This isn’t the Miami of beige shorts and Hawaiian t-shirts. It’s the imaginary dystopia that one envisions after the end of days that is in fact lingering just below the surface of reality. Brandt Brauer Frick are the Berlin three-piece of free jazz musicians experimenting with acoustic techno arrangements since their 2010 debut Make Me Real, begun with the meticulous mimickry of ‘Bop’ and perfected with ‘Pretend’ featuring Emika on 2011’s Mr. Machine. At that point the heads behind it, Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer and Paul Frick, had brought the archaic instrumental oddities of a marimba, timpani, tuba and more to a lavish ensemble numbering 10, creating something only electronics could manage. But with their latest release Miami, out on !K7, March 11, they’ve stripped back to a three piece, included several interloping vocals accompaniments and loosened up the compositions to allow for the simmering sense of doom that all bodily electronica harbours.
This is a record that explores the menace of a civilisation devolving into madness, an underlying chaos that pervades all delusions of civic order. At this point, it’s sometimes hard to hear the insistent beat and curling synth lines of their electronic influences, until hitting the insistent stride of ‘Ocean Drive’. Visions of 80s computer-imagery and 8-bit video thump along the archaic new-from-the-perspective-of-the-old collision of piano, spasmodic guitar rhythms and crashing percussion, persisting to a level of hysteria before mercifully coming to an abrupt stop.
Offering a global perspective of a holistic idea of music, Brandt Brauer Frick work across time zones with Grammy-award winning RnB performer Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange producer Om’Mas Keith. He provides vocals for the growling sub bass opening of ‘Plastic Like Your Mother’ before expanding into a skittering fit of hi-hat, drums and primitive chanting. A similar animalism comes in Russian house DJ Nina Kraviz’s catcalls on ‘Verwahrlosung’ as she shrilly knocks her way through an asynchronous construction of miscellaneous instrumental thrashings, rising and collapsing in and around each other. The German title translates to ‘Neglect’ in English and Kraviz claws her way out of the disorienting fray to repeat its fascistic mantra over off-tune piano keys played like the soundtrack to a Fritz Lang film –both gloriously ornamental, yet deeply disturbing.
That sense of madness is carried through the demented cadence of ‘Empty Words’ while English soul and experimental musician Jamie Lidell breathlessly repeats the nihilistic slogan “hiding behind empty words”, while ‘Fantasie Madchen’ (‘Fantasy Girls’) tugs along the morbid thread of decline and alienation. Scrambled beats and pulses dominate as early Einstürzende Neubauten member and Berlin institution Gudrun Gut snarls her words within the poetry of disintegration.
Since their early days of structural pedantry, Brandt Brauer Frick have abandoned decorum and found a way to move forward within their bizarre oeuvre of man meets machine, stripping down to the elemental heart of the music they’re exploring. Collapsing under the weight of its own ideas and always conscious of its precarious position on the edge of reason, Miami goes beyond the fresh asphalt and palm tree boulevards of the ideal, to expose the cruelty of nature in all its awesome glory.**
Brandt Brauer Frick’s Miami is out on !K7 Records March 11, 2013.