Brandt Brauer Frick - Miami

‘Miami’ sometimes awkwardly teeters between overt electronica and classical influenced avant-garde expressionism.

Label: !K7 Records

Rating: 7

German experimentalist trio Brandt Brauer Frick seek to constantly re-define the parameters of electronic music and its possibilities. The group take the principals behind dance - the desire to move the body through rhythmic power - and subvert it through different live instrumental approaches. Previous works have seen the trio indulge in highly regimented classical tinged techno, using natural instrumentation to mimic the genre’s inflections and propulsive grooves. On their third album, ‘Miami’, they have refined this abstruse dynamic even more creating a record that is dark, challenging and beguiling.

Whereas the trio’s previous album ‘Mr Machine’ was recorded and toured with an 11-piece band akin to a mini travelling orchestra, ‘Miami’ is less tight and rhythmically oppressive. It’s more spontaneous, at times ebullient, with brilliantly bonkers instrumental flourishes. The wild groove of ‘Ocean Drive (Schamane)’ is a perfect example of the group cutting loose; the flaying piano sounds like it is being played by someone who has no care for notation and form giving the whole thing a disarmingly eccentric quality.

‘Miami’ sometimes awkwardly teeters between overt electronica and classical influenced avant-garde expressionism. You often get the sense that Brandt Brauer Frick could quite easily make an excellent pure dance record but that would be far too easy. Instead, they prefer to indulge in dark and enveloping atmospheric pieces like the 10-minute opening track ‘Miami Theme’. Here, portentous piano builds, gradually hammering out a hypnotic repeated figure until the whole thing bursts apart with deathly low-end distorted bass and horribly warped horns droning away until its finish. It is eerie, unsettling and quite brilliant.

The one thing that binds together this abstract collection of sounds is the increased use of vocalists, which allows the trio to use a loose structure to experiment with. The two tracks featuring Jamie Lidell are excellent pieces of idiosyncratic avant electro. ‘Broken Pieces’ is a funk jam warped beyond all recognition, while ‘Empty Words’ is even more odd, with a structure almost impossible to pin down and place. The best track featuring a vocal though is the astonishing ‘Fantasie Madchen’ featuring Gudrun Gut. Probably the most machine-like un-natural piece here it is a punishing piece of insistent techno relentlessly building an irresistible rhythmic pattern. Gut’s sinister sensual whispers give it a disconcertingly discombobulating feeling.

‘Miami’ is a record that is hard to get a handle on at times, but it is all the more resonant for it when you eventually fall under its spell.