Boomkat Product Review:
The momentous Chain Reaction full-length debut by Robert Henke and Gerhard Behles aka Monolake, issued on vinyl for the very first time on its 25th anniversary and still sounding as sleekly futuristic as ever.
Replete in its definitive 2006 edition, which features additional field recordings of rain and insects on ‘Cyan’, Monolake’s debut album is a masterclass of late ‘90s techno straddling widescreen ambient soundscapes and pulsing, Berlin-standard dub techno. It gathers tracks from 1996’s preceding 12” releases, ‘Cyan’, ‘Lantau /Macao’, and ‘Occam / Arte’ plus ‘Index’ from his Helical Scan project, in a landmark album that, with hindsight, can be heard as a milestone between early ‘90s ambient techno and subsequent, sleeker forms of minimalism and spatialized sound design that reflected and deeply influenced techno and electronic music to come. And in that context it’s no overstatement to say that Robert Henke, the mainstay of Monolake, is up there with Robert Moog or Dave Smith in terms of influencing music’s technological history, as his invention and co-founding of the Ableton software and company in the years following ‘Hong Kong’ would irrevocably alter the course of DIY music production for a whole generation.
The 2006 re-edit of ‘Cyan’, teeming with insectoid nanorhythms and the patter of rain, opens a seminal set that distills the head-long energy of ‘90s techno to a blissful sublime without losing its vital propulsion. In the tunnelling dynamic of ‘Index’ thru the exquisitely light-footed stepper ‘Occam’ he conceived a sort of techno purism comparable with Basic Channel but distinguished by its relatively crisp contours and HD definition that simply sounds awesome when projected from a quality rig. But he also proved equally adept at other routes and branches of techno , as with the slow, heaving designs of ‘Lantau / Macau’, which impressionistically convey his times spent in the Far East through mutated field recordings, while the radiant ‘Arte’ is a masterpiece of downtempo ambient techno, Finally ‘Mass Transit Railway’ ropes in fellow synth fiend Wieland Samolak, who wrote user manuals and their translations for Emu Systems and Sequential Circuits - not to mention the first release on Henke’s Imbalance Computer Music in 1993 - for a floating high-water mark of ‘90s ambient ambient sound design.