Plenty of funk, not enough [B]stvrung[/B].
[a]Michael Fakesch[/a] and Chris De Luca have no manifesto, no arty agenda, no angry desire to rip up the cyberfunk rulebook. These noodling Krautronic jesters just want to have fun, and why not? After several years as record shop owners, club promoters, label bosses and sporadic recording artistes, the Munich-based pair gained global attention with a set of wiggy remixes for the likes of Bjvrk, Faust and Jean Michel Jarre. Thus Funkstvrung, meaning “radio interference”, was born.
On this debut collection of original compositions, the duo’s bedrock style is pneumatic trip-hop and fractured junglist beats layered with static crackle, a wealth of deliberate technical glitches and the distant throb of softly glowing synth melodies. These are certainly the sounds which bookend ‘Appetite For Disctruction’, from the sinuous Kraftwerk-meets-UNKLE tinkle of opening salvo ‘Test’ to the gently melancholic, low-voltage hum of closing techno lullaby ‘Mind The Gap’.
But things toughen up in the record’s mid-section, where the burly whoop and wallop of hip-hop is approximated on ‘Sounds Like A Breakrecord’ and ‘Grammy Winners’, both featuring rhymes by MC Triple H and an arsenal of bruising cut-up effects. Remember Funkstvrung are not mere Teutonic whiteboy outsiders, having remixed Wu-Tang Clan and East Flatbush Project, and here at least they remind us that hip-hop was once [I]the [/I]most avant-garde and futuristic game in town. Hardly great rap tunes, admittedly, but still compelling rasp’n’rumble hybrids in the general vicinity of Massive Attack.
At best, the duo come close to fusing some vibrant new species of machine-age soul: an intuitive yoking of opposites, hard and soft, warm but cool, emotionally engaged yet jarringly remote. The superlative cluster of ‘Think!’, ‘I/O’ and ‘Red Shirt, White Shoes’ sound like direct descendents of Tricky‘s ‘Maxinquaye’, with eerie siren vocals drifting through the shadowy ruins of rusty metallic superstructures and bouncing off overwound post-jungloid springs. Ghostly non-language courtesy of Cocteau-esque chanteuse Carin adds a sheen of opiated sophistication.
What ‘Appetite For Disctruction’ lacks, though, is any urgent sense of direction. Maybe it’s enough that Fakesch and De Luca have appropriated the grammar and vocabulary of chin-stroking egghead-tronica for essentially accessible ends. And it is certainly healthy that their music isn’t hamstrung by history and arid academic theory. But the downside of their laissez-faire playfulness is that there is little here that hasn’t been done with more skull-splitting gusto by Aphex or Autechre, more art-punk attitude by Panasonic or Max Tundra, and more melodic panache by Plone or 5-Ziq.
‘Appetite…’ is a solid debut, for sure. But search for its inner flame, its anarchic hard drive, and you find two blokes laughing at you for taking them too seriously. Plenty of funk, not enough stvrung.