Saturday, 21 March 2009

Signal: Robotron, Album Review

With its minimalist, hypnotic rhythmic beats, energy pulses, clicks, and bristling static sounds, Signal-Robotron, was released in 2007 by Raster-Noton, this cutting edge album will most definitely be sought by keen minimal electronic music enthusiasts. It reminds me of a set played by the music producer and DJ Sven Vath back in 1999, when I was then a regular visitor to certain venues of industrial, and minimal Techno music, such as the Orbit in Morley, near Leeds. With Raster Noton’s electronic wizardry, this also evokes memories of another German group called Kraftwerk, who treaded into a similar domain around thirty years ago. My own personal interest in electronic music stems from being a child, listening to my mother, playing the music of Kraftwerk, and Gary Numan with his group Tubeway Army.

In 1996 Olaf Bender (aka Byetone), and Frank Bretschneider set up the German art-electronic
record label Rastermusik, which was based in Chemnitz, Germany, as a means of releasing their own music.

In 1999 they merged with Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto) who had ran the Noton label, to form Raster Noton, and in the following year they released their debut album “Centrum”, which proved a success.

With the increase of music technology, and the expanding use of the internet, within a few years the Raster Noton label had made a name for itself, and because of this, worldwide connections were made.

Apart, the three artists have very busy careers producing their own music, despite this, they always find time to collaborate. “Robotron”, which was recorded over a five year period is their second album release since 1999.

It has been a very long time since I have heard anything like this, but with repeated playing on my part, I was quite amazed and pleased by this album. With the energetic sound of rhythmic clicks and deep bass pulses, this makes a surprisingly powerful compilation . The tracks blend seamlessly together, even though they are a collection of various live and studio music, recorded across the globe, from Berlin, and Chemnitz to Tokyo. The album starts with a short droning intro, developing into ultraminimal techno on “Ermafa”, but my favourite track is “Robotron”, as it features clean mid-frequency sign tones, which is common in Bretschneider’s work.

After listening to the album several times, and visiting their website, I can see myself going to experience one of their live performances, the next time they visit the UK.

For those music fans seeking melodies, or commercial dance floor hits they would probably not appreciate the simplicity of this album, as it relies mainly on a small set of percussive sounds, but for the electronic minimalist, abstract, and experimental fan, this unique creation is a must. The album design is equally artistic, incorporating a totally unconventional and minimal packaged sleeve.

Hopefully we will not have to wait too long for their next album release.