Thursday, September 5, 2013

Compilerbau Starts Talking Machines

Its seldom you find such a diverse mix of sounds and themes that are contained in the debut album from Compilerbau. This is a hugely ambitious album covers the gamut of 80s synthscapes and packages them in a twelve act epic. There are a hell of a lot more hits than misses in this release and the Compilerbau vision of the 80s is absolutely rockin in all the right ways.

I wouldn't say this is a concept record, well not to my knowledge or interpretation, but there are running themes that tie much of the music together. A cold vision of the future run by even colder machines and a sense of loss for humanity. Some tracks serve as dramatically constructed cautionary tales but there are also some non-thematic tracks thrown into milieu to add contrast and colour.

It doesn't take much convincing of how kick arse this album is going to be once the opening title track begins. Through the robochopped samples the vocal begins and the nightmarish story of machines taking control over humanity takes off. The music is massively dramatic with superbly implemented machine gun drum fills and synth leads going to war with much gusto. The vocal track really deserves a special mention as the lyrics and delivery is spectacularly authentic, I can see the vocalist performing this amid lasers and fog machines, emphasising the drama of the words with clenched fist and a macho swagger. The aesthetic is truly complete and during the final parts of this track when the piano layer provides even more drama it becomes patently obvious this record is rockin in radness.

The album is populated by numerous instrumental tracks that are accented by vocal samples for some extra colour and action. The first of these is track two, 'The Android'. Using some great samples of Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation the music is allowed to pulse with ominousness and create an undulating presence. At only just over two minutes this serves as more of interlude between set pieces, but this instrumental works particularly well. In fact this track sets up the next piece for even more impact as 'Evil Flying' proves to raise the bar much higher.

'Evil Flying' contains a huge introductory passage that then leads into an absolutely stunning lead melody, reminiscent of the more epic Tommy leads. The mood is kept dark and morose through with helicopter samples and raw drum fills which keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace and further seguing to the next song 'Didn't You Know'. This is technically the second song on the record and the vocals are once again delivered with much golden 80s authenticity. There is something about a thick european accent on 80s synth music that just fits so perfectly. Interestingly the music in this track lends itself to a bit more of a 70s prog synth vibe, but the combination of elements combine into something that definitely rocks hard.

There is little reprieve from the drama and darkness as the track four begins. 'From Beyond' is definitely one of the true highlights in the instrumentals  on this record as the introductory stage setting build leads into a fantastic middle sequence. The music is kept minimalist to ensure the samples carry weight but it's the overall delivery of the arrangements that are the most engaging. As this track fades out it sets the scene for 'Between'. This is another instrumental that is held together by a beautifully accented bassline but the entire piece takes on an incredible metamorphosis towards the back half that must be experienced first hand to fully appreciate. This track really kills it and although feeling a tad out of place in the overall theme, it is one of the single most kick arse experiences on the album

If this were a cassette or vinyl release 'Between' would be the ultimate track to end side one on before moving onto side two. I'm not sure if that was the intention from the producer, but it definitely feels that way when listening. This would find side two beginning with the powerhouse synth rocker 'Dark Forces' and the drama is once again tuned to dangerously high levels. In one of the more ambitious moves on the album this track includes a very gothic styled vocal track. The music also lends itself to much more horrific scenery and overwrought delivery of the vocals accentuates this even further. Its  definitely not of the same thematic as the other future apocalyptic pieces, but being cut from the same darker cloth it doesn't jar the atmosphere.

Moving into the eighth act of the record shades of glitch modernism creep into the hellishly dark storm of evil samples which are complemented by one of the raddest lead melodies on the album. This montage-worthy lead synth is monstrously huge and the way it's orchestrated throughout 'Gone Bad' is one of the album's real highlights. An amazing experience from beginning to end.

In the face of this epic, the next track 'Power Train' loses just a little of ferocity and feels like a bit of a misstep. It's not that the track is inherently flawed, it's more that that piece meanders without much consequence and may have proven to work more effectively in another chapter of the album. Its definitely full of the same passions of the other instrumental pieces, but this one just didn't gel with me as much as the others.

One of the reasons 'Power Train feels a little lost is possibly due to the follow up song which is a huge departure from the darker soundtrack synth tracks on the album. 'Police City' is a remarkable experiment in synth pop thats seasoned with liberal doses of reggae, in both the vocal style and music. Compilerbau pull this off with complete aplomb and manage to make something very special from the ingredients chosen. The songwriting is definitely some of the strongest in 'Police City' making it one of the album's brightest points.

In a surprising move the second last song is a very entertaining and comical homage to Switzerland entitled 'Swiss Made'. The lyrics in this song are an absolute riot and displays that Compilerbau has a very healthy sense of humour. Well, I hope this was intentional and I'm not misinterpreting things, but including  a line about 'Ferrero Rocher' in the lyrics is a bit of a give away. Either way, this song rocks even though it seems lose it's way a bit towards the end it certainly adds a welcome amount of levity to this otherwise predominantly dark record.

The final act of Talking Machines is the instrumental soundtrack oriented epic 'Masterforce'. Taking some cues from the Terminator 2 theme and then evolving the idea into a more progressive synth adventure the music keeps tensions high and senses keenly peeled. Via a hugely rewarding build 'Masterforce' takes a step into much brighter tones for it's middle chapters. An italo tinged melody and vibrant synth accents form a positively uplifting midsection before the horrors of the past and future meet in a demoralising finish that goes back to the depths of Compilerbau's darkest ideas. Its a magnificent piece, possibly the strongest instrumental on the album as the structure is so perfectly orchestrated and executed.

This completes the Talking Machines experience and it certainly is one wild ride through many great ideas and synthscapades. The ambition shown and mostly delivered on this album is massively impressive with a diversity that keeps the listener engaged and piquing one's interest through each of the tracks contained. There are most certainly some pieces that feel vastly distanced from others, but I'm not going to be too critical in this regard as for a debut record especially I feel that the majority of music works exceptionally well.

Compilerbau presents Talking Machines on Bandcamp here. Although not specifically noted, Rudolf Koller is Compilerbau and the vocals of Michael Reithmeier appear on the record as well as Koller's, although I'm unsure as to how this breaks down in the tracks. Either way I hope these two artists continue to work together in the future as the vocals and music are completely complementary. This album is very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM and I for one give full support to the Compilerbau experience and hope you do too.

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