Animals, Suns & Atoms

[a]Tarwater[/a] make electronic music sound like it was invented yesterday afternoon, by [a]Tarwater[/a]...

If you’re German you’re generally an electronic experimentalist and this is the one respect in which Ronald Lippok and Bernd Jestram, aka [a]Tarwater[/a], are no exception. With their much-acclaimed debut 1998 album ‘Silur’, the pair surveyed the earth in its prehistoric condition when it consisted of nothing but water, with the objective nonchalance of those two angels in Wim Wenders‘ [I]Wings Of Desire[/I]. ‘Animals, Suns & Atoms’ is, as the title suggests, less ambient, more full of things – songs, even.

The eerie, alien chatter of the opening track, ‘KR?LEG’ is typically atypical. [a]Tarwater[/a] make electronic music sound like it was invented yesterday afternoon, by [a]Tarwater[/a]. They don’t so much grab your attention as abduct it, brainwashing you in their unique sonic chamber of dub, benignly insidious loops, rhythm box patter and repetitions. The softly relentless ‘Noon’ is the highlight here. With its typically severe lyrical mantra, drugged, unintelligible female backing vocals and pseudo-sitar, it makes no obvious sense yet implants itself in the memory like a microchip.

, they drone on ‘At Low Frequency’. ‘The Trees’, with its austere cello, and ‘All Of The Ants Left Paris’, chomped alive by its own electro-pop backbeat, sound like the sort of sinister, sci-fi confections The Velvet Underground might have conceived had Reed and Cale stuck together and gone futurist. ‘Song Of The Moth’‘s faintly oriental woodblock chimes and the brief, musical haiku of ‘Somewhere’ are remote cousins to David Sylvian‘s solo work, while the final track, ‘Seven Ways To Fake A Perfect Skin’, with its distressed synth signal, ’60s TV theme harpsichord and disturbingly off-kilter climax, is forged in a similar kiln of cryptic sarcasm as late Wire.

These, however, are barely adequate guidelines – [a]Tarwater[/a] are extremely difficult to label or define by comparison. At once engaging and alien, accessible and opaque, they cock yet another snook from the far left-field to the argument that nothing’s happening in rock music nowadays. Not over there in the middle, that’s for sure. Way over here, friends. This is where it’s happening.