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Julius Conrad and Max Graef seem to use their Ratgrave project as a creative playground, acting on some of their stranger artistic impulses and making a complete mockery of the premise of genre restrictions. Following 2018's Ratgrave, recorded over the course of three years in several different locations and touching on styles ranging from lo-fi funk to rave, the duo concocted Rock, a frankly bonkers set of heavy cosmic fusion. The musicians point to jazz-rock and psychedelic/hard rock monoliths like Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and Blue Cheer as inspirations, but that's only part of the story here. The pair mix chunky guitars with big '80s drum machines, twisting them into complex patterns, and bending them further through unruly delay and flange effects. While there's certainly a harder edge to this album than their debut, it's juxtaposed with smooth jazz textures, crystal atmospheres, and even some gentle birdsong. It's not quite as hectic as Angel Marcloid's work as Fire-Toolz or Nonlocal Forecast, but it incorporates prog and smooth jazz elements in a comparable way. This sounds a lot more casual and off-the-cuff, however. "Theme from Metronome" is a jaunty bop that glides along pleasantly, even as it seems like the duo are twisting the rhythm into a pretzel. "Instant Toothpaste" is an excellent piece of wonky plastic funk riddled with bugged-out dub effects, and sounding like it's melting in the muggy summer heat. "Yurok" is closer to a warped reinterpretation of a bossa nova tune, while "4 Benz" is a woozy daydream with whooping vocals similar to the bizarre vocal arrangements of exotica composers like Martin Denny, or even some of Ennio Morricone's stranger spaghetti Western soundtracks. The self-explanatory "Rock" pipes some exaggerated guitar riffage into a complex maze of choppy drum machines and panpipes, resulting in a sort of new age industrial nightmare shared by Adrian Sherwood and Bill Laswell. "Bleeding to Death" is a drum'n'bass-hinting misfit caper recalling some of Squarepusher's more Weather Report-inspired moments. As if the duo couldn't stuff enough ideas into the first 12 tracks, "Mutti Hat Gekocht" is actually several songs in one, shifting from an easygoing bossa sway to a hard, skittering drum'n'bass reprise of the "I love myself" chorus from earlier track "World Aid," and then some more outrageous metal riffing over punchy beats and playful, sparkly keyboards. Unbound by commercial expectations or pressure to make music that conforms to any cut-and-dry category, Ratgrave simply plug in, put their heads together, and create the craziest stuff they can come up with.

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