Electronic experiments from an unlikely pairing
If seeing those two names together comes as something of a shock, then bear in mind that Lloyd Cole, the British singer-songwriter famous for ‘Perfect Skin’ and probably some other songs too from his 80s mega-hit album ‘Rattlesnakes’, released an electronic album called ‘Plastic Wood’ in 2001. It’s a cogent piece of work, as it goes. So it turned out that twangy guitar popsters also liked Cluster and it wasn’t just the cool likes of Bowie who were allowed to claim an association.
Hans-Joachim Roedelius liked ‘Plastic Wood’ so much that he remixed it, without so much as a by-your-leave. Not that Cole was complaining. A collaboration was inevitable, then, though it’s taken more than 10 years to transpire. And here it finally is.
It’s all electronic (no singing, no acoustic guitar, no piano – oh, OK, a little piano) and for an album whose creators were never in the same room, it’s a remarkably focused series of sonic explorations. It is, in the best sense of the word, ambient. If there is ever a beat, it chugs along in the subsonic neck of the woods, created with samples of soft sounds. Percussiveness is left to the melodies, the gently chiming synths, or it grows out of shuddering noise, modulating regularly. The grooviest moment is ‘Fehmarn F/O’, which is worthy of any of the classic 70s Plank-produced German electronica and is as urgent as things get. It all ends with a lullaby you could imagine emerging from an Experimental Electronic Music Mobile designed by benevolent technicians for babies of the future, or possibly anaesthetised adults awaiting kindly euthenasia.
Lovers of Roedelius’s careful work won’t be disappointed with this. It’s as delicate and texturally satisfying across its 10 tracks as you’d hope, scraping the very surface of sounds to see what happens, while always being melodious and pleasing. Lloyd Cole fans, however, may struggle.