Rechenzentrum, Director's Cut

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Mille Plateaux
Released: 2003

Rechenzentrum's Director's Cut is, quite simply, one of the best releases of 2003. Combining the funk of Bretschneider, the dub of Pole (via Lee Perry), and the epic grandeur of Vladivav Delay, the German outfit has crafted a work that manages to be both intellectually stimulating and emotionally compelling. It's smart AND groovy!

Now, before I go on, I should point out that Director's Cut is actually a two-disk release. The first disk is the CD; the second disk is a DVD that features videos for each of the songs on the CD. This inclusion of video as part of the CD release is significant, as Rechenzentrum obviously expects that the two parts be viewed as one. However, the videos, which are mostly a series of abstract video loops with lots of digital effects, are not as interesting to me as the music. Hence, I'm only going to talk about the music here (and my assessment of this work as one of the best of 2003 applies to the music alone). If you want to see the videos for yourself, however, then check out the "Listen to Samples" link below, as that page contains audio and video samples of each song on the album.

Now, let's get back to this amazing album. Track one, "Gaujag Totale," begins with a swirling wash of chimes, backwards spiraling sweeps, and assorted effects, before building (via explosions and piano samples) to a slow, somber piano-led melody. It's a slow song, more of a prelude to the rest; it's this song, I think, that gives the album as a whole an epic tone, as though each track, despite their obvious differences, are all coalescing to create a single, unified effect.

This is magnified in track two, "Lye," which, though again starting slowly (with a barrage of sound effects), eventually throws up the first of many amazing, dub-influenced grooves. However much the mind might focus on the found sound effects and the musique concrete posturing, the heart of the album is the grooves. "Lye"'s groove is deliberate and heavy--the sputtering, gurgling footsteps of a drunken (though funky) circus freak out for a walk along the moors. The next song, "Tiefenscharfe," features light and happy chimes surrounded by a thick, pounding bass and groovy, though crumbling, snare shots. Track four, "Slate," offers a play on the traditional house or trance rhythm, throwing synth stabs and squeals in with assorted guitar melodies.

I could go on talking about these rhythms until I get to the final track, "Happy End," but I think I've made my point. Suffice to say that each track here is its own universe of sounds. However, these individual universes retain certain core ideas. In particular, the structures for most songs are, fundamentally, the same (slow start, building up to a crescendo, eccentric and subtle manipulation of each track's basic rhythm). Hence, despite the different rhythmic and musical approaches in each song, the work as a whole seems remarkably consistent. But the best part of this work is simply the fact that it is fun--fun both as an intellectual exercise (hey, is that an Iannis Xenakis sample I hear there?) and, especially, as exciting, groovy ride through some of the most compelling beats I've heard in years.

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