Codec & Flexor: Killermachine

Mike Schiller

A little bit irreverent, a little bit aggressive, a little bit harsh and a little bit old school, Killermachine is a synth purist's dream.

Codec & Flexor


Amazon: 1080118800
Label: Kitty Yo
US Release Date: 2006-04-04
UK Release Date: Available as import
Internet release date: 2004-03-24
iTunes affiliate

I suppose the trendy thing to do with Codec & Flexor's second full-length album Killermachine would be to file it under "E" for electroclash. Then it would safely fit under the umbrella of a recent trend (though, of late, a curiously quiet trend) and fall into the background. To do this, however, would be missing not just a piece of the puzzle, but the whole border, the entire structure that holds it together as a cohesive piece of work.

Sure, it has plenty in common with the electroclash movement, most identifiably the metronomic backbeat that holds together almost every single one of the twelve tracks. What is neglected in filing it under such a heading, however, is that Killermachine owes at least as much to the electronic body music (EBM) scene of the late '80s, when bands like Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb were making a valiant (if not terribly successful) bid for mainstream success. The sound of Killermachine is sparse and aggressive, and the synth lines that Codec puts together are propulsive, distorted, and invariably minor-key. Codec's habit of using crunchy synth lines that build on top of each other, often smoothed over by a pretty melody or three on top of a hip-hop or dance beat, evokes a little bit of the Covenant/VNV Nation school of EBM as well, focusing on intentional simplicity with no sacrifice of aggression.

It's Flexor's vocals that bring the sound back around to the modern electroclash scene -- where the typical EBM album is focused on nihilism and the decline of civilization (if you'll allow for the broad generalization), Flexor's subject matter is decidedly more, uh, emo. He has a nasally voice and a German inflection to his words that oddly falls into a drawl at points, and his undistorted vocals are most often found singing about ... relationships. "I'll be gone / To become strong enough to wave goodbye / As a friend I'll always be here", he sings over one of Codec's less menacing synth lines, and the sensitivity of his words is disarming. More often, he takes the persona of the cocky alpha male, always at the ready with a flippant kiss-off or a disaffected come-on: "We're forced by pure obsession / of sexual suicidal tendencies", he croons in the album opener, "Do What You Want", a dangerous invite made all the more sensual by the pulsing electronics beneath. Of course, Codec & Flexor eventually face the aftermath of such recklessness in the Gary Numan by way of Depeche Mode stylings of "Surface of Sorrow": "The seas of sadness took our ship", he says in a groan-worthy moment of metaphor, but his point is loud and clear.

Each one of the tunes on Killermachine follows the formula of untreated vocals, dueling synth lines, and dance beats, so there's not a lot of variation to be found. The formula works best in its most aggressive moments, as on potential dancefloor-filler "Step By Step", which features a funkier-than-usual bassline, occasional A.M. radio-treated vocals, and bonus distorted guitar work in the chorus. Codec's willingness to ultimately give in to his EBM leanings on album closer "Make a Sound"; harsh, staticy beat noises and the squelchiest, most distorted synths on the album work to his benefit, even if it does sound a bit like he's trying to cover for his partner's ill-timed decision to bust out the falsetto.

As for Flexor, he's at his best when he's at his most ridiculous -- inspired snippets like "I can't hold you close / My arms are tired" (from "My Arms Are Tired"), "I don't listen if you're speakin' / 'Cause your talkin' makes me itch" (from "Get Ready"), and the utterly hilarious "I'm a stupid mo-fo / Baby shake it solo" (from "I Want to Give it to You") aren't just excellent for the words, but also for the utter conviction Flexor puts behind them. That "German drawl" he's got going only adds to the mix.

So while it may be true that it's not exactly great poetry, and while the constant musical allusions to various types of electronic music pretty much guarantee that nothing groundbreaking is going on here, Killermachine is a surprisingly listenable album (especially for an album with that particular title). It's not particularly harsh, Flexor sings on-key, and the result is something that's surprisingly fun, something for goth kids to bop to, something willing to glimpse at the darker, grimier side of the "new new wave" while maintaining a charming irreverence. In short, anyone into dance music who's willing to take the comical grimace that Flexor's sporting on the cover with a grain of salt will probably have a grand time indeed.

Codec & Flexor - Time Has Changed


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.