Photo: Emir Eralp

CID RIM’s Electronic Music on ‘Material’ Feels Rooted in Performance

CID RIM may be working in an electronic medium, but the sound feels like performance, far more than it feels like programming.

20 Oct 2017

The first thing that all of CID RIM’s publicity says is that the man behind the CID RIM project is Clemens Bächer. The second thing is that Bächer is an accomplished jazz drummer. The immediate comparison that comes to mind, of course, is Squarepusher, another electronic artist with a jazz background who isn’t afraid to let that jazz seep into his electronic work.

A quick listen to Material, CID RIM’s latest release for LuckyMe (some are calling it his debut album, which may be true, though to do so is to neglect the 36-minute self-titled “micro-album” he put out years ago), shakes aside any comparisons with Tom Jenkinson’s wildly successful electronic project. The CID RIM approach to electronic music, not to mention Bächer’s techniques in working in his jazz background, is an entirely different beast, far more rooted in live and popular music structures than Squarepusher has ever deigned to be (at least, when he’s not making albums out of his bass guitar work). Bächer may be working in an electronic medium, but the sound feels like performance, far more than it feels like programming.

Perhaps not coincidentally, this performative structuring is felt strongest in the track that owes the most to Bächer’s jazz background. “Zünder” starts innocuously enough, announced by a few jazz chords and some light drumming, quickly picking up into a drum ‘n’ bass-lite beat, not too far from some of Orbital’s mid-’90s work. Synths and percussion washes layer their way in, and it’s all very pleasant and upbeat until about the 2:45 mark. At this point the beats mostly drop out, a complex meter takes over for the simple beat, and the sax shows up. At first it just sounds like your average everyday saxophone, but then Bächer twists it, crunches it, turns it into something still recognizable as a saxophone doing something a saxophone would never do. Toying with that saxophone and doubling down on those complex rhythms with his own live drumming, Bächer finds something like euphoria in something that started out as so very ordinary.

The best moments throughout Material have a similar trajectory, starting out as pedestrian beats or ideas but eventually turning into extraordinary little pieces. “Mouches Volantes” again leans heavily on jazz, with its thick and unconventional chord progressions and a little bit of room for some jazz organ breaks and even a little bit of vocal work emphasizing the chords toward the end. Closing track “The Material” starts out somewhat staid and almost reverent until a huge, snare-filled drum break shows up and the whole thing explodes into sound effects, synth pads, and some of the best drum programming work on the album. There are tracks that don’t get quite so huge, too — the restrained 2-step of “Furnace”, the somewhat Underworld-esque “Surge” — and while these don’t necessarily reach the highs of the previously-mentioned tracks, they’re fine to listen to and serve well as a setup to the album’s big moments.

Falling somewhere in between is “Repeat”, which features Samantha Urbani doing a fantastic vocal turn over a quick pulse of a beat from Bächer. Interestingly, it is Bächer’s work that steals the show here, constantly shifting, morphing, pulsing and pushing, putting pressure on the listener’s ears even as Urbani’s pop vocal exists as a constant throughout. It’s an interesting trick that suggests motion, that the instruments are hard at work telling one story while the vocals tell another. Together they create something extraordinary, and worth multiple listens to pick up all the subtle little shifts, the nuance, the way those instruments actually enhance the story Urbani is telling.

Cumulatively, then, Material is a triumph, an electronic album insistent that the only limits of the genre are those its creators choose to impose on it. By embracing his live instrumental background rather than shunning it for genre purity, Bächer’s CID RIM hits heights that few can manage. Ultimately, Material is about the joy and spontaneity of creation.

RATING 8 / 10