he headphones cover image on Iso68’s Here There suggests misleadingly that its contents might be German techno. In fact, its sonic palette encompasses glitchy electronica, microsampling, post-rock, acoustic jazz, and even elegant chamber music. Iso68’s two members, Thomas Leboeg and Florian Zimmer (Lali Puna’s keyboardist), are joined on the group’s third full-length by acoustic bassist Robert Klinger, a three-piece string section, and Eva Baierlipp’s sultry voice contributions. The group’s romantic, organic fusion of acoustic and electronic musics exudes an evocative noir-like European flavour.
Here There’s seven tracks weigh in at a succinct forty-one minutes. The satisfying ‘Cosmic Bones’ starts things off in a fairly conventional electronica style, until eventually the percussion, bass, and piano combine to create a latin-jazz feel. The first major departure from the electronica norm arrives with the second song, ‘Stoppages/Est Plus,’ which adheres more to a ‘60s Euro-jazz style and conjures images of a late summer night at a Paris café. Piano, drums, and an hypnotic acoustic bass vamp form a lovely languid backing for Baierlipp’s French spoken word passages, while electronics appear as bubbling background texture for gorgeous layers of melodies. The stunning ‘Diffusion Cappric.’ follows. It begins atmospherically in Jan Jelinek territory with a tactile base of hiss accompanied by bass, electric piano sprinkling, and subtle cymbal accents. It suddenly takes an aggressive post-rock turn with the addition of a ride cymbal, drums, and scratching noises until poignant melody lines appear, played by what sounds like strings paired with woodwinds. The later ‘Moontrain/Here There’ evidences a similar kind of artistry. Its DSP opening of textured crackles and surging drone changes character to become a swinging jazz-blues courtesy of piano, acoustic bass, and Baierlipp’s hazy voice. Soon after, glistening tones are added and electronic textures once again appear, steadily growing in volume and dominance. Tracks like ‘Diffusion Cappric.’ and ‘Moontrain/Here There’ demonstrate Iso68’s superior handling of compositional shifts. The other tracks impress too, each distinguished by the same ease with which the group draws upon myriad styles. The bass piano keys and bass on ‘Stargardt,’ for instance, combine for a duet that suggests a rumba feel.
On Here There, Leboeg and Zimmer have created seven immaculate tracks which give the impression that they were created effortlessly, as opposed to being painstakingly composed and constructed. The duo exemplifies a tasteful command of texture and arrangement, knowing exactly when to add, say, a particular percussion pattern and when to shift stylistic gears. Perhaps the closest group analogues to Iso68 might be To Rococo Rot (whose music also marries electronics and acoustic elements to through-composed pieces) and Dictaphone (who specializes in an equally compelling fusion of moody, 60s-era Parisian jazz and glitch-based electronics). Regardless, with Here There Leboeg and Zimmer have fashioned a compositionally compelling work that is distinguished most memorably by its bold stylistic expansiveness.
Reviewed by: Ron Schepper
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01