“Techno without the technology”, they apparently call it. And I really like that.
Brandt Brauer Frick, an ensemble hailing from Berlin who pedal an inventive, playful line in the kind of motorik Krautrock grooves their homeland claims mastery of, are a dance trio first and foremost, but their huge grooves are created out of a dogged determination to stick with classical, traditional, rarely out of the ordinary instrumentation rather than a reliance on samplers, sequencers and laptops. Whilst that might strike some as an unnecessary attempt to un-invent the wheel, what it seems to have provided themwith is their own distinct edge, not to mention an utterly thrilling live show. Perhaps what makes Brandt Brauer Frick’s dance music hit harder than most you’ll hear is that they’re actually physically able to hit their instruments with more force than many of their latop-tapping contemporaries.
Miami, their third LP in three years since forming, isn’t a straight up dance record however, for BBF are not a straight up kind of band. A darker, rougher beast than either of its predecessors, it’s a highly expansive piece of work that bravely opens on a ten minute dirge of discordant piano and trembling cellos called ‘Miami Theme’, a thoroughly cinematic turn that bears no resemblance to the excellent four to the floor banger ‘Ocean Drive’ that follows it. Two tracks in, and you’re already convinced of the group’s diverse powers, seemingly capable as they are of soundtracking both a night at an independent film house and a hedonistic shape-throwing session in a dingy Berlin warehouse.
The latter of those skills is the most instantly rewarding, of course – especially when they harness Jamie Lidell often better than he does himself on the exhilarating ‘Broken Pieces’, and turn to Nina Kraviz to front the overlapping rhythms and jarring keyboard swirls of ‘Vewahrlosung’ with vocals that range from guttural moans to crazy cat lady yelps via creepy whispers and incoherent mumbles. Yet though the more ominous numbers like the wholly intimidating, tuba-heavy ‘Miami Drift’ (which sounds like a disco on Das Boot) and the closing ‘Miami Titles’ are less likely to get one dancing, they provide the record with an extra level of intrigue often lacking from other dance music albums – honestly, how many do you regularly listen to as a whole? – a depth of feeling that lifts this from a collection of pretty good dance songs to an album of pretty great songs in more general sense.
Even at its slowest, everything on Miami seems to have a rhythmic purpose. The speed of your nodding along will peak and trough, but never completely peter out – even the words used by the guest vocalists seem specifically picked to be the most percussively pleasing. It turns out the titling and repetitive use of the word “Miami” is also a result of this obsession. As they put it – “It’s just a word that sounds good. Would Miami be as iconic if it was called something else?” Clearly, Brandt Brauer Frick are a band who like to think long and hard about how exactly they’ll move our bodies.