[album review] anbb (alva noto & blixa bargeld): mimikry

November 26, 2010

Album cover for Mimikry by anbb

anbb: Mimikry (Raster-Noton, 2010)
£4.20 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Boomkat]

From the moment the cacophonous screeching that greets you at the very beginning of Mimikry enters your ears you know you have embarked on a journey, destination unknown.

ANBB is Alva Noto (Carsten Nicolai, founder of abstract electronic label Raster-Noton) and Blixa Bargeld (Hans Christian Emmerich, founder of Einstürzende Neubauten and Bad Seeds guitarist), a partnership that began back in 2007. Though Bargeld’s voice delivers most of the emotional pull, the album is a genuine 50-50 collaboration between these two artists; Mimikry‘s mix of glitchy, pulsing (yet emotive) synthetics and Teutonic, industrial found-sound should come as no surprise.

The two forces at work in these pieces – improvisation and abstraction – create a sense of drama throughout the album, though one that jump-cuts rather than flows between its key scenes. From the miniature opera of opening track Fall to the cinematic backdrop of Bersteinzimmer, from the nervous apprehension of Once Again to the pummelling intensity of Berghain, ANBB shift between different modes of storytelling with each track. Whether deliberately or otherwise, the effect is often disorientating (a feeling exacerbated, for this mono-linguist, by Bargeld’s swapping between German and English) and, as such, not always successful.

There are great moments, though: the interpretation of folk standard I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground, in which Bargeld’s gentle recital sits on top of a glitch-ridden saw wave backdrop that repositions the song in a subversively clinical setting; the hydraulic release of white noise on Ret Marut Handshake (about the alleged anarchist alter ego of mysterious novelist B. Traven); and, in particular, the existential conundrum posed by the title track (“You, as an insect, mimic yourself”). On this track, the duo are joined by artist-model Veruschka, who is also the subject of the stunning cover photograph.

Mimikry has received universal acclaim since its release last month, so it feels a little unnerving not to follow suit. There’s no question that it is genuinely original throughout and a few of the tracks, in isolation, are wonderful. Maybe I’ve come to the record with too much of the (positive) baggage of following the artists in their separate endeavours, but its disjointedness and incongruity too often left me wanting. The absurdist playfulness of Bargeld’s lyrics and delivery undermine – and are undermined by – Nicolai’s sublime though humourless electronic backdrop so that the music’s drama either dissipates or grates.

Though Mimikry‘s journey is a stimulating diversion, you’re glad to have arrived – destination still unknown.

close to 94 rating: ★★★★★★★

This review is part of close to 94‘s [emusic club], which reviews one album from the eMusic catalogue every week from a selection refreshed every month.

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