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Barker & Baumecker - Transsektoral

Ostgut Ton

Although it’s probably fair to say that British-German relations have had their ups and downs, Sam Barker & Andreas Baumecker are the good kind of collaborators. From Berlin, and an eight-year stint as a Berghain resident, Baumecker brings a techno nous tending towards the cavernous wind-tunnel. This clearly leaves Barker, one-time Brighton citizen, to supply the Phats & Small UK flavas, though for some reason label Ostgut Ton prefer to focus on the experimental electronica angle and his experience as booker for Berghain night Leisure System. Between them they have a collection of hardware that would make Rick Wakeman loosen his collar, and a hatful of ideas. The good news is that this combination is pulled off with aplomb, and their debut LP Transsektoral is an inventive, bass-heavy and highly listenable success.

After the near obligatory mood-setting opener comes “Trafo”, which takes a crunchy, punchy broken beat built out of bashed metal, then adds stabs recalling “The Man With The Red Face”, or at least until they are chopped up and submerged into the general mass of experimentation. In maybe another nod to past greats, following track “Schlang Bang” essentially features a hoover as a bassline, which occasionally teeters on the edge of ludicrous but is saved by clever syncopation and the ever-morphing soundscape.

“Crows” is less successful to these ears, mainly as the outsized riff in this queasy bass track sounds like a robotic cat in heat. But what do I know, and it might be worth paying attention to people who matter on this one: I can well imagine it would slay an up-for-it crowd of sonically jaded neophiles. Nevertheless, the subtle sketching of “Tranq” comes as a blessed respite.

“No Body” is much further up my alley, using a standard machine music sound palette as the building blocks for more-or-less straight-up 2-step garage, like Squarepusher’s “My Red Hot Car” without the sample abuse but with added groove and equally perfect production. Then, “Trans_it” is pedigree Berlin techno, swirling and echoing off metal beams and breaking down into quasi-melodic arpeggios.

After the trouser-flapping subwoofer test of “Databass 133 ⅓” comes probably the toughest tune on the LP, “Buttcracker”, and although it’s a relentless, flailing monster it isn’t as mindless as the name might suggest. It seems B & B can bash out sphincter-clenching body music with one hand behind their backs, and that hand is rewiring a vintage modular synth. There’s a jarring ending, and a transition into “Silo”, a little more restrained but still packing a pretty ferocious heads-down punch, perhaps created more on the fly than some of the other tunes but no worse for it.

In closing out the album, the accompanying press release rolls out one of the more dubious genre connections I’ve ever seen, implying that final track “Spur” is deconstructed happy hardcore. Bonkers. It’s actually another string to the bow, a psychedelic synthesiser jam in the Gavin Russom mould. And I’m surprised to say this about something on Ostgut Ton, but it’s a shame that Barker & Baumecker don’t develop the melody a bit more, as the occasional sections where it shimmers through are seriously emotional in the way the best electronic music can be.

Transsektoral is an excellent album, if very occasionally overloaded by the sheer weight of ideas and the complexity of their execution. But that might be a good thing - if the onward path is upwards from such a debut then there could be some truly extraordinary sounds in store from this pair in the future.

Sam Stagg

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