[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
They’ll let the samples do the talking, thank you very much; dark though the vision may be it is also one of flawless technical execution. Begun in the 1990s, Engram is a project I never expected to hear in album format and yet here I am basking in it’s electronic nexus. For those who don’t know the particulars feel free to go look them up, I’m not in the mood to explain it and neither are they I’d imagine.
When your opener is a song such as “Divine Plan” you don’t really need to, now do you?
“Karl Marx”, which is the single off ‘Das Kapital’ follows up with what sounds like JFK having a closed door meeting with his fellow politicos and I’m curious to know if it’s from around the time of the Bay of Pigs debacle or perhaps just before he made that fateful trip to Dallas some fifty five years ago. “The Good Life” and part 2 of “Highgate” come up next (want part 1? it’s on the single) showering us with more dialog samples; the programming is first rate on both with the latter kicking into gear around the halfway point. Those are classic orchestral stabs, gentlemen, nice to hear them again.
Anybody else would have put the machines on auto-pilot but not these two, “The Razor Inside” is a magnificent combination of analog basses, frigid atmospheres and bubbling modular composition. Trying to peel this one apart has been a difficult task even though there are vocals. Herein likes the irony, both members of Engram are known for their lyrics and yet they included them on only two pieces, now why is that you suppose?
Here’s my surmise: they wanted the focus to be strictly on the music and with results like “Law of Betrayal”, “Hi Teikei No” and “Eye Irren Tot” I’m not going to be the one who questions their methods. Yes, some of these have been available previously if you want to nit-pick but hearing them molded into an album only ups the tension and underlines the inhumanity they address. Besides, they happily pull the rug out from beneath us with “Exquisite Corpse”. This closer is no gentle conclusion, it finds Engram in experimental mode and explains perfectly to me what this project is all about… paradoxical reconciliation.
This project is far from over, either, live dates are in the planning stages and to you lucky ones who get to see this improbable equation in person I’d suggest you savor the experience. There’s an improvisational undertone to ‘Das Kapital’ that I suspect is going to be impossible to contain on stage; as it is, my speakers can barely hold back the rough and ragged nature of “Point of No Return” with it’s samples taken from the movie Falling Down. I cannot wait to hear what comes next even if it takes two more decades to do so.