Reviews: Africans With Mainframes – Commission Number 3 (Bio Rhythm)

Between a flurry of represses and some new records, there is a definite sense that the famously prolific but recently quiet Jamal Moss is beginning to get up to speed for 2015. It’s almost impossible to say which moment has been a highlight so far: His recent release on Tabernacle, perhaps, or maybe the stone cold jackers of his Faces Of Drums work with Steve Poindexter. It’s a very difficult call to make especially considering that his plethora of alternate guises each reveal a different element of his musical make up, despite all drawing from the same source.

The Africans With Mainframes project has been pretty much on the back burner with only a couple of releases marking out progress over the last five or so years. 2014’s Nubian Rainbows was a fun outing of EBM-y textures and acid that managed the rare trick of sounding like straight up club bangers whilst remaining very, very twisted. This was always a hallmark of the Africans With Mainframes sound, though, and you have to wonder whether this is a result of the patience and skill of Moss’ partner in crime, Noleian Reusse, in bringing a balance to Moss’ natural tendency to push towards full-bore sonic freak outs.

Commission Number 3 burns into life in a similar fashion, and is closer to those machine jack outs Moss created with Poindexter than the thundering cosmic acid experimentalism of his work as Hieroglyphic Being. In fact, Commissions…imparts a feel of classic, jacking underground Chicago house being re-imagined for right now and for the future. The three tracks are beat heavy, slaves to simple and deadly bass lines and washed over with grimy synths that pull a sense of wonder out of the sky and smack it right down into the street.

It’s a pretty punk EP, but it isn’t one that encased by the limits of simple machine funk. For all the simplicity of its various elements, its held together with a deep sophistication. There are many records around that see themselves as stripped down analogue jams, but most are content with just slapping around a few beats and seeing where they go. Commissions.. is a record that builds upon its stark nature and simple melodic content to produce some truly killer grooves.

The A side contains two tracks that feel like peas in a pod. Shuffling and loose, they grow slowly from the rhythms, coaxing out the funk as they progress. This is especially true on RB2 which soon cuts it’s ties with the earth on the back of shimmering EBM synths and occasional sunbeam pads. Its occasionally sketch-like qualities don’t detract; in actual fact they endear the tune further, even strengthening it.

RB3 rework those qualities, but adds a burst of old school funk to the tune. It is fiercer if not noticeably harder; clattered percussions, squeals of feedback and a squashed up and brutally efficient riff slap the tune around, even as little motifs rise from nowhere and the beats grow more pronounced with each passing moment.

Africans With Mainframes have always been a very different creature from almost anything else to come out of Chicago, and Commissions Number 3 further enhances a reputation for surly individualism. Its roots may well be house, but this is true street funk for the 21st century. A jacking and bullshit free exploration of wild machine life.

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