CD: Interlink Audio [2004]

Mod Rat

The slow-building 10-minute intro track on Artridge's new CD "Finished Soundtracks For Unshot Films" is called 'Conclusion', which might give you some advance warning of this two-man band's quirky, off-kilter approach. Spacious and ambient for the first half, towards the end it acquires a scratchy bass-line, the squeal of an unhinged oscillator, gentle chords on a keyboard and a minimal, motoric rhythm that reminds me somehow of Steve Reich. Based in Berlin having done stints in New York and Amsterdam, Artridge sound appropriately urban and unplaceably cosmpolitan, like the familiar flow of human traffic around any major western conurbation you could care to mention. The press release claims that they give "new meaning to the term 'contemporary industrial chamber music'"; I wasn't aware there was an old meaning to the term, it being a neologism as far as I know, but let's not pick hairs - as the album continues, I begin to see what they mean. 'Infusion' flowers into an orchestral string arrangement and begins to sound like Jim Thirlwell's Steroid Maximus or Manorexia projects, in their quiet moments at least, minus the big-band brashness and the seventies car-chase sleaze - although by the end there's a hint of Alexander Balanescu or Ekkehard Ehlers in the mix. 'Delos' revisits 'Conclusion' but brings to it a brief twist of lo-fi dancefloor jive before stretching it out into a repetitive clockwork rhythm and depositing it somewhere in jazz territory. 'Exile' is a homage to the guitar, an affectionate pastiche of RAWK, which breaks down half-way through so the chugga-chugga power chords can let a bluesy solo and some fragments of spoken lyric bleed through. If this were a record, "Omsk" would signal the start of side two, breaking completely with the sounds of "Exile" and leading gaily along a skippy, funky drumbeat and duelling basslines into a strange construction of warbling analog sounds, throbs of bass and heavily processed jangles of guitar. Nice if perhaps somewhat over-long at 13 minutes, it would have a little more punch if it was a little shorter. 'Tube' is a brief Pole-ish dub interlude with a clangy industrial sheen, while 'Disposition', another long one, finds us back in orchestral arrangement territory and really begins to live up to the promise of filmic soundscapes in the album title. This for me is the centrepiece of the album, demonstrating a knack for harmony and juxtaposition of timbre and texture, and an incredible ability to weave subtle melodies out of the interplay of different fragments played on different instruments. After 'Disposition' plays out, 'Mod Rat' comes in with a blue piano, soon joined by lush strings and a syncopated drumbeat - and perhaps something akin to an oboe, be it made of wood or electronics. This is like the musical equivalent of some smoky after-hours basement bar, seeing us through the long hours after the orchestra has gone home. My only concern is that there should have been something more climactic here, that they should have pulled out all the stops for the final reel, as it were. As it is, the narrative draws to a slightly unsatisfying close, and as the credits roll the audience are left wanting more - here's hoping the sequel is in the works already.


[Artridge] / [Interlink Audio]

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