Styles: industry automation, machinist techno
Others: Frak, Japanese Karaoke Afterlife Experiment, God Willing
When Kraftwerk released Man Machine in 1978, not only did the band postulate a new environment where repetitive beat patterns were pitched as sonic replications of commercial apparatus, but they also created a model through which machinery was adopted as an instrument for the techno movement they had set in motion. Recorded at their secretive Kling Klang studio in Düsseldorf, the album saw a definitive synthesis in production where the musician was tugged in a direction that allowed for recurrent piston mimicry to become complicit in expressive works that explored the boundaries of ambient recordings, experimental soundscapes, and popular excursions.
The equipment that was consequentially brought to the fore of the band’s adopted aesthetic began to change rapidly. The forged relationship between producer and hardware started to crack as intrinsic technology mutated while the fundamental aspirations of similarly inclined artists remained the same: to channel inventive ambition through determined technology. However, in the same way that Kraftwerk optimized machines as instruments to create their desired recordings, intangible products such as computer software established itself in taking the place of physical apparatus.
The natural progression of subverting that technology into artistic sentiment involved drastic adaptation in an era where high-speed digital information transfer encroached on the bodily operation of heavy machinery; software became an instrument of choice through replacing the physical object that gave rise to it. Due to a severance in the man/machine interconnection that was musically synthesized by Kraftwerk, a divergence ensued in wishing to see these fundamental components reconciled; interjections of software into the techno love-triangle not only allowed for producers to compile a sleek, stylish, and sumptuously-fronted adaptation, but also demented the artist’s association with their equipment, as machines became instruments instead of tools.
MNML SSGS picked up on this in a perceptive article on breakaway or “outsider” techno, which was recently fortified by Ren Schofield, a.k.a. Container. If the secession he is very much a part of does indeed constitute a movement, then its objectives are to realign the previous order between man and machine by cutting the software entity out of the equation and to reconnect with the iron pump of industry, which seems so set on disintegrating in commercial sectors. Through appeasing that relationship with fetishized output mediums such as cassette tapes and mono recordings, the hyper-sleek manifestations of the digital age have been amputated; the consequential style that follows is damaged and raw, a sawed-off version of techno that remains completely opposed to glossy production and mastering.
Schofield instigated his I Just Live Here record label as a means of distributing the works of like-minded individuals: music makers who wish to return to connections past. There is a seeming willingness to exploit consequential parallels, and the specific, charred sonic embodiments that come with it; January saw the release of a second volume from Fake Sound Routine, which meshed fourteen acts, including Container, alongside one another in a combined effort of merging noise and heavy industrial sound components with a snarled dance aesthetic. The compilation is a crushing albeit creative body of work hinged on a link that the artist has with physical gear; a human playing an instrument as opposed to an influx of fallible ideas explored through channeling creative vision within the broad, virtual confines of software.
Fake Sound Routine represents a desire to express that relationship across an encompassing array of musicians, although I Just Live Here has just put out its first pair of cassette tape recordings in over a year: a possible indication of sub-genre niche. But to take those two releases as an example, an interesting correlation between them is forged through the blurbs that accompany their artwork: “heavily damaged,” “warped idea,” “screeching violin,” and “budget drum machines” are used to describe a release from the Chicago duo CRIMINALS, while “lo-fi noise” and “harsh static blasts” are used to illustrate sounds incarnated on the latest from SECRET BOYFRIEND. Such accounts could also be used to describe both Container records, as well as the entirety of Fake Sounds Routine, which demonstrates a recognizable level of aggression that not only distances the artist’s affiliation with glossy means of production, but utterly macerates any connection the two approaches might share.
On his second LP, Schofield has decided not to stray far from the mark he made on his debut. The record is a crumbling embodiment of lo-fi techno that fully embraces an appreciation for noise music. Bass drum thumps collide with rhythmic snares, buzz-blasts, feedback, and distortion, all of which are present in hefty doses, but are simultaneously constricted within a specific framework. The harsher elements are not given full range to tumble into strictly unsound territory; instead, they are placed in the confines of a 4/4 beat or set alongside distinctive vocal loops that coldly reference human body parts. The lyrics appear to retain an abstract, humanistic layer of the music Kraftwerk exemplified on their blueprint: Anthropic characteristics are not eradicated entirely through the amalgamation of man and machine; they are integrated into the hardware through cooperation.
While Container adheres to the spirited build-ups that were brilliantly put together on last year’s offering, this second helping favors decomposition and all-out mash-up. This is beautifully culminated on “Refract,” which is a mangled purée of lo-fi backbeats and barbed pulses, crisscrossed with noise components, shrill vocal loops, and high-pitched glitches that leave little doubt concerning the project’s direction. The muffled mono beats and rigid distortion patterns yield a sonic embodiment of the sweaty basements that operate as hardcore rave dens for artists and audiences alike, where the bruised and staggered drum loops that ooze from tracks like “Paralyzed” exemplify a weapon as opposed to an instrument, which in this instance is made even more powerful by its incessant recoil: a bold and grizzled testimony that could not be further from the refined.
The only point at which the project stumbles is in its circumscription to haggard tackle and specific means of assembly, which in this case appears to be an evolutionary stride from Schofield’s noise moniker, God Willing. Container may well end up curtailing inventiveness through the limitations that are imposed on such desired aesthetics, and although these five tracks embody their own specific form, shape, and pattern, they work as appendages to the previous LP as opposed to a collection that builds upon new ideas, and if the debut album weren’t such a marvelous success then that might be a problem.