Ellen Allien / Apparat

Orchestra of Bubbles

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Disc unheard, the collaboration between DJs Ellen Allien (of the BPitch Control label) and Apparat (Sascha Ring of the Shitkatapult imprint) is far from a natural match. Both are iconoclastic with different approaches to electronic music in general and dance music in particular, though it should be noted from the outset that Orchestra of Bubbles is not their first collaboration. They've worked on remix projects together, and done one another's remixes for a few years now. Allien has worked tirelessly to engage the club dancefloor with her albums and 12"s, whereas Ring has taken a more aesthetic and strategic approach. The end result is that the two don't square off so much as find a strange albeit delightful common ground between techno and IDM. Allien and Ring both share a sense of humor, though the latter's is a bit more wry, and both are applied here. To call this is a 50/50 split between the two would be unfair and inaccurate. Individual identities don't play that much a role, though Allien's trademark vocals and floor-central modality anchor the project clearly. Ring, as Apparat, adds dimensionality, off-kilter beats, and dynamic ambient spaces to offer the technocratic solidity some room to breathe and open out onto different vistas -- and his moodier M.O. is heard precisely in those moments where Allien's bassline is most pronounced. On tracks such as "Retina," Allien's post-1989 futurism melds almost seamlessly with the dreamy and spacious exotica of Ring and his staccato beats. Elsewhere, on "Floating Points," the noir-ish electronica of Ring is lent weight and height by Allien's trusty 808 Roland drum machine, TR-808 drum machine, SH-101 analog synth, and the ARP 2600, along with other vintage synths, which add pop and flow to the melancholy spectral warfare of Ring's skeletal, post-rave aesthetic. Things get downright Bladerunner-ish on "Under," where Allien's TR-808 drum machine and SH-101 analog synth, along with the Nord Modular synths, are folded into Ring's heady and downright spooky atmospherics. The track bleeds imperceptibly into the dramatic silence and tension of "Edison," a short flange-and-loop cut that embodies the very core of their duo's experimental sensibilities. Then there's the beautifully understated vocal appearance by Ring on "Leave Me Alone" that could be a single anywhere these days. In sum, those looking for another Thrills by Allien or the bleak post-techno clinicalism of Apparat's Duplex may find this a bit underwhelming. For anyone sincerely interested in the open territory of electronic music and its possible futures, this is not only a microscope to examine the new bacteria with, it's the pulsing life form beneath it.

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