[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Breaking from his ambient studies of the last few years, Anthony Rother takes us back -way back- for an album which would have been what people expected after ‘Hacker’ in 2002. It’s cold, futuristic, dehumanized and sleek as hell. Rother establishes his rhythms and bass lines quickly for each track and then adds little embellishments throughout, much as he did before ‘Popkiller’ put him on a very different path. I enjoyed where it went but I know I’m in the minority. The fans love him best when he’s precise and mechanic, those robotic vocals certainly hit all the right spots; again, I don’t fault him for doing what he is with ‘Netzwerk Der Zukunft’, the guy got as far from his formula as he could. It was brave but thank you for returning to the assembly line we’ve been missing for so long.
Surprisingly, the funk from some of his more mainstream releases manages to survive on this one. But that’s about it. No guitars, no live drums. Nothing but the machines looping their hooks and hymns in a highly efficient way. It’s no coincidence that his video for “Metro Boy” was shot in such deliberately urban surroundings (it isn’t on the album, sorry, you’ll have to track it down), as this record is definitely a mega-city classic in the making. Concrete and steel are all around us as we move like lab rats through the grid of streets, engrossed in our own personal intrigues… Rother’s newest puts us up above the skyscrapers near the clouds as they dissipate in twilight. Everything makes sense now, the pattern becomes recognizable; each beating heart a miniscule blip of insignificance.
We’ll crumble and fall to dust but these towering palaces of architecture will remain. The overpasses and interchanges chatter amongst themselves while humanity becomes ever more proficient at it’s own extinction; street lights flickering out, the intricate web of communications breaking down as graceful arches wrought out of the efforts and avarice of men demarcate where the life once anchored itself. In time, even these beacons won’t resist time’s relentless onslaught.
Rother proves yet again that you can’t ever count him out. No matter what audience he aims for, you always know his style when you hear it. Oh the snide can keep bleating about his Kraftwerk influence -Bartos worked with him on his Little Computer People project, Anthony returned the favor on Karl’s ‘Communication’ record- and that’s just fine. This one goes places with what he does, it isn’t just about making clever electronic pop music and then ignoring the rest of your abilities. Rother sets the mood in his work, even at his most accessible he’s never going to be a household name outside of those who are enthusiasts. If he’s had hits, they’ve been accidental.
By taking some time away from the limelight with his experimental excursions, he’s come back to us re-charged and in a fighting mood. Defiant almost. People expected the club but instead they’ve gotten the cortex, the nerve center, the control room where the wizard concocts his wares. Try to mind the wires, they’ll get in your head if you aren’t careful.