Boomkat Product Review:
Two of the most distinctive presences in German experimental music unite for this stunning new collaborative venture, introducing the project with a five-track 12" that precedes a full-length due later on in the year. As it turns out, these two seemingly strange bedfellows have long admired one another's work and the project has itself been a long-term concern, in development since 2007. Bargeld lends his vocal to Nicolai's soundscapes, a formula that in theory might lead to an end product resembling Alan Vega's work with Pan Sonic. There is, however, something rather more immediately synergetic about this project, and Bargeld's voice embeds itself very naturally within Nicolai's seemingly inhospitable, yet ever-inscrutable production. Lead track 'Ret Marut Handshake' sets the tone, and everything immediately slots into place: the Einsturzende Neubauten frontman (and sometime Nick Cave sideman) Bargeld gives a commandingly expressive vocal performance that functions perfectly in counterpoint to the clinical precision of the pinpoint backdrop. While familiar Alva Noto hallmarks are in place, there's actually very little about the track that could be branded 'minimal', and the production soon reveals itself to be a multi-layered and robust affair. Possibly the biggest curveball on the EP, arriving next is a cover of Harry Nilsson's 'One' (from 1968's Aerial Ballet album, later popularised all over again by Aimee Mann on the Magnolia soundtrack). While it's mildly peculiar to hear Bargeld emotively intoning his way through the song, it's flat out bizarre to think that this is in any way the handiwork of Noto, an artist responsible for countless high-concept sound installations and uncompromising glitch landmarks like 'Transform'. Yet it's the terse digital arrangement that makes the piece so compelling - the solitary theme being underlined by the lonesome, metronomic blip running throughout the track. Subtle waves of noise and Xerrox-like quasi-orchestral timbres frame hints of piano, completing a logic-defyingly great rendition. A considerably more abstract affair, 'Electricity Is Fiction' introduces the B-side, laying down a rhythmic barrage while Bargeld's digitised voice floods every corner of the mix - even providing a vintage electro-style ascending/descending bassline. Switching tone again, 'Bersteinzimer' channels a richly elegiac tone that calls upon a string ensemble, a few loose high frequency drones and a palpable sense of drama. Bargeld's clearly in his element here, delivering a central performance that's devoid of production tricks or manipulations. Another cover completes the EP: 'I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground' is a traditional American folk song that's been boldly rearranged by the two Berliners. Nicolai is at his most restrained, supplying only the leanest backdrop of bass-heavy, panning electricity surges and snare-like percussive noise while Bargeld puts in an engagingly natural and forthright vocal. Exciting stuff from these two avant-garde greats; let's hope the album isn't too far behind.