Lloyd Cole’s second electronic record assembles “unfinished” work: minimalist but still engaging.
Lloyd Cole is known as a master lyricist so it may come as a surprise to some that he would release music without words, but listeners who are considering a submission of lyrics to Cole to accompany the music should probably hold their horses for the time being; the album is not intended as backing tracks in the style of a “sing-a-long with the hits” instrumental-only record. Instead 1D Electronics is pure electronic, an assembly of some “unfinished” tracks originally sent to the record company for Cole’s 2013 album with Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Selective Studies Vol. 1; as per the title, that album was selective – Cole and Roedelius had sent in something like four hundred per cent more material than was ultimately used.
So what to do with such a quantity of unreleased work? Cole and record company Bureau B came to the conclusion that much of it was better for not having been completed; in some cases Cole had left space for counterpart and harmony, but they decided that the absence may benefit the work released here. Cole therefore made some rudimentary edits to shorten certain tracks, with the more difficult editing completed by Jonas Foerster in Berlin.
Although Selective Studies Vol. 1 received some good critical reviews which Cole found “extremely heartening”, it seems unlikely 1D Electronics 2012-2014 has been rush-released as a cash-in blockbuster follow-up. Minimalist electronic music is a niche within a cult within a niche, but maybe sales figures would surprise us if we knew them. It could be that every living person in Germany bought a copy, which would be pretty impressive.
Most of the eleven tracks here were generated by programmed sequencers and logic, a self- contained “electronic circuit”. Although this time around this is a “solo” Cole album (Roedelius, co-founder of Cluster and Harmonia, is not credited), it’s easy to see the influence of modern German electronic music; “Slight Piece” is like the sound of a robot floating through space, but busily trying to communicate with passing planets. Cole developed an interest in Generative music because of being fed up spending so much time on computers, so it’s perhaps ironic that an instinctive but incorrect reaction would be that this is music made by computers for computers; in fact no computers (at least not computers as musicians think of them) were used to create these tracks.
Still, traditional rock fans may balk and consider that this is detached, cold engineering, not music; but have patience, my fellow Neanderthals. 1D Electronics 2012-2014 has its moments just like any other record, and is unexpectedly entertaining for those times when words have become too much to cope with (surely the case after reading this). “Pertronics”, for example, is whimsical and fun; “The Bund” is ominous and brooding, as if, at last, this is the inevitable moment technology takes over from humans. In direct contrast, “Slight Orchestra” seems warmly human, which is clever in itself considering that it was “machine” generated.
More accessible than Metal Machine Music, this album could still be said to be off the beaten track for regular Cole listeners, who it’s easy to imagine as a literary bunch. If this is the case, take heed – this is not jangly folk-rock. But being open-minded may pay off, and somewhat obscure electronic music could turn out to be your shiny new passion.