When Horses Die

Thomas Brinkmann

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When Horses Die Review

by Ned Raggett

A running joke in the '90s had it that plenty of goth/industrial types ended up in rave culture, whether due to changing tastes or simply because of appreciation of punishing beats -- certainly the roots of so much techno in those styles had always been subculturally clear. So seeing someone like Thomas Brinkmann essentially create his own tribute to those roots with an art/goth album, When Horses Die, is both appropriate and intriguing -- and Brinkmann's hardly hiding it, with his first two thank yous in the liner notes going to Trent Reznor and Winston Tong. Tong himself provided the lyrics to the ruminative opener "Words," with Brinkmann's dark, dry voice speak-singing over minimal keyboards; with that as a clear signpost, When Horses Die proceeds to explore the kind of dark, poetic work in Tong's vein and others, with minimal textures refracted through an often beatless techno lens. The overlay of a slow surging drone and a clipped keyboard melody on "Spiral" and the soft, contemplative wash up and down of gentle synths on "Uselessness" shows how well he can use a simple touch to create a big effect. Most of what beats do appear suggest classic work on Crepuscule and similar labels -- the slow trudge pulse of "Birth and Death" accentuated with grinding electronics that are more than halfway to sheets of feedback, similarly with the shuddering crunch of the title track -- though the nervous bass loop and echoing hint of hi hats during the first half of "Meadow" manage the neat trick of both sounding like Gary Numan circa Dance, and something far more recent. The compressed dub of "Souls" is perhaps the most straightforwardly danceable thing on the album, but Brinkmann's calm lyric delivery keeps the emphasis on contemplative restraint.

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