Proof that we all need a touch of Chilean kraut-psych in our lives
In a previous issue of Electronic Sound, Faust’s legendary keyboard man Jochen Irmler urged young musicians to follow his band’s credo and aim to compose a cinema of the imagination. He’d no doubt approve of this lot, who’ve surely crafted the perfect soundtrack for a fictitious epic drive along some ancient Atacama autobahn.
‘III’ is the follow-up to Föllakzoid’s 2013 breakthrough album ‘II’, which opened up many a third eye to the Chilean kraut-psych group’s intense take on infinite, groove-laden sonic exploration. It’s hewn from similarly dense cosmic matter to its predecessor, though this time the focus – heavy on monochord and steadily built reiteration – is more clearly defined and consistent.
There are just four tracks in total, each with an average length of just over 11 minutes. Devotees will dig this and the newly acquainted shouldn’t take much persuading, particularly if they’re conversant in the language of the kosmische pioneers of yore. Think Neu!’s ‘Hallogallo’ or La Dusseldorf’s ‘Silver Cloud’ melded with the new psych of White Fence or Wooden Shjips and you’ll get the idea.
The lead track, ‘Electric’, opens with the weightiest of synth thrums, conjuring underground rumblings of tectonic proportions. A juddering melody immediately hooks you in, before the propulsive bass guitar of Juan Pablo Rodrigues pairs with Diego Lorca’s motorik percussion to form an uptempo locomotive groove that’s hard to resist – and which pretty much sets the tone throughout.
There are many welcome and well-judged switches of pace and texture to enjoy, though, particularly on the outstanding ‘Earth’. It’s led by Domingo Garcia-Huidobro’s guitar, which chugs along nicely in the background until its sudden crescendos break out beautifully from the disciplined momentum. Elsewhere, particularly on ‘Piure’, his playing transforms the initial Teutonic emphasis into something else entirely, hinting at the inward-looking explorations of The Doors or Explosions In The Sky. On ‘Feuerzeug’, his delicate, sparingly reverbed noodlings even bring to mind Vini Reilly from The Durutti Column.
And then there are the keyboards. In what could be one of the album’s masterstrokes, the band have partnered with German electronic master Atom TM to flesh out Alfredo Thiermann’s synth parts and provide added texture. Used with great subtlety and bringing depth and complexity at key moments, the synths are what sets ‘III’ apart from its forebear, embellishing with understated washes of elan without ever dominating. Lyrical content is minimal on this album, by the way. Only the merest of blank, mumbled incantations from Juan Pablo Rodrigues here and there. But they work.
Importantly, however indebted to its obvious references it might be, Föllakzoid’s sound is rooted in something more. Hypno-narcotic and heavy on the one hand, there are also refracted echoes of meditative Andean ritual, all of which makes it feel not only substantial, but startlingly new too.