Long ago, Kraftwerk's electromagnetic pulse sent a ripple through the desolate streets of Detroit, and ever since it's almost as though the Motor City became a German satellite state, no more apparent than in the work of afro-germaniacs Dopplereffekt, a notoriously media-shy collective who hide behind German pseudonyms and have clung to an unshakable vision as militant and uncompromising as anything from the U.R. or Drexcyia camps. I've been listening to them quite a bit recently on account of two releases this year.
The first is "Gesamtkunstwerk" (which I reckon translates as 'complete work of art'), a collection of some of their earliest, most hard-to-find mid-'90s material, care of Rotterdam's Clone Classics label. Typically propelled by magnetic mid-paced 808 electro beats and robotic basslines, riffs and bleeps, it was a brutally one-dimensional sound - almost a caricature of the stiff, artificial, sequencer-driven tones of the (pre-MIDI) analogue age. Occasionally they would employ deadpan, sexless vocals that only added to the odd feeling that they were taking the piss, rather than homaging. On "Scientist", the voice intoned "sitting in the laboratory, conducting experiments, analysing data...I am a scientist", coming across like a straight-faced parody of Kraftwerk at their cloyingly childlike best, ie "Pocket Calculator". But there was also an added pornographic streak that occasionally manifested itself, particularly on "Plastiphilia 2", where that cruelly emotionless voice stated "I want to make love to a manequin, I want to fuck it, I want to suck it...", twisting the theme of Kraftwerk's "Showroom Dummies" and taking it somewhere far less healthy. And don't tell me there weren't some mischievous implications in a track title like "Superior Race". Maybe Dopplereffekt were being absolutely sincere when they recorded these tracks , but to my English ears it's like Spitting Image sending-up Kraftwerk with an almost cartoon-like impersonation of 'Germanic' tendencies. But that doesn't mean I'm not into it - I need all the laughs I can get right now, plus I really do admire the retro-primitive austerity of the music, like an even more reduced version of early Model 500. And when they added a little more melodic colour and movement on tracks like "Infophysics", the results were spine-tinglingly sublime.
The other album is another animal entirely. "Calabi Yau Space" is a collection of new material released on Rephlex a few months ago. Gone are the vocals, so too nearly all the beats. Dopplereffekt in 2007 come across as more sophisticated technocrats, concerned with the subtleties of electronic texture and melody. But their sound is still steadfastly retro in it's outlook, sculpted from the sort of voluptuous analogue synth patches that trigger instant flashbacks to the golden age of transistorised electronic exploration. Yes, you can still hear Kraftwerk's disembodied influence floating through the synthetic miasma, via those luscious arpeggios and ghostly choral pads, particularly evident on tracks like "Non Vanishing Harmonic Spinor", but also perhaps shades of mid/late-'70s Tangerine Dream, Jarre, Moroder, etc, plus the strange modulations and dramatic flourishes of prime Radiophonic-style incidental electronica, or even Morton Subotnik's early analogue work "Silver Apples Of The Moon" shining through on tracks like"Holomorphic n-O Form". Sometimes the mood is one of warmth and elation, othertimes it's wallowing in reverie or spooked-out tension, but "Calabi Yau Space" is never less than compelling in it's 'back-to-analogue' revisionist stance. Certainly one of the most satisfying examples of the phenomenon I've heard since DMX Krew's "Collapse Of The Wavefunction" series.