Teutonic twosome The/Das provide the missing link between avante-garde ambient techno and noir-pop; you may not have realised that it was something you needed, but after hearing the pair’s debut LP, Freezer, you’ll wonder how you survived without it.
Recombobulating from the debris of Bodi Bill, Anton K. Feist and Fabian Fenk have not only formed anew, but they’re also in pursuit of fresh goals. As Bodi Bill, they released four records and amassed a good-sized following in their homeland of Germany, Scandinavia, and various other European nations. Though The/Das aren’t spilling the same blood as they did with Bodi Bill, there are enough similarities between them that those same fans should have very few issues jumping on board with this project. However, with comparisons to SOHN, Deptford Goth, and Jon Hopkins already flowing, it’s also clear that those similarities don’t lead to a rehash of old ideas, not by a long shot.
There’s a soulfulness to Fenk’s vocals, as if he’s pleading or begging to his maker, which are often dispersed between bristly, glacial and/or malevolent synth lines; percussion is rugged and Dorito-crunchy, which serves as a wonderful counterpoint to the slug-gloop bass. It’s not some strict recipe that they follow, and indeed, they deviate from these conventions quite regularly, but you’ll see the duo dip into motifs and conventions of the two base camps that they lay between. As in ambient techno (think Laurel Halo and other Hyperdub heavy-hitters), the rhythm and sense of space reign supreme. As in dark electronic pop, melody and passion are paramount.
On opening cut “My Made Up Spook”, The/Das use crisp, clinical snares and the whomp of kick beat to create space and break up the dogfight basslines that pan between tinny treble and booming lows. “Miami Waters” uses the same techniques; it’s a juxtaposition of hard and soft timbres that allows distance to grow – the components of the songs are so contrasting that the space around them is highlighted, building this completely fictional silence as you experience them almost individually. The/Das are actually a very texturally thick band, rarely weaponising quietness, but they seem to make you believe that there’s a prominent sparse streak. They use this sonic illusion of high and low, sharp and blunt, hot and cold, in order to separate the pieces more easily, instead of having them blur into one hulking gelatinous gunk. It’s clever, and provides the pair a formidable foundation for them to explore their melodic leanings.
“Operation Of Chance” sees The/Das dabble with vox reminiscent of Tom Vek and howling harmonic pads. It’s big, euphoric pop, ballooning with every beat until it’s this massive, bloated tension-filled carcass, ready to explode into its final crescendo; sadly, that never arrives, leaving the suspense to fester. Imagine listening to a dubstep track, and listening to the swell before the inevitable drop – only that drop doesn’t turn up. Ooh. It’s like some goddamn Goosebumps-level scary story. That darkness pervades the entire record – though a mixture of pop and dance, Freezer is chilling (heh). There’s menace in abundance during “This Place”, which is the aural equivalent of skidding around a pitch-black labyrinth with only a flickering torch to guide you. The gothic “Somebody Is” is a bit more kooky than spooky, but the intention remains.
Despite The/Das’ penchant for sinister sounds, it’s still a grand LP. Rejoice in its multifaceted glory: the pop is magnetic, the dance is relentless, the soul is sincere. In Freezer, Fenk and Feist succeed in crafting an album that’s wonderfully experimental, toying with our perceptions of space, texture and structure. They don’t just leave it at that however, and woo us with some more standard fare too. The idea of dark electronica isn’t a new one, but they’ve done it well nonetheless, and in conjunction with their experiments, it thrives. It’ll probably be the best horror entity released this year, judging by the Halloween film schedule.