Alter Ego Transphormer

[Klang Elektronik; 2004]

Styles: ambient techno, experimental
Others: Kraftwerk, The Hacker, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Remember the Jetsons? Remember the space cars? You are in a space car right now. You're flying, speeding really, blazing past those deluxe apartments in the sky and the clouds and artificial blue space and whatnot. Whoosh. Alter Ego's front-loaded album, Trancephormer, starts things out with this ode to space travel, "Rocker," exactingly rendered in the 8-bit glory of NES systems gone by.

Alter Ego dabble in that eccentric sonic palate established in mid-'80s video games that still manages to sound equally modern and dated. And they use the sound here to varying effect; "Rocker"'s rush leads into a slow-burner, "Tubeaction," which sounds like that down-and-dirty grind track from your toaster's prom. "Beat the Bush," up next, fires modulated pulses of synth laser light to the beat of a tight military march. Draw your own partisan conclusions.

It all feels very pong-campy until "Daktari" enters the scene; all gossamer percussion and distortion-mangled synth, it's something that feels pulled out of nerdy IDM -- not to mention catchy as hell. Elsewhere, Alter Ego find themselves Kraftwerk disco dancing ("Vincent Von Dance"), stripping at the local silicon bar ("Nasty Dollar"), and kicking robot ass kung-fu style ("Sanatic Circus" and especially "Raw (Sie Liebt Dich)," which feel lifted out of the newest/oldest Street Fighter sequel/prequel).

Maybe this is what those Japanese programmers would have thought of if they had ProTools a few decades early and had lived through Aphex Twin and Peaches. At its worst, Transphormer's loop-heavy tracks can tax my feeble attention span (I'm talking about you, title track) and make me want to skip skip skip back to "Rocker," the disc's star player. At its best, though, it's an exhilarating take on electronic music, with nary a temporal or lyrical tie to weigh it down.

1. Rocker
2. Tubeaction
3. Beat The Bush
4. Dakarti
5. Vincent Van Dance
6. Gate 23 (Lost On Arrival)
7. Nasty Dollar
8. Satanic Circus
9. Raw (Sie Liebt Dich)
10. Transphormer