Ellen Allien & Apparat
Orchestra of Bubbles
f the oldest trope of electronic music criticism is placing the ‘warmth’ of a particular record against the brisk tundra of the genre, then both Ellen Allien and Apparat have inspired more than a few writers to fall victim. That said, Orchestra of Bubbles won’t change any opinions. But let’s get the obvious out of the way: this album isn’t great because it’s warm. It’s inviting and involving, but the playfulness between the co-conspirators is what trumps both artists’ previous solo releases.
Although Orchestra is their first official joint creation, B-Pitch controller Ellen Allien and Shitkatapult co-hurler Apparat (Sascha Ring) have remixed and produced each others work in the past. The two have also inspired more than a few admirers. A Venn diagram of fan-boys would feature Allien’s set with the ogling club-kids and Apparat’s set with the pasty kids who get short-of-breath when they hear the word microsound. Allien, as a solo artist, has shown an uncanny ability to cross-over without sacrificing the unfriendly future-shock coolness or steady jack. Apparat’s Duplex took the IDM blueprint and discarded enough masturbatory gestures to reveal that the house wasn’t entirely corrupted by eggheads with no sense of style.
Within their own spheres, the two have etched distinct enough approaches that beg for a whodunit on the anatomy of Orchestra of Bubbles. And with “Retina,” there is a joy in pointing out snippets of musical dialogue (Apparat’s strings, Allien’s synths). But genealogy can only go so far to describe how striking the whole album sounds. Sure, there might be a dull minute or two on “Floating Points,” but I’ll be damned if I can find much else to criticize. Even when the album’s sequencing might seem dicey—like the disorienting transition from “Way Out”’s digi-croon chorus into the cello-driven “Retina”—it eventually only further endears Allien and Ring. They’re too busy splattering new ideas onto their canvas to “artfully” craft an album.
And that might be the best discovery of Orchestra of Bubbles. Neither Allien nor Apparat sound restricted to the creation of a hermetic, singular work and the result is things like the surprising dubstep-via-Berlin of “Metric” or the shimmering pink sky of “Jet.” Even “Do Not Break”’s collage of mandarine-synths, “ow” samples, and record-scratches somehow work. The ability to mesh the ‘everything goes’ ethos is more than a bit overwhelming. It can make Allien and Apparat’s take on something as oppressive as dubstep feel downright affable.
Reviewed by: Nate De Young
Reviewed on: 2006-04-19