Needs More Trombone: Elektro Guzzi Boost Their Organic Techno Approach with 'Polybrass'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Austria's prolific, three-piece instrumental outfit Elektro Guzzi add horns to their sound with the daring, dynamic new album, Polybrass.

Elektro Guzzi


26 October 2018

Austria's Elektro Guzzi have made a career out of taking established musical ideas and approaching them unconventionally. Specifically, instrumental techno music. Without the aid of computers, loops or prerecorded material, they've managed to break down the wall between the organic and the synthetic.

Now, with Polybrass, they've added a new wrinkle. With the aid of a three-piece horn section – specifically, three trombones – Elektro Guzzi have upped the ante on what the techno genre can accomplish without the expected instrumentation. Band members Bernhard Breuer, Bernhard Hammer, and Jakob Schneidewind have been joined by trombonists Hilary Jeffrey, Daniel Riegler and Partin Ptak on trombones, but their appearance on Polybrass (and on tour) does not constitute your typical horn section. The horns are used to represent a modular synthesizer, with each trombone representing one oscillator.

You get the sense of what the band is trying to accomplish right off the bat – the trio of trombones kick off the opening track "Backlash" with a deliberate, regal fanfare. But they're at such a low register and eventually coupled with slashes of distortion that it comes off more drone-like than your average horn section. It sounds like Sunn O))) joining forces with a marching band. But eventually, the other band members join in with a percussion-heavy instrumental bed.

"Black Chamber" has the trombones playing in a more muted style, offering a slower, simpler approach than the frantic drumming that accompany them. The song is a great example of a unique musical makeup finding new and exciting ways to perform an established genre. The song bides its time and eventually ratchets up the tension beautifully.

Another area where Elektro Guzzi try something new (for them, anyway) is the inclusion of their first actual vocal track. On "Miney Mick", they collaborate with Lisa Kortschak, who adds her quirky, engaging singing to the music's frenetic gallop. The song is layered and mature but still quite playful and a welcome addition to any contemporary dancefloor.

Tracks like "Magnet" offer an almost minimalist approach to the music, as the trombones are almost painfully simple in their execution. Slow, droning chords make way for some funky, syncopated percussion. On "Yuugen", the trombones serve a more traditional purpose, offering clipped accents like a more straightforward funk arrangement. The repetition here – as on most of Polybrass – offers a heavy debt to Krautrock pioneers like Neu! or Kraftwerk. And when an actual trombone solo appears at about the halfway mark, a true jazz approach begins to take shape.

Elektro Guzzi – a band never really known as conformists – turn a definite corner on Polybrass. While they've always seemed restless, it's here where they truly embrace unconventionality. The addition of a unique and creative element to their sound has given them endless possibilities, which they use to maximum advantage. Sometimes you have to throw out the rulebook to create really beautiful art. On Polybrass, Elektro Guzzi and their three new members seem to have done just that.







A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.


Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.


DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.


JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.


​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.


Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times


Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.


How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.