B. Fleischmann: The Humbucking Coil
Morr Music

One might get the impression Bernhard Fleischmann is some kind of obsessive gearhead. After all, he and Herbert Weixelbaum named themselves duo505 in homage to Roland's MC-505 when they released 2004's collaborative outing Late, and Fleischmann now titles his latest effort The Humbucking Coil after a 50-year-old guitar pickup (it apparently eliminates the instrument's usual interferences by doubling them, leaving the pure sound of the vibrating string). But such an impression would be inaccurate: while Fleischmann is obviously interested in sound design, his work is about composition first and foremost, specifically stately electronic tunes flush with melancholy themes sweetly voiced by piano and vibes and occasionally joined by Viennese compadre Christof Kurzmann's eccentric vocalizing (on two of the album's eight songs).

If Fleischmann's sound remains little changed since his 1999 debut Poploops for Breakfast and 2002's Welcome Tourist, there are some new wrinkles: numerous songs feature languidly funky hip-hop beats (e.g., “First Times”) while the reverberant swoop of electric guitar signals a subtle shift in sonic emphasis. Simply put, “Phones and Machines” and “Static Grate” are beautiful pieces that envelop lulling grooves with the gentle caress of mournful piano melodies and delicate guitar shadings (plus the meander of Kurzmann's clarinet playing in the latter); Fleischmann likewise gives “Gain” a dreamy feel by underlaying the vocal with a relaxed hip-hop pulse. Determinedly more dramatic by comparison is the opener “Broken Monitors” which subtly segues between placid episodes and controlled euphoria. Only the peculiar “From To” jars, starting out as an incongruous mashup of two seemingly different songs, the first a percolating techno mix and the second a slow vocal ballad, but the pieces come together more convincingly as the song evolves. Aside from some subtle tweaking of his signature sound, The Humbucking Coil doesn't break revolutionary new ground but should still prove satisfying enough for Fleischmann fans.

February 2006