Like the leads in some convoluted rom-com, it has taken Kompakt and John Tejada over a decade to get together, but—as everyone else can see—they're made for each other. They share, not only a deep, abiding faith in melody, but also a high-spec, polished production sheen that, far from feeling cold, gives their best work a luminous, spiritual dimension. Los Angeles' Tejada enjoys much sunnier surroundings than his new German colleagues, but both are in the business of wringing an otherworldly emotional intensity from highly manufactured machine music.
Ironically, if there is a criticism, a lingering doubt about Tejada, it is quite the opposite: that his work lacks soul. In its perfection, some argue, it is all surface. That is a misconception, which, by the time The Predicting Machine peaks—in the glorious, string-led "Stabilizer," a Detroit techno take on disco, or the wistful, Border Community-style bedroom trance of "Glaringly Happy"—you will have shrugged it off, but you can see how it comes about. The empty sonic gymnastics of "A Familiar Mood" sound like something a hi-fi shop might use to demonstrate a system's clarity and range. Suddenly, Tejada's explanation, on the press sheet, that this album was inspired by his use of modular synths, seems worrying. Has this most technical of producers side-lined raw feeling for professorial studio tinkering?
But again, such doubts fall away. The other potential misgiving that you won't hear anything new here is also resolved: you won't. The Predicting Machine sounds more like a homage to various styles, from the naive, exploratory ambient works of Radioactivity-era Kraftwerk ("Radio Channel"), to the whimsical homespun techno of label-mate Superpitcher ("Orbiter"). On "An Ounce of Perception," a galloping electronic romp a la Moroder or Jarre, what sounds like a vinyl scratch clicks in the background. Is this an in-joke, an acknowledgement of this album's vintage provenance? Such mimicry would get old fast, were Tejada not sincere and skilful, but the arrangements, production and song craft are all accomplished. In a world of grid-mapped laptop productions, differentiated by minor acts of sonic surgery, it reasserts the power of melody. Is that a revelation? No. Is it a welcome reminder? Yes.