By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Forward into the past
"Originality consists in returning to the origin" reads the inner sleeve of System 7's Golden Section. Its maker should know: Rewind almost a quarter of a century, and you will find System 7's mastermind Steve Hillage playing guitar with perennial cosmic hippies Gong. The fact that he hung his guitar up in favor of samples and sequencers is only an indication that so-called trance music doesn't exist in a vacuum--and is hardly a product of the '90s. Tracks like "Exdreamist" are nothing more than psychedelia wrapping itself in drum 'n' bass beats and electronic ambience.
Here Hillage is at the helm of a cosmic rave, sampling Balinese singers ("Sinom X Files") and Don Cherry's trumpet ("Don Corleone") and suggesting that it is all a continuum. Golden Section sounds very much like a lot of like-minded releases by knob twisters who could be his children. Maybe the chill-out rooms in today's raves are not that different from hippy sit-ins. The only problem is that one hardly remembers any of the music the morning after.
You can't say the same when it comes to the granddaddies of the whole electronic shebang--or at least one quarter of them. Former Kraftwerk member Wolfgang Flur is responsible for the appropriately titled Time Pie, the debut from his solo project Yamo. Yamo picks up where Kraftwerk left off with Electric Cafe and is in fact more bouncy and melodic. With the help of the (also German) duo Mouse from Mars and various female singers, Flur creates a thoroughly modern album that avoids most of the trappings of electronic ambient or full-out dance outfits.
Flur adds the fizz of pop to electronica, and as a result he builds a fantasy soundscape of primitive sonic bliss. Time Pie bathes in a warm glow of simple, sugary melodies, recapturing the sense of wonderment found in classic Kraftwerk albums like Autobahn or Radioactivity. "Stereomatic" would be great for the airwaves if radio programmers were not so frightened of anything new. "Awomanaman" is a "A Man and A Woman" for the electronic age. "Aurora Borealis" is as gentle as a lullaby.
Yamo wins by going against the grain: Instead of opting for the club vibe, he revisits the roots of electronica and breaks it down to a few fundamentals. Call it nostalgia or midlife crisis on Flur's part, but Time Pie sounds refreshingly new in its primitiveness, blending the '70s into the '90s seamlessly.