Serious? Synths? German? When you hear these words, it’s tough to get past Kraftwerk and their sullen, robotic faces. The original doctors of synthetic pop have spawned and inspired countless music makers to look to their machines for sound. And, as their sold out Tate shows earlier in the year revealed, they still cast a suitably huge shadow over today’s electronic beeps and bleeps. But Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer and Paul Frick, the three German dudes at the helm of the vessel which uses their surnames for a moniker, are doing their best to stretch and rewire the original circuit board into weirder, twitching sonic shapes.
While the names of Brandt Brauer Frick are as austere and clean as the edges of real robots, these classically trained musicians and electronic auteurs are breathing more life into computer music than most. Over the course of their first two records, these musicians made techno – but without the technology. On You Make Me Real and follow up, Mr Machine, they opted for classical musicians as the medium for their dancefloor delivery. While on paper, this sounds like the guiltiest wet dream of the most avid Wire reader, their notions worked beautifully and saw them perform in art galleries, clubs and festivals across the world.
Miami is their latest record which arrives with the sound of a trio flipping the switch on their classical leanings. While there are still traces of the hypnotic propulsions that drove their previous material forward, Miami sees the group’s sound going out of the club, toking on a large one, and coming back to dance full of off-kilter swagger, red eyes and fear. Much of this is to do with their new musical cohorts which include Jamie Lidell, Russian DJ and producer Nina Kraviz and guest vocalist and Frank Ocean producer Om’Mas Keith.
The latter, who appears on Plastic Like Your Mother and at London’s XOYO in person, adds another layer of spontaneity to proceedings which gradually gets a smoky crowd at this show moving. Om’Mas acts as a musical totem around which the trio collectively convulse and mould musical shapes, which while often starting free-form, gradually ebb and flow until nailed down into a heavy, punishing groove.
If all this sounds like it stinks slightly of jazz, then you’d be right. It does a tad but the reverb heavy vocals and tight live drums means that the BBF’s mothership never goes too ‘far out man’. Instead older songs such as Bop are stripped back, dosed in protein shakes and sent back out to rough the club up and balance out the more free form moments. Elsewhere, the trio display some serious muscle and sweaty under arms during extended lengthy rhythmical work outs. The sleeker orchestral manoeuvres may have gone and been replaced by banks of machines but Om’Mas Keith conducts his troops through their visions. It’s a fascinating combo of sound and vision, particularly as behind their computers, the trio often resemble the Captain Kirk’s crew of the Star Trek Enterprise wrestling with the controls during a particularly heavy meteor shower. On paper, BBF may be an experiment which sounds more bookish than bounce, but in the heat of the night this trio get XOYO moving as one. They can throw aside their instruments and immerse themselves in cosmic slop, and get down with the best of them.
Words: Jim Ottewill
Photography: Liz Seabrook