19 March 2013

Album Review: Brandt Brauer Frick - Miami

Not a Berlin firm of industrial designers but, in their own words, creators of ‘acoustic techno’, Brandt Brauer Frick occupy somewhere between Mike Oldfield and the Chemical Brothers, making dance music with orchestral instruments where harps, trombones and violins find their way into densely constructed drum patterns. Their approach stands out in the sometimes tired landscape of DJs on decks.
The classically-trained trio have moved away from the rigid minimalism of their work so far – according to Daniel Brandt, “With the first record we always thought a DJ must be able to mix this. But at some point we became bored with that approach, that formula of things slowly coming together. Also the experience of playing so many gigs in the last years changed our way of making music a lot.” Whilst the ‘no machines’ philosophy has been retained, the highly intricate beats are of drum-machine precision and it’s easy to forget that every note on this album was hammered out by a real-life musician.
Miami is presented as a film, with a weighty, brooding ‘Theme’ and pacey, dramatic ‘End Titles’ as the opening and closing tracks, but it’s about a version of Miami, not necessarily the real one; the group reject any literal meaning in the title. A selection of guest vocalists add colour to the relentless percussion, most notably Frank Ocean’s producer Om’Mas Keith, whose growled lines are sliced up and stacked multiple times on the single ‘Plastic Like Your Mother’. Besides hip-hop, there is a prominent jazz influence through Jamie Lidell’s gutsy, soulful vocals on ‘Broken Pieces’, and in the piano and insistent plucked strings which jockey for position on ‘Ocean Drive’.
‘Verwahrlosung’ takes an absorbing route from busy Hot Chip rhythms to an isolated repeated instrumental phrase. The jaunty feel here and on ‘Skiffle It Up’ contrast sharply with the sinister atmosphere of the Kraftwerkesque ‘Fantasie M├Ądchen’, and the tumbling piano chords and electronic freakouts as the ‘End Titles’ play out leave the listener unsure whether Brandt Brauer Frick are men or musical machines.

Originally published at HI! Magazine.