Berlin’s Brandt Brauer Frick captured the duality of their music quite well with the title of their 2011 LP, Mr. Machine, a set recorded with a full orchestral ensemble. Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer, and Paul Frick re-create dance music with woodwinds and strings instead of samplers and synths, making computer music with human tools. The German trio stand largely alone on their new LP, Miami, stripping back some of the florid layers that came with the ensemble on that last set in favor of some vocal features, resulting in an archly dramatic set of compositions.
At first, opener “Miami Theme” belies very little of the trio’s E(-less)DM capabilities, instead sounding like a set piece from a shadowy neo-noir film climax, Erika Janunger’s wounded calls floating amidst piano stabs and low-end brass mouthpiece bubbling. But as the dark world opens, so too does the hectic electronic element. The intense staccato string plucks that comprise “Ocean Drive (Schamane)” rain down from every perceivable angle, shallow percussion adding to the angst.
At times the anxious themes hit a little too on the nose. “Everywhere you look, there’s nothing left but broken pieces everywhere,” guest Jamie Lidell belts, the repetitive lyrics clogging up an otherwise strong house bed. The reverb-laden meandering of Nina Kraviz on “Verwahrlosung”, on the other hand, fits the themes to precision, the Siberian vocalist delivering a chaotic enough version of her lyrics to build alongside the intensity of the kitchen sink percussion.
The album plays out like a film set in a dystopic future Miami, one where the lines between organic and mechanic have faded considerably. Brandt Brauer Frick are more than glad to encourage that connection, opening with a “Theme” and closing with “Titles”, a piano line drifting away, frenetic percussion and siren winds howling into the night. Somewhere out there a film about a decomposing city is being made, and the strong soundtrack already exists.
Essential Tracks: “Ocean Drive (Schamane)”, “Miami Theme”, and “Titles”