Ellen Allien Thrills

[Bpitch Control; 2005]

Styles:  electronica
Others: DJ Hell, Holger Zilske, Lali Puna, Bpitch Control

I can't decide whether to dance or ponder while I listen to this album. These tracks aren't condensed into comely, comestible pop like those on Berlinette, but they aren't stretched to sustain dance floor endurance, either. Thrills charges up in stages, with Bpitch Control's empress carefully adding to each song elements that slither and snap against each other, like the slick bodies of electric eels in a moonlit pool. She presents and then rearranges each beat and melody until the songs' components seem to be commenting on or dancing with each other rather than dictating the action of a separate dance floor.

The approach is powerful. On the album's opener, "Come," malevolent guitars reverberate and incinerate like the ultraviolet rays of an evil sun. "The Brain is Lost" sounds like a brooding dance party that breaks out in an abandoned office building (in the midst of a bombing). She tells us that the "world is mine/ future is dust," while flattened, glottal bass lines weld arrhythmic sirens to live wires that spark and crackle. "Your Body Is My Body" and "Naked Rain" traffic in decelerated Xiu Xiu synth assaults (oh!) and stilted Kraftwerk melodies. She eviscerates her sexy Frankensteins as soon as they're up and walking, letting their hydraulics and metal bones clank against each other before stuffing them back up with sawed-off orts and scraps. "Washing Machine Is Speaking" is al(l)ien warship fanfare that brings back the sirens of "The Brain is Lost." This time they flash underneath brassy, layered blasts of bass, laser salvos, and steel drums. She builds tantalizing pyrite climaxes, moments of suspense answered with a barrage of themes born two minutes earlier. Then it all breaks apart and dissipates into silence and the pensive, pumping intro of the next track. Sometimes I can't remember where the hell I started five minutes before.

Unfortunately, the dynamism of these tracks lapses in the album's back half. "Down," "Ghost Train," and "Cloudy City" sound underdeveloped next to their shuddering, cyclonic neighbors. More straightforward drumming and stagnating synth lines hinder the crushing momentum she amasses in the early going. These songs may be palate-cleansers clearing the way for "She Is With Me" and "Magma," but I prefer the ruthless, stylized obliteration of the rest of the record.

Berlinette seemed more pointed, pulled with precision and grace into the pop idiom. When you think you've got this one nailed down to a black and white electro-aesthetic, the splayed strands of its hair start pollocking acidic paint all over the place. Ellen Allien wants you to dance, but she evokes and demands some (outer) space for her own thrashing.

1. Come
2. The Brain Is Lost
3. Your Body Is My Body
4. Naked Rain
5. Washing Machine Is Speaking
6. Down
7. Ghost Train
8. Cloudy City
9. She Is With Me
10. Magma

Most Read