In a few recent discussion I’ve had the subject of electro seems to have come up more often than it used to. For whatever reason, electro remains a bit of an outsider in relation to the gang of cool and popular genres. My big hope for 2015 was that we would finally get something of a revival, especially on the back of last year’s small avalanche of Drexciyan (and related spin-off) represses. So far it hasn’t really materialised.
It’s not that there isn’t a lot of good electro out there just now – there certainly is – but it just doesn’t get the love it deserves. I won’t go into why this is. I have my theories and I’m sure you do too. One thing is noticeable, though, and that’s the way the good and current electro seems to be keeping to the shadows. It’s a bit weird the way a genre that had such an utterly profound influence on the evolution of electronic music seems to have gone so deeply underground (we’ll not talk about ‘electro-house’, which is neither), but I suppose it safe-guards it from becoming a victim of its own success.
‘Axiomatic Systems’ by German outfit Kurt Y. Gödel is a generally interesting take on the sound, and one that combines elements of 70’s and 80’s synth based experimentalism, Kraftwerk-esque chords and refined acid with the traditional electro rattle. There are other touches here and there – strains of that Drexciyan feel linger in the more nuanced moments, Gestloten Cirkel’s grunt apparent in some of the less icy phrases, and a strong sense of an attempt at something more expansive than simple dancefloor fare pervades it all.
It’s not perfect. Several of the 10 tracks are allowed to slacken into a place where the light catches the influences a little too brightly; tracks like Chord Memory, or Oblivious Traveller straddle a fine line between very retro and a little too old fashioned. Others, like Cascades, mix pummeling breaks with slender synth-work and squirted acid lines that don’t go together quite as well as they maybe could; the breaks too distracting, the 303s too messy to gel with the quite beautiful and stark melodies that haunt the upper registers.
The album works far better in those moments where restraint is shown favour over indulgence. 57 Square Acid takes the drama of acid and ties it into a subtle frame of techno and gently weaving synths that lend the piece a melancholy, autumnal feel. Distortion To Nowhere and Tape Rider gleefully poison the bass with grit, easing off on the hazy beauty and allowing the tunes to snarl. Both are a pair of belters; Distortion To Nowhere refusing to let man and machine tell it how to do its stalking, repressive and biting thing. Tape Rider simply explodes with the vicious yet dispassionate potency of early Aux 88.
But for me, the highlight is Sunlight Faders, a track that takes a few long moments to find its place before the golden blaze of the playful and almost poppy riff flares into life. The 303’s are pitched just right – like strange pets that nip at the tune’s heels as it shimmeys along. A dusky tune, pregnant with all the possibility that sundown in the city affords, it’s a little piece of late night Motor City moodiness by way of Germany.