Thomas Brinkmann Klick Revolution

[MaxErnst; 2006]

Others: William Basinski, Pole, Richie Hawtin, Autechre

The album cover: black on black, with some barely perceptible shadings. Listening: trying to find a needle in a haystack an exposed wire in a pile of snakes. At night. A seemingly endless loop of tiny Velcro tears that could be a sterilized recording of spinning helicopter blades, but with each impact clipped, so that the sounds have no chance to decay. Everything is trim, granular, and dark. Black gaps between nerves, a dark workshop littered with chrome peelings, an innocuous death.

Like the best minimal practitioners, Brinkmann chisels out a percussive loop and refuses to let go of it, in this case for what seems like the entirety of the record (approx 40 minutes). It’s marvelous though, when the repetition has so thoroughly established itself that you no longer notice the surface of the sounds, and can pick out, bar by bar, the variations he introduces, whether they be filters, backbeats, or melodic accents. We carry the weight of all the atmospheres on our shoulders, but it’s only when we take on new burdens that we appreciate the presence of gravity. It wasn’t until the third time I listened to Klick Revolution that the first traces of its covert beauty became manifest. I was outside, in the dark, by a river.

Klick Revolution is Brinkmann’s tribute to the pinball machine, but the analogy between the music and the arcade game is hardly straightforward. When I think of pinball, I imagine neon, cartoon gangsters, jackpot clangs and rings, dirty coins, flashing lights. This record offers no aural mimesis of any of these. The track titles indicate that TB abstracts aspects of the game (luck, sliding, inclined planes) and uses them as points of departure for musical reflection. Perhaps the central conceit is obsession: you get the sense that Brinkmann spent weeks locked in a dark room, blinding himself1 in front of a laptop screen2 so that at just the right moment, the components of the insidious, cyclical beat would change from scratchy tears to rubberized rips3 @@@@@@@@. He doesn’t sculpt or carve. He incises/inscribes. Over and over and over again. It’s the musical equivalent of transcribing texts with a hair and drops of blood on a grain of rice.

Obsession: pinball is a game based on an incredibly simple principle, and advanced players seem entranced as they repeat, over and over again, the rote motions that send the ball through the various chutes and slopes of the console. Brinkmann’s approach to electronica is similarly transfixing, although will likely strike those not in the throes of a genre crush as rather cold. I just find something incredibly ballsy (pun intended) about this approach to music: selecting one idea, then penetrating, surrounding, inhabiting it until it breaks or bores or bewitches the listener. For me, Klick Revolution did all three.

1 His name is Tommy after all.

2 All the more impressive that this record is actually built from Brinkmann’s live sets.

3 I feel like there is a noise album that he had to have made at the same time to release all the tension he built up turning knobs by the micrometer so just enough space would separate the insular piano and broken, sedimentary static. (There are also a few spoken vocal samples here and there, and, it must be noted, the most lonesome hi-hats in the world. Somehow, they sound so important when they clap together, once, and scatter all the little static ants crawling over the skin of your eardrums.)

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