, August 15th, 2013 07:38
The persistence of krautrock's motorik rhythm into the twenty-first century – it's probably the only beat originating in rock not to have become dated – is matched only by the variety of uses that have been found for it. One way of thinking about the disparity of settings which have accommodated its insistent, mid-paced 4/4 is to consider how it can express both the experience of automated late-industrial modernity and atavistic impulses towards the cosmic and transcendental. For every musician who has found that Neu, Can and Kraftwerk established a means of representing the Ballardian jouissance stimulated by accelerating global homogenisation, there has been another who has manipulated their serene surge to create expansive, seemingly limitless sound-worlds.
Early krautrock evoked a geography of factory and motorway, of Corbusian glass and concrete, but artists such as Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age, Mark Lanegan and even early Sonic Youth have retooled its mirage of physical momentum for the desert. Chilean rockers Föllakzoid's self-titled first album made a few gestures towards Dusseldorf while retaining many of the conventions of more unreconstructed stoner metal, but II, their second record, represents an ambitious attempt to fully synthesise weighty boulder-and-cactus riffing with extreme repetition. The result is something which, first of all, sounds absolutely gargantuan – outside drone metal, it's hard to think of many recent guitar albums which have created such a sense of space beyond Shrinebuilder's eponymous debut and Skull Defekts' Peer Amid. II's second immediately impressive quality is its absolute conviction in repetition: by the closing track, 'Pulsar', Föllakzoid are almost trespassing upon the territory of minimal techno, where the only alterations are hairline shifts in intensity.
The ability to make music which balances the emphatic and the exquisite - merging unrepentant metallic force with the exquisite detailing of minimalism - is what marks this group out from other latter-day krautrock aficionados. Generally, bands are either too respectful of the template – consider some of Primal Scream and Death In Vegas's homage-pastiches – or too glib in their employment of it. By contrast, II comes across as the product of Neu! fans who can take exactly what they need from their heroes without suffocating their own exploratory impulses. 'Trees' is probably the album's highlight, thumping along the fraught boundary between control and disarray. At any given moment, it threatens to collapse into unctuous jamming, but a grim sense of purpose holds it all together, its texturised vocals and bells mainlined into the propulsive rhythmic vein. Opening track '9' is similarly structured, adding a whip-like lick as a way of urging momentum and wrapping a horizonless coda in washes of reverb and droning synth.
At its best, and the quality rarely drops here, II is the kind of record which can serve in its own right as a rebuke to pallid acoustic singer-songwritery and desireless indie pop. It has the spirited sonic tactility, the speaker-crushing heaviness of Fu Manchu or Melvins, but finds ways of commandeering these strengths for the manic futurology of krautrock. It will be interesting to see if, and how, Föllakzoid come off the autobahn next time around, but their current approach is serving them pretty well.