[16 October 2008]
Reissues often have a tendency to compound their source material with a number of supplemental appendixes and appendages such as fancy packaging, bonus tracks of rare and live material, accessory DVD-ROM material, and a lengthy self-congratulatory panegyric essay to boot. That Monolake not only constricted themselves to a single digipak with a lone historical paragraph by member Robert Henke on Hongkong Remastered, but also did away with the their original album’s emblematic metal casing and one of the original album’s seven tracks (“Index” credited on its 12” to Henke side project Helical Scan) should tell you quite a bit about Monolake. Monolake are a fastidious unit that leaves no detail unexamined. Henke’s decision to abbreviate Hongkong‘s original disc is the right one. “Index” was out of place and overly labyrinthine, but for those who kneel at the altar of the early Chain Reaction/ Basic Channel Oeuvre, it could easily seem like slicing off the Mona Lisa’s nose or digitally altering the firearms out of E.T.
Of the two canons to which the album belongs, Monolake’s and Chain Reaction’s, Hongkong does feel more inclined towards the latter. The field recordings and glacial synths that populate the firm sonic architecture are far more austere and dance-oriented than the singles, EPs, and full-lengths that would follow, particularly “Cyan”. “Arte” is a slow-churning krautrock shuffle that sounds like looking out the window of the “Autobahn” and watching amazing, exotic things pass by. Despite the fact that the release predates, Henke and fellow member Gerhard Behles’s development of the industry-revolutionizing Ableton software, their well-honed cosmopolitan craft at manipulating and orchestrating technology to their subtle ends is on full display on this release and it doesn’t sound as if a day has gone by in the 11 years since it was first released.