I have new vinyl. It’s old but completely intact. It sounds fantastic. It’s an album that has been with me in some form for a long time. Now I can finally play Computer World. And I do.

Why are these futuristic Germans still so fascinating, even though their vision of a digital, fundamentally technological world is now being surpassed by reality? Why, when our minds are slowly but surely actually becoming part of the machine, do we still find pleasure in such a naive, even optimistic interpretation of possible futures?

First, of course, we have to consider Kraftwerk, the group, as a work of art. Art can present us with perceptions of things to come. Art can clear the way for new ideas, shatter taboos and prepare the mind for changes. It can confront us with our incapacity to cope with reality and help us to become more able, more complete.

Kraftwerk, to my mind, paints an ideal picture of the marriage between man and machine. Autobahn, Radioaktivität, Die Mensch-Maschine, Trans-Europe Express: humans created technology, and in the world of Kraftwerk, humans live in complete harmony with what they created. Clean, safe and fast. No borders, no misunderstandings. Kraftwerk is the celebration of a technologically enhanced human existence, highly advanced, perfect and whole. No critique, just a clear picture of the collaboration between consciousness and technology.

But is this the kind of art that seeks to prepare us for a new truth? Yes, but not by way of mere acceptance. There is something else going on.

We know now that this marriage, this Mensch-Maschine, will never be flawless, and that many problems arise with each ‘improvement’. In a sense, I believe, there is a warning in the art of Kraftwerk, although this warning will never be manifest. It will always be hidden under the layers of aestheticially organized smoke screens the group has produced. A critique that will never acknowledge itself as critical.

‘Wir sind die Roboter’ – not yet! Not if we can help it.

 

After a first couple of listens to the new Rwake album, it is clear to me that these people indeed know what they’re doing. I rediscovered their previous effort Voices of Omens recently, and I kept coming back to it. An opus of such brutal clarity, moving and deep. Doom, sludge, whatever you want to call it – it doesn’t matter. It’s music that comes from an abyss, or from some remote desert. Either way, the force of it all makes it feel very close. Traditional, recognizable in one sense, yet distant and strange in another. Rwake know how to strike a balance between the near and the far away.

Rest, I am relieved to ascertain, follows much the same path Voices of Omens did. Again we get drawn-out compositions that develop certain ideas without milking them. The well doesn’t run dry, even after more than eleven minutes, as with It was Beautiful, but now it’s Sour, the second track, which follows a short acoustic intro. It drags you into a world of doom and fury, with recurrent themes that make it almost like a narrative. Beautiful.

The full album is streaming at their bandcamp page, listen to the rest over there. Indulge:

http://rwake.bandcamp.com/

Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto is a piece of music that might easily be experienced as sentimental. Composed at the break of the 20th century, the sweeping Disneysounds seem out of place. Fin de siècle sensitivities appear absent – no apocalyptic visions, no dissonant narrative. A continuation of the Russian romantic state of mind. To a trained ear his flight from the Bolshevist Revolution to the USA is prefigured in this concerto. The Cold War was never fought. Maybe because American music came from a Russian mind.

All it takes is one party. One party can be enough to make you lose faith in a whole genre. Just like drum ‘n bass, dubstep rises to prominence quite quickly, persuading white pubescent alternative youths everywhere to embrace it. Surely, it might be a sign of the times that dubstep milked its potential even faster than drum ‘n bass did. Still, it might be inherent in the style and in the way people react to it.
I remember my first dubstep party. Don’t know which year it was, but I do know that the feeling I got resembled the feeling of my first drum ‘n bass parties. Fresh and unexpected, wobbly bodily movements, let your hands speak. Yes, it was nice.
But then parties start to get infested with the people you try to avoid when you’re out dancing. The enthousiasm is endearing, of course. One might be reminded of past joys, watching them dance, but cynicism won that night. Yes, it’s nice to see how a crowd picks up new sounds. But I’m too old for this shit. I don’t like it anymore.
I stood there trying to move to the sounds, but I was distracted by the useless energy displayed on the dancefloor. They took their shirts off and pretended to be gangsters in some stupid ghetto. And I tried to dance. And they kept sweating and grinning. It was awful.
It made me feel bad. About music and about myself.
I’d still dance to nice dubstep. But I feel something was broken that night in Dordrecht. It cannot be repaired. It’s over people, see how we do in Holland, in this case Delft:

Unknown to me, but served as the soundtrack to a very good night. And besides, I don’t even feel like finding out more about someone named Falko Brocksieper. ,,I think it’s a joke, sir… like, uh, ‘Sillius Soddus’ or… ‘Biggus Dickus’, sir.” Or maybe it’s his real name. In that case, he should have come up with an alias.

I’ve listened to some of his other tracks on youtube, but they sounded incredibly boring. Minimal, you know (maybe he’s too minimal to change his name). Of course he moved to Berlin. If there was a repeat function on youtube I would use it. But clicking the play button doesn’t require that much effort.

Within the Vacuum of Infinity

Distant, cosmic black metal from the depths of the American consciousness. Arizmenda are a Californian band and part of the Black Twilight Circle, America’s answer to Les Légions Noires. Or to Norway’s Black Circle, which got quite some attention from the press without actually ever existing.

I wonder if these guys feel any relation whatsoever with the country they’re from. Let’s hope not. The plague of romanticized nationalism that has been eating at the foundations of metal for some time is disheartening to say the least. But I somehow trust that these people have no interest in politics.

Shimmering and urgent atonal bliss a grand vitesse is what you get. And eventually you will have to bow to omnipotent atmosphere and craftsmanship.

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