The Humbucking Coil
he Morr Music aesthetic is tired. Over the past few years, Morr Music, almost a genre unto itself, had become as dated as trip-hop, break-beat, down-tempo, and that bastard genre nobody really understood, electroclash. It was aged already, like Portishead, Zero 7, Ladytron, Air, Daft Punk (did I need to throw?), Goldfrapp (I needed to throw), Sia, Audio Bullys, My Computer, Peaches, Fischerspooner, Willie Nelson, The Chemical Brothers (Grammy Winners!), Röyksopp, RJD2 (Aceyalone notwithstanding), even old Munk projects like Leroy Hanghofer, scumglam and proud, and all kinds of unworthy genre cornerstones. Breathless, me.
In many ways, Morr doesn’t seem to fit the mold for passé. The label had distanced itself from a growingly stagnant indie-prone electro scene—and many of those aforementioned Euro standards—to forge an electro-pop label in a crowded pool with recognizable water-marks. You knew it when you heard it—from the iced blue-bells of Lali Puna to the hum-drama robotics of The Go Find and the cankered sugar pop of this year’s Electric President—all too commodified by now to remind you of just how pressing Morr was on inception. Soak in the gas-pull of ketamine—seek out imports on Gomma, Trapez, or certainly Perlon—and it’s easier to see just how Morr was dating itself. With ketamine and micro coming to the forefront with the living-room set, playing on home stereos to soundtrack feasts and slumbers, alternately, there was not much room left over. The chemlab fuels the dance scene for the home listener now, dark and insecure and guided by finger-tracings of light. Surely we didn’t need any more Germanic Nico-isms?
Yet early on this year, I came across two forthcoming releases that didn’t open my ears as much as dim my cynicism. One was the new Ms. John Soda, but the one that brings us here today is B. Fleischmann’s The Humbucking Coil. Certainly, there’s no new ground covered per se, but the two bands—long since staples for the label—have pushed the envelope simply by refining their palettes and thus mainlining their sound. This is classic improvement by quarter-turn, a sharp profile aside where you were used to the face in whole. Now you see how Roman the nose, how plump the chin. Nothing much to be shocked by, but a moment’s realization that you’re not sure you knew this person, from this place.
B. Fleischmann is of course Bernhard Fleischmann, who first came to the attention of Morr after 1999’s Charhizma release, Pop Loops for Breakfast. With the co-Morr/Charizma double-album Welcome, Tourist in 2003, B. Fleischmann staked a claim to Morr’s more ambient domain, littering his pulpy beats with shavings of subtle guitar haze. Crossed somewhere between Fennesz and the instrumentals of label-mates Lali Puna, he stood out not so much for his beats—something almost implausible under the confines of the Morr Music aesthetic at the time—but for his smokestacked billowing, his tendency to cotton punctured skies.
With The Humbucking Coil, Fleischmann retreats into more organic territory, flushing out guitar textures and marrowed synth lines with the natural flesh of human drumming given cosmetic whiskering. Along with the plodding drum machines of past work are robust, a-synthetic drum loops. This increased humanism lends Fleischmann’s compositions an evolutionary sense of dynamism, thawing out his stern soundscapes—something of people but fractured and in need of mend. Of course it’s beautiful—fucking, of course—but it’s the subtle glow you sense only in abandon or loss, vigor via transformation.
After the clopped electronics and wasted-day guitar strums of “Broken Monitors,” Fleischmann reclines into Schneider TM-style vocalisms, augmenting bubble-burst beat lines with straight English lay-aways, a sigh and a drain, a call to Monet’s peasantscapes. “Composure” sustains itself on swirled chimes and a femur-beat before Fleischmann pushes the space with autumnal guitar lines. “Phones and Machines” is the sound of us waking up to nothing, lights fried and radio tried, a slow evolve against the sudden spread of black, null and the course of empty. Much like “Broken Monitors,” “From To” finds Fleischmann frosting his frenetic beatscapes with dead-pan lyricism. His voice is withdrawn and quiet, almost smothering, and it suits the snowed-in music it supports.
In the end, The Humbucking Coil is a novel inclusion on the label’s schedule. It’s Morr Music circa 2006 after all, a modest shift from Morr Music circa 2005 or 2004. Its candelabra muscle is a reason to look again though, to check back to a label you may have forgotten. You can always play Achso when your friends arrive.