Let’s clear something up: the music that is labeled “electro” these days isn’t really electro, at least not in the lineage of the proto-techno created by Kraftwerk, Cybotron, and Afrika Bambaataa. This isn’t to suggest that the current crop of overcompressed and overdriven house doesn’t have its merits (its damn fun and usually funky), but that the subtly and science fiction rigidity of the original electro has been largely tossed aside.
Enter Anthony Rother, a modern electro purist if there is one. His latest release, My Name Is Beuys Von Telekraft, finds him assuming the titular alter-ego, a futuristic scientist prone to either madness or genius; the lyrics don’t really explain this much further. Narrated in both English and German (perhaps a nod to Kraftwerk, who recorded their albums in both languages), “My Name Is Telekraft” explains the origins of the titular character over a minimalist backdrop of pouncing 4/4 bass drum and claps, and arpeggiated synthesizer. This tried-and-true electro formula—so stiff it’s funky, to paraphrase Carl Craig’s observations of Kraftwerk—works to make interesting phrases and beats, but it can’t always sustain the long track lengths on Telekraft. “Digital Vision” starts out with promise, but its peaks and valleys are too subtle to easily distinguish, and do little to justify its nearly eight-minute run time. Rother’s tight beats and bass synth rhythms can trap him too early on in a track, though he saves himself by breaking free of these molds, such as on the excellently intricate “City of Legends”.
Things get much more interesting on the bonus disc, a flipside journey through the darker realms of classic electro called Geomatrix, laid out in 10 parts. These drum-free pieces of synth ambience are descended from Vangelis’ brilliantly eerie Blade Runner soundtrack, and Geomatrix plays out as an intriguing aural glimpse at the dark, technology-ridden alleys of the elusive future. Listening to “Geomatrix Part 5”, it’s easy to picture Telekraft chasing a rogue replicant down a rain-soaked, flashing light-drenched city street. Meanwhile, Parts 1 and 2 instill a sense of majesty, employing dizzying chime progressions that are vaguely reminiscent of the “something is off” feeling of the soundtrack to City of Lost Children. From concept to execution, Telekraft would make a lovely soundtrack, but at times, the story could use a tweak.