Those heavenly voices reappear again on Instrumental Tourist, the pair's joint effort which launches the new SSStudios series of collaborative albums on the Software Recording Co. imprint. You can hear them intoning like angels with Tourettes on "Whole Earth Tascam"; dancing over the pin-drop chimes of "Ritual for Consumption"; and rising in a sombre Gregorian chant on "Vaccination for Thomas Mann." Yet while the almost requiem-like latter track might be at odds with the piercing tones of "Scene from a French Zoo" which precedes it, and the abrasive "Intrusions" which follows, its title—a tribute to the German Nobel prize-winning novelist who wrote about the philosophical dimensions of disease in The Magic Mountain—reveals much about Instrumental Tourist's prevailing leitmotif.
Both Hecker and Lopatin have dealt with themes of decay before—Hecker saying Ravedeath, 1972 was partly inspired by "digital garbage" and Lopatin sourcing many of the sounds on Replica from discarded videotapes—and much of the first half of Instrumental Tourist seems particularly diseased. "GSM I" sounds like the innards spilling out of a synthesizer. "Intrusions" is full of clawing noise and distressed howls. And while there's no percussion in any conventional sense, the likes of "Uptown Psychedelia" jerk manically to their own spasmodic rhythms.
Yet where those tracks are marked by an almost feverish nervous tension, from "Racist Drone" onwards Hecker and Lopatin seem to drift into an almost tranquilised state—one which strays closer to ambient clichés. Processed flutes give "Grey Geisha" an oriental and meditative air, and even the glitches and whirrs of the closing "Vaccination No. 2" now more resemble cicadas clicking in the undergrowth as opposed to cockroaches chewing through wires. Finally dissolving into a pool of static, Instrumental Tourist fizzles out as if Hecker and Lopatin have given up the fight and put the album to rest.