CD: Frozen Empire Media FEMCD10 [2004]

Days Ago
Only Me
Ice Breaker
The K Funk

The second release this month from Frozen Empire Media is the first full-length album from the newest project by Frank Mokros, the man behind Synth-Etik and Ativ, and to his credit, Totakeke's sound is a considerable departure from those previous endeavours. Eschewing the
harsh noisebeat sounds for which he is known in favour of a warmer, more rounded analogue flavour, Mokros has decided to venture into electro-ambient territory, and has done a damn fine job of it.

The opening strains of 'Days Ago' evoke the heady days a few years ago when Haujobb, Forma Tadre and :wumpscut: were the Next Big Thing, but unlike those luminaries of an earlier generation, this track - like all the tunes here - is an instrumental. This will be encouraging news to those (and I know there were a few) who found the 'cyber-gothic' vocal styles of the aforementioned bands a bit of a turn-off. Mokros returns to this kind of melodramatic ambience a few times over the course of the CD, notably on the somewhat ironically named 'Techno-Pop', the Alien-inspired 'Nostromo', and 'Lament', the title track of Totakeke's debut EP last year, which brings this sound bang up-to-date with the addition of some noisy percussion breaks.

Elsewhere the mood is more minimal, with bleeps, pulses and glitches woven into hypnotic patterns, but always erring on the side of harmony and tunefulness rather than electronic purism. 'Fusion' and 'Casbah' develop this sound into more upbeat techno-oriented territory, while 'Ice Breaker' and 'Faire' move in the direction of laid-back breakbeats.

If there is one criticism that could be levelled at this CD - besides the fact that at 13 tracks and 72mins it is quite long for a debut album - it is that one could accuse it of being slightly easy-listening. It rarely takes you by surprise, instead burbling along in the background dreamily and suplying a constant stream of pleasant head-candy. But then Mokros has already made the point that he can push musical boundaries with his earlier, noisier bands, and besides, if you pay close enough attention, there is plenty of experimentation here - from the deft layering of sound in 'Chorale' for a softcore ambient-noise effect, to the scattering of stabs and samples across the stereo spectrum in 'Days Ago'. It is in the fine detail of the production that the real innovation takes place.


[Totakeke] / [Frozen Empire Media]

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