nears, the sound has ground to a soothing, slowed tempo that it takes on out to the finish. And that is that.
I know, this is quite a fanciful review, one that is more sci-fi libretto than musical criticism. But, it’s one of those albums, a style of music, where you either “get it” or you don’t “get it”. As far as the merits, musically, I will say this: this was a masterpiece of digital proportions. It’s definitely not something for which you’d go to a live setting for, unless it was the backdrop to a theatrical setting. All synthesizers, computers, drum machines and a whole lot of studio tweaking. Another showcase where the studio becomes one of the instruments. Trust my reading of this: if you are good at filtering out metaphors and symbols, you should be able to make sense of what I’m saying here. It’s as if looking through a empty Kool-Aid glass, spiked with DMT…Darkly. KM.