Brandt Brauer Frick

Miami

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On Mr. Machine, Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer, and Paul Frick re-recorded material from their self-sufficient debut with assistance from a ten-piece orchestra. The project turned out to be less a diversion than a point to the trio's future. While Brandt Brauer Frick remain the core, their third album involves several musicians on instruments like tuba and trombone, violin and cello, marimba and vibraphone. They've also added several vocalists -- a move that helps transform their early "techno without the technology" approach into proper song assembly with electronic and acoustic elements. Miami as a theme is peculiar, though the makers say they have an imaginary and superficial version of the city in mind. Judging from the severe, occasionally bleak sound here, BBF didn't spend their brief 2012 visit soaking up freestyle, bass, or Afro-Cuban jazz. It's not like the album's cover could pass as a scene from Occupy Miami, either. The album begins with the creeping and foreboding "Miami Theme," featuring Erika Janunger, whose whispered "Gasp for air/Hold it there/Release the strings" is as chilling as the thunderous blasts of piano and percussion. The chamber techno instrumental "Ocean Drive (Schamane)" somehow lightens the mood while increasing the tension. "Plastic Like Your Mother" is a twisted love song, not a put-down -- a whirlwind of lapping and tapping percussion, deep bass, and escalating strings as Grammy-winning producer Om'Mas Keith gasps, longs, and commands. Throwback soul shouter Jamie Lidell provides another highlight on the agitated "Broken Pieces," one of the album's most moving pieces despite its relatively skeletal makeup of brass and percussion shards, piano flecks, and acidic probing bass. Post-punk pioneer Gudrun Gut appears on the taut, rapid "Fantasie Mädchen" and adds voyeuristic suspense with her single repeated line of "Fantasie mädchen, du rockst meine welt" ("Fantasy girl, you rock my world). The album closes as strongly as it begins with "Miami Titles," a thrilling orchestra-hall-meets-club synthesis from a trio that draws from Mahler, Reich, Mills, and Hood as if they're all part of the same lineage.

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