The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


II Joe Kennedy , August 15th, 2013 07:38

Add your comment »

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.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.

Aug 15, 2013 6:01pm

Good review. This is an awesome album. There are some remixes done by the Moon Duo folks that are worth having too. This has been on heavy repeat on my phone, particularly for cycling.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 15, 2013 6:44pm

Good review of a great record, one of my favorites this year. And Andrew: This is a cycling favorite for me, too. That I live and ride in the high desert of New Mexico makes it doubly so.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 15, 2013 7:19pm

Agree with the other guys that this is a good review. Never heard of this band before but I'll definitely be checking them out.

Reply to this Admin

Fielding Melish
Aug 15, 2013 10:20pm

Sold! Sacred Bones continues to prove to be one of the best labels in the US.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 16, 2013 1:37pm

Just grabbed this off Bandcamp on the strength of this review. Enjoying it so far. Although I'm not sure I quite get were this description comes from: "speaker-crushing heaviness of Fu Manchu or Melvins"... It sounds laid back and light to me.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 16, 2013 2:00pm

In reply to scooper:

Scooper- Cool. SE MN here, gravel country. Rode a nice loop before this am with Follakzoid 1, EP and 2 as a playlist. Perfect...

Ride on!

Reply to this Admin

Joe K
Aug 16, 2013 2:58pm

In reply to Rich-T:

Do you reckon? I mean, it's a different kind of rush, but for me it's made that heaviness feel light, however paradoxical that sounds. Glad you're enjoying it, regardless.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 17, 2013 7:56am

In reply to Joe K:

There's some lovely textured fuzz on there but nothing I'd describe as crushing. You know what, ignore me, it's probably just my jaded doom / grindcore ears talking!

Reply to this Admin

Aug 17, 2013 8:22am

For repetetive, kraut-like and fabulous metal you might want to try listening to Pharaoh Overlord, Circle’s metal incarnation.

Reply to this Admin

Aug 19, 2013 1:20am

In reply to wellwellwellington:

Agreed, in particular 'III' and 'Lunar Jetman." Certain White Hills records (or, really, tracks) push similar buttons for me, too.

Reply to this Admin