Though they immediately seem incongruent figureheads that are generationally disparate, Alva Noto’s Carsten Nicolai and Einsturzende Neubaten’s Blixa Bargeld are actually ideal collaborators. While Nicolai tends to mediate through computer screens and Bargeld is associated more with the tactile and the physical, they’re both experts at turning the kling klang of modernity, whether that be the collapsing of new buildings or short-circuiting networked hardware, into an audible aesthetic. Yet, the sheer size difference between the urban space and the digital byte is something that Nicolai and Bargeld fail to reconcile on Mimikry.
Their second release after the EP Ret Marut Handshake (four of five tracks of which appear here), Mimikry finds the duo rarely grating off into pure noise (there’s about three seconds at the end of “Wurst”), but instead lingers in ambient dread. Over this whirring and droning mess, Bargeld is as creepy as ever, perhaps because his grandfatherly voice now sounds like his next gig will be in the studio next door recording nursery rhymes. At times this can be great, and when he lets loose in a Gollum-like squeal on “Once Again”, we’re reminded of why Bargeld has aged quite gracefully since his formative work in the early 1980s. However, his bass voice against the thin glitches of Nicolai can often affix awkwardly, particularly since much of the record focuses on irregular time signatures and beat shapes. That’s why the best cuts tend to be those like the art-film soundtrack “Fall”, the ten minute opener which stretches a scream into eternity before making unexpected turns into spooky narrative and an odd exorcism of Dead Can Dance, and “Bernsteinzimmer (long version)”, a Miasmah Records-style glacial drone with a heartbeat and a tortured Bargeld slowly emerging from it.