First caveat for those intending to listen to Thomas Brinkmann’s new album Klick Revolution: Brinkmann is more artist than musician. He is a sound architect in the narrow definition of the term. Second caveat: this is more structural sound art than music.
Brinkmann fans will of course already know this and among them, he is seen as everything from innovator to genius. He certainly is a darling of the minimalist scene, mainly because he is bent on constant exploration of analogue rather than digital sources. In a sense, Brinkmann has turned musical “objet trouvé” into “objet analysé, puis dechiré”, a smashed, ripped torn, dragged, scratched –- and all sampled –- object. He has adopted the technique of physically cutting and slicing in and across the grooves of his vinyl records to create new sounds (albums used for this record are listed in the CD booklet). He picks through minuscule clicks and nano-second bleeps and collages them into tapestries of sound. His minimalism is not one of trimming down to simplicity but rather one of taking elements that are too small to even be minimal and crafting them into something simple but bigger. His musical funnel is upside down. All this adds a strong personality to his recordings, much in the way that Geir Jenssen has done as Biosphere by sampling true nature sounds of icey waterfalls and drips in caves of his native Norway.
Klick Revolution is more stripped-down, distressedly clipped together and much less polished and clinical than any of Brinkmann’s previous work. It is a full jump into the analog, yielding sounds and moods dehydrated and crisp, making one think of dried out wood ripe for a dreaded drought-firestorm. It is somewhere between interesting and fascinating and makes you want to analyse and study it. It makes you want to think about it but thought would yield nothing. Klick Revolution is the tentative product of a series of live performances over two years, which have no doubt been experimentally impromptu, but have also made this album musically random, with schizophrenic soundscapes rather than songs. Which may be why Brinkmann presents a concept to try to tie it all together.
He was already conceptual on his breakthrough album Klick, with his sampling of slashed and dusty vinyl. But whilst his clicks, hisses and splutters were thickly layered and unpredictable, they snapped into a somewhat definable dub pattern. On Klick Revolution, that structural base is pulled away and a barren new “concept” takes its place. Brinkmann and his self-started label Max Ernst go to some lengths to explain that it is an idea of a pinball machine, or “a locked box with the inclined plane”, a player ponders his “questionary about luck, the slide of the things into the logic of decline”. What this means only Brinkmann knows and the sounds on Klick Revolution offer no clues. The gentle punching of the eardrum on opener “Initiation/Locked Box” is broken up by what comes closest to a pinball element, a jumbled rewind-style bonus sound. But through the tearing static sounds peppered with loops of French words, bass drones and occasional disjointed melodic inserts, nothing is revealed.
Many geeks, read fans, will be adamant on blindly appreciating this because, yes, it is one of those conceptual albums that you want to ‘get’. Klick Revolution sounds very intelligent, although no one seems to be able to explain it without resorting to nonsensical phrases. This is the album’s strength. It’s “the sound of Sisyphus playing pinball with a rolling stone”, the label press release proclaims. That certainly does encapsulate the nature of Klick Revolution as a musical piece: the fruitless task of wanting, and trying to makes sense of something that has none. But wanting it nevertheless. Klick Revolution is expertly crafted and very efficient as interesting sound art. It is, however, barely musical and hardly listenable. But for the adventurous listener, the unsolved intrigue of Thomas Brinkmann’s music — now also more unsolvable than ever — will be hard to resist.