The Bionaut: Lubricate Your Living-Room

The Bionaut
Lubricate Your Living-Room

There’s something charmingly retro about this collection of tracks released between 1993 and 1997 — given that electronica, with its focus on technology and sound innovation, changes even faster than fickle but technologically relatively static pop. Perhaps that charm comes from the devotion to melody or the decidedly ambient, subtle feel.

The Bionaut is only one of many projects fomented by Cologne, Germany’s Jorg Burger. He has also recorded and collaborated under the names burger/ink (a collaboration with Mike Ink), the Modernist, Trinkwasser and, most recently, Geometric Farms. This is not his first release on Matador, long home to innovative, high profile electronica — both burger/ink and the Modernist had Matador stateside releases as well. Lubricate Your Living-Room compiles 18 tracks from six separate albums originally released on the famous EMI Harvest label as well as his own label, Eat Raw Records. Therefore, what was until now available only in Europe is now (ahem) lubrication for the American living room.

Burger is one of the leading figures in a new German minimalism. This isn’t Philip Glass (who ought to be German), and it isn’t austere, either; rather, Burger favors melody and wash over the complicated beats and sonic one-upmanship common among both American and British DJs. Not surprisingly, for a project named Bionaut, the cuts on this album are consistently organic, light, and lovely.

The album opens with a delicate melody that sounds eerily as if it’s played on a reverb-heavy hammer dulcimer. Ethereal female vocals (contributed by Aquamarine) slide into the mix, and just when you think it’s going to be this exquisite, filigreed thing, there comes a deadpan voice (Burger himself, no doubt) delivering an ear-tingling, face-burning pornographic monologue.

It’s certainly an attention-getter, and really the only one on the album. Listeners are demurely charmed thereafter by haunting melody and beats like a softly thrumming rubber band — even, at times, by sounds that mimic calling birds. Most notable in this regard, despite the massively incongruous title, is track number 12, “Student Bashing at the Seaside”, originally from Lush Life Electronica.

Lubricate Your Living-Room is, for the duration, precisely what its title promises: intriguing music for downtime, or a soundtrack for meditation. In their loose structure and building inertia, many of these tracks evoke Bill Laswell’s numerous projects of the mid-’90s, but without his propensity to adopt the beat of the moment. Burger’s lyricism is his own — a throwback to an era when “modernism” was something beautiful and strange.