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Electric Independence

Besides being one of the hippest DJs on the planet, Ivan Smagghe is the only Frenchman I've met who speaks perfect English with a pronounced Midlands accent.
December 1, 2003, 12:00am

Rhythm & Sound

The Mitgang Audio

Taking his name from a fish that can breathe out its ass, Cologne-based Schlammpeitziger's (a.k.a. Jo Zimmerman) latest Everything Without All Inclusive (Sonig) follows a well-tread path of playful DIY electronic pop. Reminiscent of Felix Kubin's lighthearted approach to experimental music, Zimmerman's electronics are quirky, simple, and fearfully catchy. Like Kubin, Zimmerman manages to create imaginary micro worlds inhabited by mysterious bleepy beings and swirling Casio creatures. A great little lo-fi gem from one of the most imaginative artists in the Cologne scene.

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One of the most disturbing albums I've heard in a while has got to be the latest release on Squirrelgirl records, The Romance Is Over, by the twisted duo of Norway's Lasse Marhaug and Canada's Zev Asher, a.k.a. The Sleazy Listeners. The looped and chopped swingin' lounge samples combined with unholy sound manipulations and the creepiest crooner you ever heard (Asher) give the album a bad-trip David Lynch quality. Sheens of noise are shattered and scrambled over the top, creating a layer of frantic urgency, while jazz-noir samples undulate in pitch, giving a very uneasy ebb and flow to the album that's sort of like watching your best friend eat out your ex. The fifth track, "Foot to Mouth," transcends madness into the sublime as the grand organ progressions and choirs are bit-granulated progressively into the stratosphere.

Some famous guy whose name I forgot was once quoted as saying rhythm is not so much about beats but the space between. Vienna-based trio Trapist (Martin Siewart, Martin Brandlmayr, and Joe Williamson) seem to exist in that weird world. An exercise in restraint, Trapist carve out beautiful, soothing musical moments using bare bones improvisations on drums, guitar, and electronics. Drones, feedback, and percussive swells dot the first 12-minute track, while the second track jitters and drives to a noise laden crescendo. These accomplished musicians have made one of the most delicate electro-organic albums I've heard in a while.

Okay, so everyone's shitting their pants over T.Raumschmiere's fist-pumping dirty techno punk, right? And why not, he's hands down one of the best balls out laptop shows you'll ever see. So what if his punk band has the gayest name ever (Crack Whore Society)? The guy's so out of control live that his band could be called Frou Frou and the Limpwrists and it wouldn't matter. But while music journos across the pond are busy trying to find more names to drop in hyphens (like AC/DC-meets-Gary Glitter-on-the-phone-with-Kraftwerk-who's-giving- Giorgio-Moroder-a-rim-job-in-the-back-of-a- Detroit-car-manufacturing-plant-in-1985) Berlin-based Shitkatapult label partner Apparat is busy dropping some of the weepiest robo-emo this side of that film Electric Dreams. His debut full-length Duplex is chockablock with incidental glitch percussions that have the controlled randomness of a seasoned jazz drummer combined with some of the most bittersweet synth-pop melodies of organs, processed guitars, and distorted trumpet.

You can't talk electro synth pop without mentioning Canada's Suction Records. Their latest release comes from Brooklyn dweller Ray Sweeten, a.k.a. The Mitgang Audio, and it's pretty fuckin' memorable. You want laid-back electro ballads sung in English and Italian? You got it. How about some pumping arpeggiated bassline club shit à la Gigolos? You got that, too. Oh, you say you want some Switched On Bach classical-style baroque-type shit? He's got some of that, too, and much more. Like DMX Krew, TMA can switch up his style with confidence. A varied yet accomplished album that's a must-buy for the electro freak in your life.

While minimal gurus like Kompakt's Michael Mayer have proclaimed the dub sound as all but dead, there are many out there who still believe that a heavy bassline and echoplexed vocals are the only path for musical emancipation. For those dub heads, Asphodel has just put out two discs by Rhythm & Sound (vocal and version editions) featuring the atmospheric and deep Basic Channel sound with guest vocals by Paul St. Hilaire (a.k.a. Tikiman), Cornel Campbell, Love Joy, Shalom, and a few others. Rinse it out!

RAF + VINCE