There's a lot to be said about musical collaborations. One could either wince at the atrocity of the end result or stand spellbound at the pure genius of it. The middle ground is most often confusion. The last time I stood spellbound at a meeting of the minds, poured out on musical parchment so elegantly and eloquently was when Henrik Schwarz and Bugge Wesseltoft unleashed the indelible masterpiece 'Duo" on Jazzland in 2011. Of course there have been times when I've failed to notice the odd crusty residue of probable strokes of genius strewn across this vast musical landscape of electronic music, but then again, if anything out there is THAT brilliant, I'm sure it would have caught my radar at some point.
'Odd Movements', the debut full-length by Achterbahn D'Amour, is the collaborative effort of Johannes 'Iron Curtis' Paluka and Jürgen “Jool” (Edit Piafra) Albert. And while this, in most respects cannot be compared, musically, to the Schwarz/Wesseltoft collaboration, on most levels, the duo have indeed tangled together a 9-track mind-bender that is both caustic and atmospheric in every respect. Paluka and Albert's fixation on bringing the best out of their respective classic Roland boxes (the TB303 and the TR606) forms the basis of the album's distinct sonic result, which is also the sum of their three Acid Test EPs, two of which were released on Absurd Recordings’; a Los Angeles-based Acid Test sub label.
In many ways, one could view the entire concept of 'marriage' and reciprocal relationships to be a rather transparent feature of this album, and if one were to look at it, per se, as a concept album, you wouldn't be too far from the truth. For those who aren't acquainted with the 303 or the 606 in any way, they were two box-like computer controlled analogue musical instruments, released by Roland in 1981, both being almost identical in size and built solely for the unique purpose of allowing individual artists to play (or practice) music without the addition of anyone else. They were built as a matched pair to complement one another; the 606 providing the rhythm accompaniment while the 303 was largely a bassline composer. However, their lack of popularity saw their quick demise soon after, (because they were partly a 'bitch' to programme, amidst other synthetic shortcomings) and although, many 80's synth-pop bands were instrumental in crafting their sound around these 'groove-boxes', they never really became the essential sought after 'tools of the trade' until electronic greats like Aphex Twin, Plastikman, Larry Heard and Hardfloor, to name just a few, carved out a new reputation for them as quintessentials in the production of techno and house. The TB 303 soon gained it's notorious reputation as the 'Acid Box' - an analogue representation of it's persona and personality even to this very day.
Anyway, enough said on that and down to the album proper. Achterbahn D'Amour, loosely translated, as a combination of German and French to mean 'Roller Coaster of Love' is pretty much what you'll get here, and 'Odd Movements', aptly contains some of their strangest music thus far. Take the opener 'Holy Romance Empire', which starts off like any garden variety deep house track, until it quickly decides to reveal its true self in vibrant Technicolor. Dark, lush, cinematic synths inundate those jaunty beats as that acid line swoops in, almost like a Roller Coaster in many ways, but the ride is generally, only, just beginning.
'Passagen', that follows, continues the ride in its broken jerky, almost classic electro inspired slow building groove that accentuates into THAT melodic acid line again, providing more of a pedestal for it than its predecessor. The rolling, jacking snares and claps that punctuate the track's progression are as raw as they come before allowing its rising tide to ebb back into more bass driven serenity.
'Jaws of J.O.Y.' is another bass-driven mind bending and obtuse route into lo-fi sonics, leaving the acid lines and beats to take precedence while all other textures lay buried under a thin film of dirt and dust. One thing that Paluka and Albert do very well on this roller coaster ride so far is to keep their balances in check. And just when you think that an overdose of acid is imminent, 'Ladbroke Culture' shakes off the albums traditions eschewing a more linear techno driven approach that keeps the rhythms at bay so that plentiful arpeggios and spooky keys can playfully linger without interruption - definitely one of the albums more enticing and satisfying moments.
As is the title track, 'Odd Movements' is a beat-less ambient excursion that allows the acid lines to float freely in the breeze. This one too is rather captivating in so many different ways. 'Teen Sleep' continues down the ethereal path that hovers over much of its mysterious one-chord pad-driven groove. 'My Demands' keeps the groove chugging along; its gritty tom and snare smacks adding a tinge of dirt and distortion to the record’s rich and emotional textural palette, and a vocal that hints 'protest song' in so many given respects.
This emotional roller coaster ride continues in maddening catchiness with the brutally bass laden Königst. The theatrical lushness that provides a few bars of gentle respite don't last too long though as the drums and dirty hi-hats whisk this roller coaster ride back on its way into somewhat more brutal curves and crevices before ebbing into the dynamic and textured beauty of the album closer 'Cream & Treacle', which, as many of the great 303 tinged moments on this, manifest themselves as throughly funky, but on this, thoroughly breathtaking.
All in all, Achterbahn D'Amour manages to, as all good albums should, leave you with enough shades, textures and layers within it's odd movements to warrant another ride on this roller coaster. I started this review in many ways, by viewing it as a 'concept' album. The electronic marriage of two machines that were made for each other. And while some may argue that there isn't anything absolutely groundbreaking here in many respects, Achterbahn D'Amour have indeed created something special. It may take some time to assimilate into your internal clock, but the quality of their ideas and forward-thinking approach towards concept-driven techno is refreshing and exciting, and whether wholly innovative or not, deserves your immediate attention.
01. Holy Romance Empire
03. Jaws Of J.O.Y.
04. Ladbroke Culture
05. Odd Movements
06. Teen Sleep
07. My Demands
09. Cream & Treacle (I&M)