On the Wires of Our Nerves

Add N to (X)

(LP - Soul Jazz #470)

Review by Ned Raggett

At this point in the trio's career, Add N to (X) isn't all that. They're good, but great? On the Wires answers that question with a convincing "maybe", raising another one along the way: what happens when a certain style of futurism finally becomes a retro style that can be slotted alongside everything from rockabilly to medieval folk chanting? Arguably Kraftwerk - one of Add N to (X)'s obvious mentors -- were just as retro in their day, evoking in a quietly emotional way, an outdated 1920s/1930s vision of the future while also forecasting where forthcoming music would end up. To Add N to (X)'s further credit, they're not a one-note tribute band like Komputer or Kraftwelt, bringing in some of Krautrock's rougher, electronic side as well as early avant noisesters like Cabaret Voltaire. Add to that a great visual sense -- the grotesque album cover is a wonderful blend of the sterile and visceral, its own sick joke -- and there should be much more on this album than there is. But for all the hollow drum machine sounds (and real drumming, which underlays the best songs here), analog synth loops and tweaks, and odd Vocoder interjections that should make Add N to (X) a welcome alternative to Yet Another Rock Band, it feels like the trio recorded some jam sessions, thought them sufficient, and then left the studio. Praise doesn't belong to a band just for being there and using certain instruments -- thankfully, though, the trio found a better way in its immediate future than what's on display in On the Wires.