Driftmachine :: Eis Heauton EP (Umor Rex)

75% composed from self-generating patches developed as a kind of machine monologue.

Driftmachine :: Eis Heauton

Don’t get me wrong: I like difficult music. A lot. Always have. As a kid I sought it out, driving friends and family nuts while I listened to it. In fact if it did then I liked it all the more. Varese, No Pussiyfooting-era Eno, pre-dancefloor Cabaret Voltaire were my bread and butter. I grew up in the age of cassettes and the tail end of modular synths, the first Age of Heavy Machines making modern music.

Nowadays modular synths are still controlled by humans or by humans using computers writing scripts to play massive Rube Golberg-ian synth setups bursting with wires, lights and—eventually—sound. This is so-called “generative music” unguided by human intervention beyond pressing play or running the program (one has to wonder how much generative music can be called such as it has human programming and setup at its very inception, much like the windup Automata of 17th, 18th & 19th centuries set to perform a certain function for a time by human masters.)

Which is exactly what Driftmachine has set out to achieve on their latest cassette release on Umor Rex, Eis Heauton, (a Greek term for being in “a conversation with oneself”) which is 75% composed from self-generating patches developed as a kind of machine monologue. And the results vary.

“Rungler Statik” is by far the most coherent piece on this release, almost sepulchral as a lifestyle choice. Heavy tones abound with piano strings hit at wrong angles while a gentle foreboding in deep tunnels grows in the listener a concern for electrical accidents only seconds away. It’s the sound of Kaiju and Jaegers from Pacific Rim stumbling around after a bar brawl in Berghain’s toilet and by far the most conventional track on a very unconventional release. “Das Trunkene Schiff” is a bit more organic, cosmic sounding with the sounds forming some space around the space. The piece is unmoored from beats like ships bobbing in a harbor after a tsunami. The overall tone is somewhat pleasant, like looking out on a hazy marsh at dawn, as if watching some great lungfish struggling to free itself from mud. The sound is murky yet not ponderously heavy. “Sunlit Reverie” opens with muted oboe-like notes, conjuring images of sunlight piercing clouds. It’s perhaps the second most coherent of the release. Dissonant melodies and threnodies are at play here, weaving around vaporous bass-line. It’s engaging like a moody soundtrack to a slow-paced film. “Eis Heauton,” the eponymous track on the cassette, is another respite from beats and rhythms. It’s also perhaps the least cohesive, most like electronic gnats bumbling around in the dark. It’s rambling, meandering, gloppy square wave dithering pace will have you realizing that you will need to go get your beats elsewhere.

While I’m glad Eis Heauton is not all Berlin-style, dubby, minimal techno, some variety might be nice. While it has concept and development, it lacks all the dubby, compelling aspects of Driftmachine’s previous release (Nocturnes, Umer Rex 2014). I’m not sure Eis Heauton really goes far enough in rewarding one for their diligence (not just for hunting down a cassette player in this post portable CD Walkman age) in listening until the very end.

Eis Heauton is available on Umor Rex.

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