T.Raumschmiere creates a shape-shifting ambient techno album but with enough drive and ambition to invigorate the late night dance floor.
During the 2000s, Berlin-based Marco Haas made a name for himself as the unsettling, unpredictable, progressive techno firebrand T.Raumschmiere. With his anarchic stage persona and his forceful electro-punk take on techno, he promised to drag techno kicking and screaming into the new millennium. For a time he did just that with 2000’s Bolzplatz and 2001’s Musick EPs which were suitably raw and rowdy as he melded techno with the previously unfashionable “schaffel” sound of glam rock to create the natural successor to Depeche Mode’s darker '80s work. Further albums, expanded on the sound to become ever more anarchic and volatile culminating in 2008’s I Tank You album.
However, the explosive live sets did not wholly translate into strong albums with I Tank You his most realized full-length to date. If anything the years have not been kind to I Tank You. Listening back to it now it sounds like a product of a different age. The more chaotic, abrasive moments seem a little empty like they are desperately searching for something to rage against but are as effective as a child’s tantrum. Thankfully, Raumschmiere used his self-titled 2015 album to demonstrate his varied abilities. Gone were many of the anarchic, electro-punk tendencies of old. Instead, he traded them for something a little more ambient, influenced more by Brian Eno than Einstürzende Neubauten. Here, on the follow-up, and his first for Kompakt since the start of his career, Raumschmiere has found new ways to imbue his ambient techno with a subtle sense of anarchy to reconcile both sides of his artistic temperament.
To that end, “Amina” opens proceedings with calm atmospherics keenly instilled with something a little more threatening, like a stubborn fog that never quite lifts. Gentle old time fairground piano gives way to oscillating synths that add '60s sci-fi weirdness. The whole thing is fairly shapeless with just the soft pop of beats keeping it moving forward. “Jaguar” is a more of a late night dance floor ready track featuring the ever-present thrum of beats and a deep bass line that slowly swells. Raumschmiere employs his characteristic gleaming, wondrous synths and then punctures them with jarring synths that shock and fracture the carefully constructed sense of calm, like the unwelcome sound of a late night car alarm. It demonstrates just how Raumschmiere has established new ways to be anarchic rather than the pounding unpredictable blasts of noise that characterized his early work. On Heimat, it works because he manages to establish the main form of the song before allowing synths to clash and noises to jolt in order to burst the more ambient bubble he has crafted. It’s as if he has earned the right to rough up the edges of his work but holds himself back from taking his destructive instincts too far.
One of the results of this new approach is that there is more room for rhythm with almost funky melodies and hooks that get your hips moving before seeping into your consciousness. “Le Fux” rides a swinging, mechanical groove with light and airy piano notes tempering the harder edged synths. As the song progresses, the sturdy piano riff becomes slightly more dissonant as it shifts key while the ascending and descending synth riff locks itself into your memory. The upbeat swagger continues on “Stoli” as Raumschmiere steers a supremely confident strutting rhythm and even adds some updated “schaffel” synths. It’s a bold move but coupled with the sumptuous falsetto moans justifies their use as the song sounds equally comfortingly familiar and rousingly fresh. “Wacker” ducks and slides before sudden drops and swirling strings threaten to suck you under before he drags you back with a tightly coiled nocturnal, repetitive keyboard riff.
The closing tracks offer further examples of his talent for recycling old ideas and making them seem current.“Zum Mond” adds retro-vocoder treatments to the mix that sound exciting rather than passe. Like a lot of the sounds on here, the idea may not be new but the way it is employed sounds fresh. It features a deceptively plain intro that Raumschmiere soon steers somewhere more interesting with well-earned, subtle beats. The gorgeous sigh of “Zwerg” concludes the album with its casually intermittent twinkle of synths acting like the first rays of sunshine as the sun slowly peeks over the horizon. It’s an almost spiritual ending to the album that stretches the euphoria to an almost rhapsodic conclusion.
This album marks Raumschmiere out as the maverick that he has so clearly always wanted to be. On Heimat he has clearly learned to spend time crafting the songs and is painting from a much more sophisticated palette. The pleasure in the album comes in hearing how Raumschmiere uses the full space of the song where every change of pace, every riff and every thrum of bass well earned. The result is a shape-shifting ambient techno album but with enough drive and ambition to invigorate the late night dance floor.