The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble (Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer and Paul Frick)
as their names suggest hail from Germany and on their album 'Mr Machine' they
deliver eight compositions of a fascinating brand of intellectually alert dance
music. Rhythm is the thing and there's a lot of sharp and deeply satisfying
stuff going on in their music. Their use of acoustic and electronic elements
creates a rich dynamic quite unlike anything else I've heard in the genre for
quite a while. The word "ensemble" is entirely apposite. Their compositions
would sound as at home at The Wigmore Hall as they might in the darker corners
of a Bohemian Berlin nightclub. It's clever stuff but easy to absorb and enjoy.
Things kick off with a slow plodding piece, title track 'Mr Machine', which,
although lasting little more than a minute, is a perfectly formed slice of
angular uncertainty, paving the way for the treats to follow. A dark little ritual.
Next up is 'Bop', which, in an irresistibly twitchy kind of way, suggests a
rumba competition in a termite nest. The juxtaposition of fidgety piano and
percussion is delightful and sets fingers and toes tapping ten to the dozen.
'You Make Me Real' is a more abstract affair whose eerie introduction would
not have sounded out of place if it ha sprung fully-formed from the Second
Viennese School. The lovechild of Arnold Schoenberg and The Mahavishnu String
Orchestra on a night out on the town in Buenos Aires; all brooding bass, spooky
string glissandi and moody brass accents! 'Mi Corazon' employs an irregular
Latin rhythmic motif as a backdrop for yet more instrumental shenanigans; the
dynamic ebb and flow thrusting us along, hands-on-hips-in-front, in a kind of
disjointed conga (but not the sort, however, with which your Auntie Irene might
be familiar!) 'On Powdered Ground (Mixed Lines)' is a real curiosity; imagine
The Andrews Sisters on a route march and you might be getting somewhere close!
Final track '606 'n' Rock 'n' Roll' is a marvellous piece of sonic deconstruction;
the bare bones of 'Blue Suede Shoes' rattling away on Steve Reich's front porch!
'Mr Machine' is a fiercely single-minded journey into unorthodox musical territory.