My hopeful fantasy of a sudden rocked-out revisiting of the British madchester scene is cut short by the sound of gunfire followed by a brief rest. Silently, my fantasy Ian Brown bleeds to death over a limp funky bassline and another pattern.
Kreidler have been around since 1994 and released 12 albums in that time. In electronic music that makes them legends. So it’s with some trepidation that I confess to you that I’d never heard of them until Den came across my desk. Like you, I’m a music fan, so new things are always good, right?
I could waste both your time and mine going through a snore-inducing history of the band and telling you how this record compares with all of their previous body of work in that span but I have to be honest with you, I wouldn’t want to write that any more than you’d want to read it. In the off chance that you do, here’s a link to all of the information you need helpfully assembled by a crack team of fans and keyboard-armed snipers on Wikipedia. This is a record review. And in case you think me lazy, dear reader, please grant me some latitude and I will make you a promise of objectivity in return. If you are a Kreidler fan from way back when they were performing spoken word in cafes with DJ Sport and you’re eagerly reading this to further validate your reverence then I make no promises. I will simply remind you that I am here to experience their new record as hopeful as an early riser on a brand new day. Fitting then, that the album opens with the rise of "Sun".
"Sun" rings a bell. In fact it rings a couple of bells very slowly. I wasn’t sure in the opening bars where we were going to go but it doesn’t take long to begin building from a quiet rhythm of the bells to some very gentle but mechanical percussion. Once the tools are laid on the table the band begins to employ them with some beautiful atmospheres and synth pads. The drums don’t really begin until the halfway point and the rest of the song gives the appearance of picking up the pace while never really getting beyond the opening setup. It serves as a promising intro and it’s notable immediately that although they are technically an electronic music band, it’s analog instruments that are employed here, and in every track on the record.
Every song on the record is instrumental and no overarching theme seems to ever manifest. I find myself making excuses for it, searching for some root inspiration and coming up dry. Each is an exercise in building up repeating rhythmic patterns, tearing them down again and reassembling them. It’s very much like jazz but without the improvisation -- the sequencer taking the lead instead. What differentiates each song is the samples chosen and the intervals at which they’re placed. If you reread that you’ll notice I’ve just described the structure of every electronic music song ever recorded with the possible exception of Brian Eno. So let me be more specific. It’s all very clockwork. Even on "Cascade", the moodiest track on the record we are simply enduring the rise and fall of the treadmill. I’ve been in department stores with more soul than I experience on "Moth Race", which makes a weak attempt at a percussion breakdown at the two-minute mark and almost -- almost -- catches my interest but for the reemergence of the exact same synth lines that opened it, in the exact same form they did so. There are no crescendos, nothing to lift the listener. Even that might be perfectly fine if there was at least something we could groove to but one gets the feeling that a groove is the last place you want to be right now. What we need is something to shock us.
At only seven tracks (albeit two of those weighing in at over eight minutes) they don’t have a lot of time to move things forward. Though "Sun" held promise I was very much bored by "Deadwringer", a meandering repetition of four descending percussion hits and notes that climb up and down in time. The pattern is only interrupted by different sorts of similar patterns. Though I generally don’t believe structure is a necessity for atmospheric music, this one fails to build any real atmosphere until it takes a slightly darker turn halfway through. But the momentum that’s already been set means that it’s difficult to stop the train and it’s not long before we’re back in the same opening routine.
Celtic Ghosts, is the shortest interlude on the record and is, as the name suggests, little more than some echoing wind-chime-like sound effects and someone noodling away on a cymbal. For a moment I am transported to a memory of a Phish concert but before I can get up to go get myself an organic coffee, “Winter” has come.
Go big or go home, folks. The final track on the record begins with some creative feedback not unlike the Stone Roses "Breaking into Heaven" -- of which I am a huge fan. My hopeful fantasy of a sudden rocked out revisiting of the British madchester scene is cut short by the sound of gunfire followed by a brief rest. Silently, my fantasy Ian Brown bleeds to death over a limp funky bassline and another pattern. This time a ringing, repeatedly ringing out some vaguely familiar ringing. I am absolutely certain that there is some anecdote about how this sample came to be when one of the members of the band accidentally kicked a sprocket he didn’t see on the floor next to the recording equipment and they thought the sound was really cool. But I might be making that up just to project something interesting onto what I am hearing. The sound might have been cool actually, if it didn’t punctuate every bar for the latter four minutes.
I want to end on a positive note though -- even if Kreidler didn’t. The album is well-produced, and sounds really good in some headphones. If it were playing in the background while you were trying to concentrate on some monotonous task which required patience and focus, it might give you the ambling tick-tock of sound that you need to help pull you through. Overall it’s not a challenging listen and sometimes easy is all you want. Isn’t that right, Kreidler fans?