- by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2016-05-11 Label: Morr
From the opening notes of 'Radiations', the first track on Driftmachine's new album, Colliding Contours, I knew I was in for something special. The melody, such as it is, is just an assembly of utterly disparate noises, held together by huge beats that sound like massive chunks of metal booming together in the bottom of a canyon miles away.
The song is incredibly slow, taking its time, creating a meditative effect that's utterly captivating. And then finally, near the halfway point, more notes and beats fill in the gaps, and, wow, what's this? A bassline? Indeed it is, with impressive effect.
This album has the kind of creativity and weirdness of a group like Autechre, and while it does have its own sonic palette, the more I listened to it, the more similar it sounded. Perhaps there's some particular magic generated when an electronic project has a duo of musicians, in this case Andreas Gerth and Florian Zimmer, working the machines rather than just one. I would guess constant access to another opinion could help cull the less interesting ideas with more rapidity and certainty than going it alone.
With that in mind, 'Dogov Godov' in particular sounds like something straight off Chiastic Slide, but at the same time it totally works on its own terms, with big beats, grizzled radio static, and puffy electro-melodies. And a lot of the album has a generally mid to late 90s IDM feel. While first track in partucular is a masterpiece of desolation, other songs go to odd places as well, such as 'Gaukelwerk', which sounds like the back room of a giant factory, with distant hummings and vibrations tending more towards Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2. And 'Lost Travelers', one of my favorites on the set, and aptly titled, has a strongly wandering, buzzy feeling, like drifting across the purple sands of an alien desert in a midnight gloom. More specifically, it reminds me of the weird music in old 1990s games like Myst and its various copycats. 'Ambler' is another song that goes on a journey, with a repetitive bit of melody bouncing around in the dark corners of the mind. It's reminiscent of the spacey neurowork of groups like Higher Intelligence Agency.
All of which is to say that I find this album a great delight. It has some nostalgic qualities, but it also strikes a very unique tone all its own. It works perfectly as an ambient album, being exactly what Brian Eno had in mind when he said his music was intended to "accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." This set is both those things, and cheers to Driftmachine for pulling it off.