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- Biomechanoid by Joel Vandroogenbroeck
8/10 Ant Staff review, 07 March 2014
Belgian born Joel Vandroogenbroeck was founder of early 70’s Swiss acid-psych explorers Brainticket. A group whose mind altering emissions were given the far-out golden seal of approval with an inclusion on Steven Stapleton’s infamous Nurse With Wound List. During the 80’s he was extremely prolific as a solo artist releasing no less than twenty two solo albums, most of which appeared on the German Coloursound Library imprint. ‘Biomechanoid’ was the label’s inaugural release and saw Vandroogenbroeck make the transition from utilizing traditional instruments (piano, Kalimba, sitar, harp, etc.) to working with synthesizers. The record’s title and fellow Swiss artist, H.R Giger's painting that adorns the sleeve are a strong indication as to what to expect. Never judge a record by it’s cover so they say but this was released in 1980 before infinite knowledge about records was accessible by a device right in your pocket so these kind of sleeves were pretty useful if you were gonna take a punt. If I’d have stumbled across this in a record store in 1980 I’d have been like “Whoa! This looks like some dark alien electronic music or some wild cyberpunk shit” and indeed dark alien electronic music is exactly what lurks within Biomechanoid’s grooves.
Opening track ‘Dark Plasma’ does precisely what the title suggests. Synthesized liquid sounds bubble and gurgle like some kind of alien plasma brewing up a batch of baby cyborg aliens in a laboratory. ‘Elements’ has a slightly unnerving drum pulse over which dissonant piano hits drop and collide over eerie drones and strange dislocated percussion. ‘Sign From Space’ sounds like the sonification of secret communication signals being beamed into deep space. ‘Strange Lady’ has distant howling solar winds and arguably the most musical and lighter parts of the album, almost wandering into melody. There’s a sort of playfulness about it which is echoed in follow up ‘Plastic Gnome’ which has a very quirky almost cartoonish thing happening.
Before things get too silly ‘Voices’ heads straight back into the darkness of space, like being consumed by a black hole. Throughout I’m given the impression that this is like an imaginary soundtrack with moments recalling the work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in astro mode. There’s a very rudimentary feel to the record, a sense of simplicity that’s not over laboured. It’s far from being minimal yet things feel bright and spacious and not over cluttered, each individual layer of sound is prominent and crystal clear
‘Lost Planet’ is a real trip, and probably the most complex piece on the album. Closer ‘Galaxy Recall’ is cold, dark and mysterious and as it fades away it leaves me wondering where I’ve just been for the last 40 minutes. I’m not quite sure, but it was somewhere deep within the cosmos eith light years into the future or in the distant past when the aliens from which we evolved reigned supreme.
Dark visions of the future from an 80’s science fiction perspective, now back in print through Belgium’s Aguirre.
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