Mr. Machine

Brandt Brauer Frick

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Mr. Machine Review

by Jon O'Brien

Described as Kraftwerk in reverse, German three-piece the Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble's second album, the ironically titled Mr. Machine, continues to push the boundaries of techno music on eight tracks inspired just as much by the minimalist classical works of Steve Reich as their Berlin hometown's dance scene. Suggesting that their organic acoustic sound is still very much a work in progress, four tracks from their 2010 debut, You Make Me Real, also appear here in remixed form. But despite the addition of a ten-piece orchestra, the changes are subtle rather than bombastic, simply removing the stuttering bleeps from the slow-building rhythmic jazz of "Bop," layering the jaunty bossa nova-tinged "You Make Me Real" with more percussion, and adding breezy horns to the timpani-led chamber pop of "Teufelsleiter." While these slightly tinkered new versions provide a certain warmth largely missing from the originals, fans of their inventive first offering may rightly feel a little shortchanged, even more so considering the only brand-new composition is the opening title track, a brief 65-second instrumental that peters out before its ominous footsteps and unsettling ambient effects can reach their horror movie score potential. Luckily, the three cover versions ensure there is at least something a little more substantial. Berlin-based chanteuse Emika lends her distant detached tones to "Pretend," a minimal acoustic take on her claustrophobic brand of techno, "606 'N' Rock 'N' Roll" serves up a dramatic string-soaked reworking of Danish producer James Braun's deep house signature tune, while the album's most conventional moment sees a slow-building four-to-the-floor rhythm accompany snatches of Agnes Obel's indie folk tones on "On Powdered Ground (Mixed Lines)." The trio's experimental nature means it's unlikely that this is the last listeners will hear of most of the material here, but while the slim new-pickings track list is disappointing, Mr. Machine at least proves they're heading in the right direction.

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