Dell and Flügel Superstructure

[Laboratory Instinct; 2006]

Styles: jazz and electronica, German techno
Others: The Books, Berg Sans Nipple, Autechre, Soylent Green, Roman IV

I usually look for some form of narrative in music. I relish well-crafted plotlines and character studies, like those in the folk songs of The Mountain Goats or Johnny Cash, but some of my most challenging and enjoyable music experiences occur while listening to music that forces me to make the story myself. Despite their frequent lack of words, I find that electronica and techno often clear a fecund cognitive space for the growth of such narratives. Superstructure, however, is an electronic release that fails to engender a narrative: while listening I'm not really taken anywhere; my mental monologue is an arid loop: "This is Dell and Flügel. This is a collaboration between an electronic musician and a Berklee student on the vibraphone. This is a record of two individuals making music." Instead of indicating something beyond their respective sounds, the members of this duo seem to be pointing at each other, emphasizing their musical differences.

Superstructure is jazz-inflected electronica: beats and melody are frequently subordinated to the exploration of theme and mood, and this collaboration itself is an idea I find particularly jazzy, but most of the tracks give you your umlaut's worth of glitch and glutted sub bass. Elusive vibraphone meanders on top, dripping through gaps between the beats like water through a sieve. Dell and Flügel brush by several minigenres of electro: a simple guitar line and field recordings playing around some bouncy programming on "Habitation" recall the toyboxtronica of The Books; "Miniaturisation" is a Venetian Snares song that was drugged and locked in a jazz practice room and tried to claw its way out; generous doses of Autechral beatshifts and metal-on-metal buzz upset quiet grooves throughout.

In spite of its panoply of styles, Superstructure strikes me as an academic experiment, a juxtaposition of disparate ideas enacted to see how they impact and enhance each other — like a squirrelly doctoral thesis on, I dunno, Heidegger and Howdy Doody. Such a conceptual alliance is interesting in theory, but following the execution of it can be exceedingly dry, even if it has enriching moments (viz. attending the defense of the aforementioned thesis). Music is not obligated to occupy itself with presenting or evoking narrative, but if it doesn't, its self-contained sound needs to be better built than Superstructure to keep me interested. Like the simple machines on the cover, some of these songs seem useful, others self-defeating or just extraneous.

1. Superstructure
2. Urban Practise
3. Miniaturisation
4. Wolkenbügel
5. 4 door body cell
6. Perspective, Moscow
7. Study for a Skyscraper
8. Habitation
9. Dirty Realism