Tronic Jazz: The Berlin Sessions
A Guy Called Gerald has spent the last couple of years flitting through shadows, turning up on labels like Perlon, Beatstreet and Sender like a peripatetic prophet of the Berlin underground, seeding the scene with cryptic singles that return to the past to suggest alternate futures. Now he returns to Berlin's Laboratory Instinct label with the follow-up to 2006's Proto Acid: The Berlin Sessions (LI 011CD/LP). Tronic Jazz: The Berlin Sessions builds upon the foundation established by its predecessor to create an even more powerful statement of intent, one that communicates more persuasively than ever Gerald's vision for techno. Where Proto Acid offered a seamless mix of 24 cuts, recorded in one epic session, Tronic Jazz collects 13 stand-alone tracks. That's welcome news to DJs. But there's something else: freed from the flow of the mix, the tracks go deeper into themselves, even while contributing to the overall shape of the album as a single, coherent form. They're more varied in tone and mood, and even tempo. While Proto Acid was, by definition, a track-y affair, a kind of puzzle comprised of interlocking pieces, Tronic Jazz stretches out to explore its ideas in greater detail and greater depth. Nothing overstays its welcome: Gerald is a master of concision, and he manages to express everything he needs in five-minute chunks -- inside which time stops still, arrested by the interplay of deftly-programmed machine rhythms, carefully arranged chord progressions, and a masterfully intuitive sense of sound design. Like Proto Acid, Tronic Jazz is an extension of a life spent listening closely to machines, knowing exactly what knob to tweak at exactly the right instant. It represents a feedback loop through the artist and his circuitry -- a spontaneous journey though the miles of silicon in his vintage boxes. You could call Tronic Jazz's sound classic: its Spartan drum machines, analog synthesizers and carefully-sculpted funk are all modeled after a blueprint laid down decades ago in Chicago and Detroit. Cutting a glissando lead through a field of drum shrapnel, like some kind of pixie earthmover, or rubbing two bass lines up against each other til they throw off sparks. This stuff is wide-eyed and full of life. When it funks, it funks hard, and when it smoothes out, it can be as intimate as a hand-written note left on a lover's pillow.