Dresden-based electronic producer and robotics engineer Moritz Simon Geist has spent the last several years amassing a reputation for developing increasingly complex robotic instruments, with his tracks being completely rendered live by an array of computer controlled mechanisms, many of them 3D printed by himself, including robotic kalimbas, salvaged hard drives and machine actuated percussion.
While his earlier live performances saw him performing with an oversized TR808 drum machine filled with robotic parts that played the triggered sounds, his later work has seen him more focused on exploring new territory than paying homage to more classic sounds. Of course, Geist isn’t completely alone in this field, with Squarepusher’s Z-Robots collaboration, Aphex Twin’s ‘Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments Pt.2’ and even Pierre Bastien’s toy orchestra springing to mind.
What’s particularly interesting about the seven tracks collected on this debut album from Geist ‘Robotic Electronic Music’ is that they often sound more like the work of an engineer operating in the musique concrete / experimental sphere than that of a dance music insider – absent are the builds and drops required to really power a dancefloor. Instead there’s a focus on the intricacy of interlocking rhythmic textures that often sits closer to the likes of Terry Riley and Steve Reich.
’Entropy’ introduces the precise pulse that powers beneath much of this album as repetitive mechanical percussion, sprung bass and twinkling steel bells whir into action, the melodic elements rendered all the more vivid by the fact that they’re being rendered by actual struck objects, as mechanically pressurised hisses and drones loom ominously in the foreground. If there’s a sense of constantly-building factory line tension that never gets released, ‘The DNA Of Drumming’ opts for a more tumbling and loose feel, sending tribal drum fills rolling against icy bleeps and waspy-sounding plucked notes, the echoing steel drums that appear towards the end almost suggesting a dip into industrial dub.
Elsewhere, ‘In G# (Katze Lauft Uber Klavier)’ even manages to squeeze a direct Riley reference into its title as robotically manipulated prepared piano strings become intertwined with warm synthetic bass, throbbing organ stabs and playful runs of melodic percussion, before ‘Under Deconstruction’ unleashes the steel-edged industrial drums, the collision of thundering sheet metal, jittery electronic bleeps and wasp-like synths sitting somewhere between Test Department and Kraftwerk, in what’s easily one of the most surging moments to be found here. As a debut demonstration of what Geist’s mechanical creations are capable of, ‘Robotic Electronic Music’ is pretty impressive.