French electronic producer Djedjotronic (real name Jeremey Cottereau) has always had an affinity for the visceral human-machine hybrid that’s provided the thematic source material powering beneath a lot of techno and electro, be it Kraftwerk, Dopplereffekt or Front 242. Eagle-eyed readers will have already spotted the reference to Czech writer Karel Capek’s 1920 science fiction play ‘R.U.R.’ (an abbreviation for ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’) in this album’s title, the narrative source material responsible for introducing the word ‘robot’ to the English language, and to the science fiction genre as a whole.
While Cottereau has been active under the Djedjotronic alias since 2007 (first emerging with the Spoek Mathambo-fronted ‘Dirty & Hard’12”), it’s only now that ‘R.U.R.’ finally offers up his debut album. Produced over the past year in a basement studio in Southern France, the eleven tracks collected here showcase Cottereau’s deep understanding of electro’s underlying architecture and offer up something of a homage to the genre’s classics, with a heavy dose of industrial / EBM influences thrown in.
‘Dr. Rossum’ opens this collection on an ambient note as eerie coldwave synth pads swell and phase like ages old machinery being slowly brought up to full power, shortly before ‘H+’ ushers in the genre’s established sonic hallmarks as clicking drum machine rhythms and phased synth sweeps take things off an an icy journey that’s one part ‘Trans Europe Express’, one part Model 500 as vaguely acid synth squelches and stuttered synthesised vocals glide alongside funky bass sequences and snapping snare breaks.
Cottereau’s version of Gary Numan’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ manages to offer a fresh and inspired take on a song that’s been covered virtually to death by now, scaling the original’s synth bombast down to just throbbing analogue bass, clicking minimalist drum rhythms and Lokier’s teasing, half-whispered vocals, the stripped down, downbeat setting bringing the track’s cold lyrical menace into sharp relief.
‘Take Me Down’ offers up one of this album’s most ferocious dancefloor workouts as Nitzer Ebb’s Douglas McCarthy contributes his yelled guest vocals to a surging undercarriage of industrial techno rhythms, sinister bass arpeggios and overdriven synths, though it’s a pity that his contributions get fragmented and cut-up into short samples, rather than a full vocal, making the collaboration feel like a slightly missed opportunity.
Elsewhere, the collaborations continue with ‘Avatars Have No Organs’, which sees Stelarc’s prosthetic head intoning synthesised spoken lyrics centring around the inevitable loss of individuality humans face when confronting the prospect of fusing with machines, as icy IDM-tinged synths murmur in the foreground. All up, ‘R.U.R.’ sees Djedjotronic crafting a storming ode to the more dark and menacing side of classic electro.