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Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble
Machine? No, It's Man! Ha, Made You Look.
The default category for Brandt Brauer Frick is “Dance,” but especially for their second album, that’s just flat-out wrong. The texture of Mr. Machine might be the fusillade of rhythms we associate with techno and house, but the BBF Ensemble breathe life into the mechanical genres with their acoustic instruments. The result is a percussive weave more suited to couch listening than early morning clubbing, as well as a leap forward from their debut work.
BBF specialize in a kind of ventriloquism — man imitates machine. And like throwing your voice, the pleasure of the Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble is in marveling at the trick. It’s fun to hear a recognizable techno beat but say, “Hey, a person did that!” Their excellent single “Bop” keeps a frenetic house groove with the left-handed keys of the piano. Live drumkit imitates a drum machine, pretending to be four-on-the-floor bass beats. Then, the violin on sub-bass!
“Pretend” guests vocals from Emika, a friend from the Berlin music scene, and you can see where their interests collide. They’re both inspired by the techno club sound, but push it in new directions. Brandt Brauer Frick’s version of “Pretend,” swaps Emika’s laptop groans with minimalist acoustic syncopation. The strange baby resembles a Javanese gamelon, remixed with haunting trip hop vocals. The softer vocals on “On Powdered Ground (Mixed Lines)” blend better with the percussion’s human touch — the song is the closest on the album to conventional indie pop, like post-modern Feist.
The standout track, “Bop,” like several other songs on the new album, reworks a song from Brandt Brauer Frick’s debut You Make Me Feel Real. They’ve gotten bolder with their imitation, moving away even from strict percussion instruments. It’s better, because they make their point more clearly — techno beats can be imitated, commented on, and even improved by real-world elements. Violins included.