Jonas Reinhardt Music for the Tactile Dome

[Not Not Fun; 2011]

Styles: soundtrack, kraut, kosmische
Others: Klaus Schulze, Neu!, Cluster, Dylan Ettinger, Umberto

Jonas Reinhardt is the cheeky moniker of stargazing Californian Jesse Reiner. What began as a solo ode to kosmische with 2008’s self-titled album exploded into life with last year’s Powers of Audition, a full-band opus that migrated comfortably between strains of Krautrock tradition. It was a record that refined Reiner’s previous heady synth explorations and sci-fi weirdness à la early Cluster, but ambitiously pushed on toward a more robust sound, incorporating Neu!’s trademark motorik bounce with an occasional sprinkling of sleek pop sensibilities and linear rock narrative. Both records owe much to a couple of inspirational wellsprings who both happen to named Klaus: Klaus Schulze and Klaus Dinger, respectively. If there is such power in names, no wonder Reiner adopted the Jonas Reinhardt pseudonym, whether for inspiration, good blessings from the cosmos, or just to confuse lackadaisical record shoppers as to the provenance of the record.

Despite dwelling in various aspects of Krautrock tradition, Powers of Audition was far from a stringent throwback, certainly not in the way that a group like Emeralds initially sought authenticity with releases like What Happened?. The muscularity and deftness of songs such as “Atomic Bomb Living” and “Power of Audition” manage to keep one foot in the past while being built to please more contemporary palates, everyone from Daniel Lopatin devotees to longtime Trans Am followers who are still spinning Surrender to the Night like it’s 1997. The Trans Am connection is no accident, though; having shaped Jonas Reinhardt into a proper band, Reiner recruited Trans Am guitar whiz Phil Manley, along with Diego Gonzalez of Citay on bass and Mi Ami’s Damon Palermo on drums. The result of putting together such like-minded players whose groups only share a degree or two of difference (especially considering Mi Ami’s recent Italo-turn on the excellent Dolphins, the jump from Schulze to Moroder isn’t a huge one, after all) was a successful jaunt into the consciousness of an increasing saturated “Kraut revival” scene.

According to a recent interview with Reiner, Jonas Reinhardt has big ambitions to do soundtrack work. With this intent in mind, Music for the Tactile Dome certainly shows off the band’s potential adeptness for creating complementary film music. Just as on the prior two albums, kosmische is Jonas Reinhardt’s most significant mode of operation. With its analog synth wanderings, kosmische has proven incredibly well-suited as the soundtrack to outer space, its movements and unfolding drama, whether that drama be a human creation like hard science fiction or simply observing the mysterious, awe-inspiring way the universe functions.

The album begins with a throbbing, pensive number, “The Tactile Dome,” with a foreshadowing synth lead and wet, surging arpeggios perfectly paced and fit for any imaginary opening credits scene. “To Lord Eminence” is about as cosmic a title as possible, conjuring images of a B-level villain from Silver Age Green Lantern comics. “Eos, the Dawn” is on par with recent pop kosmische, bringing to mind some moments from Emeralds’ “Does It Look Like I’m Here?”, not all gritted teeth synthesizer seriousness as it features a wacky Hammond solo worthy of a 70s AA ballpark organ player who is either particularly inspired or on acid. There’s an undeniable kitsch factor to many of these tracks that is refreshing and separates Jonas Reinhardt from more academically-minded peers.

For all its polish and studied maneuvers, Powers of Audition sometimes felt like somewhat of a Krautrock primer, always ping-ponging between a handful of recognizable influences. Music for the Tactile Dome continues to pay homage, but eschews some of the proggier rock histrionics of their previous LP. “Smokey Jotus” is the only track to feature motorik rhythm, leading with a speculative arpeggiator before dropping a hard-charging, mechanistic 4/4 beat, made all the more potent by Damon Palermo’s syncopations and intelligent hi-hat work. It’s a real jam, one certain to get the crowd worked up in a live setting, or to signify the spurring of action as a piece of background music.

In addition to lacking some of the rock heft of their previous album, Music for the Tactile Dome is a bit rougher around the edges, a quality that aids comparisons to the vintage 70s sci-fi films to which the music of Reinhardt would undoubtedly be a perfect match. This record also fits nicely in the recent run of Not Not Fun releases that essentially function as soundtrack music. Between Dylan Ettinger, Umberto, Xander Harris, and now Reinhardt, the label really has tapped a rich vein in the current musical climate when it comes to artists who are interested in creating imaginary film scores that are indebted to the synthesizer music of the 70s. With an upcoming record produced by space disco master Prins Thomas, the stars point to Jonas Reinhardt continuing to blaze a uniquely likable interstellar path.

Links: Jonas Reinhardt - Not Not Fun

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