This is, apparently, the second album from Deustcher
Christian Kleine, who is also one-half of the duo Hermann und
Kleine. I picked it up for that connection (having been impressed
enough with what little i have heard of his duo work), but also,
well, because Valis also happens to be the name
of the novel wherein Philip K. Dick describes his descent into
schizophrenia. You might know Philip K. Dick as the sci-fi genius
who crafted the works that Blade Runner, Minority
Report, and Total Recall were based
on. He is one of my favorite authors, and when i sensed a Dick-Kleine
connection, i couldn't resists.
This is not, however, a paranoid album about god communicating
with people by beaming pink lasers into their brains. In fact,
a little Google-ing reveals that VALIS is an acronym for "Vast
Active Living Intelligence System". I dunno exactly what that
means, but apparently both Kleine and Dick are into it. Okay,
This is, however, a pretty decent album. Christian Kleine makes
light electronica that seems to fall somewhere between hardcore
IDM (a la Autechre), keyboard
and beat electronica (a la his countryman Ulrich
Schnauss), and pseudo-band electronica (a la fellow Germans
Mouse On Mars). It's a fascinating
mix, and Kleine does well with it.
Most of the music is obviously keyboard/synthesizer. Additionally,
there is guitar strewn about, and it's the use of guitar that
makes this disc for me.
Take Boon, the album's opener, for instance. The track
starts off with wavering synthesizer tones that hearken back
to the glory days of Krautrock (specifically reminding me of
Tangerine Dream), which is then joined with a flat sounding
drum kit. And then, inexplicably a lovely bass wanders in, sounding
like an outtake from a Public Image Limited recording session.
It's a wonderful juxtaposition: the glitch of the beat with
the solidity of the bass.
The next track, H:Y is a decent Boards
of Canada-like tune, and is not too remarkable. Not bad,
but not really great either. However, the next number stuns
me. It's called Several, and features a really catchy
rhythm of light glitch, with mellow wavering guitar that reminds
me of something Yelow6 would play. Glitch meets guitar drone:
another genre-blending, and very well done.
Red Norvo comes next, and sounds almost like Lanterna
with a very mellow echoed guitar riff. It's nice, but unassuming.
After this interlude, Kleine kicks it back up a notch with Accent.
A chiming keyboard melody tinkles alongside the most stereotypically
IDM beats on the whole album. What makes it intersteing is a
deep bass noise beneath it all. It's a sound that i am sure
is synthesized, but which also honestly reminds me of those
"songs of the humpback whales" things you heard in the late
70s. I don't know if Kleine was trying to invoke that sound,
but he did so anyway.
Finally, Kleine wraps things up with Unauthorized, which
is a nice glitchy tune built out of keys, distorted drum beats,
and some kind of crowd cheering noise. It's nice, but surprisingly
unoriginal after the last few songs.
Valis clocks in at just over 32 minutes, and
in that time Kleine manages to cram in a lot of interesting
listening. If you are interested in where electronic music is
going these days, i think you need to look to the Germans, who
seem increasing innovative. And Kleine is no doubt right up
there in the forefront of what the Germans are doing.