I have belatedly realized that I was an utter fool for sleeping on this unusual electronic duo from Berlin for so long, as an idiosyncratic dub techno-inspired project from a former member of Lali Puna seems like it should be right up my alley. Unfortunately, their debut (Nocturnes) was a bit too indulgent, deconstructed, and eclectic to resonate with me at the time and I filed them away as "mutant techno for people who are way too enthusiastic about modular synthesizers." Whether Driftmachine has gotten better in the ensuing seven years or whether I just caught up to the inspired aesthetic that they had all along is hard to say, but Spume & Recollection instantly sounded great to me, so my guess is that there have indeed been some improvements. While all four of these pieces are definitely still a bit too vamp-like and strange to fit within my personal dub techno comfort zone, I now feel like the quirks and subdued spaciness of the pair's vision make Driftmachine a compelling entity in its own right, as the best moments of Spume & Recollection feel like simmering, surreal, and mechanized psychedelia in perfectly distilled form.
The curiously titled "Albatross follows a killer whale" opens the album with bleary, swaying smears of synthesizer and lazy beeps before a slow and deep bass groove kicks in. From that point onward. Driftmachine continually display a real knack for crafting hypnotically stark and throbbing rhythms, always finding the perfect tempo for their heady, simmering magic to slowly reveal itself. In the case of "Albatross," that magic comes in the form of shuddering, buzzing drones and dubby slashes of echoing percussion. Without the latter, the piece would still be a pleasantly slow-burning dub techno-inspired delight, but the unpredictable violence of those slashes elevate it into something better. The following ‚ÄúThe surge at the end of the mind‚Äù kicks off with a blurting and lurching off-kilter pulse, resembling some kind of stark, robotic funk (a good summation of the entire album, really). Gradually, however, the strange collection of clicks, pops, swells, and beep coheres into an unexpectedly propulsive groove. Or maybe an expectedly propulsive one, as Driftmachine are unerring in that regard on this album. The duo's rhythms are unconventional though, involving a number of moving parts that rarely seem like they will seamlessly lock together into a precision-engineered, futuristic pulse (and yet they always do). Elsewhere, ‚ÄúMemories of the lakeside" comes out of the gate with an odd, quirky groove that achieves something akin to imagining "Hotline Bling" as a classic Rhythm & Sound single. The final piece, "Soon I will disappear," is an unusually melodic one, as a minor key chord progression of frayed, spectral synths unfolds over a characteristically erratic and bubbling synth pulse. Of course, once the kick drum and the bass come in, yet another smoky, simmering, and heavy groove is born. All four pieces here are legitimately excellent and quite similar to one another, as Spume & Recollection is essentially just a handful of cool grooves allowed to play out in ten-minute doses, yet the duo's surgical exactitude, flawless instincts, and talent for manipulating small details keep the album smoldering from front to finish.
Samples can be found here.