Stroboscopic Artefacts has a habit of commissioning unusual work from its artists. Judging from the MONAD series and the Stellate ambient box sets, label boss Lucy loves a good concept. Zeitgeber, his new project with veteran techno head Speedy J, is one of the label's best yet. Loosely translated as "synchronizer," Zeitgeber's self-titled album shows the two producers "freed of dance floor considerations" and building some of the most challenging music of their careers.
Though it doesn't cater to the dance floor, Zeitgeber still uses the tools and textures of techno. Sometimes it feels like the duo have unscrewed all the joints and let the pieces fall in uneven patterns ("These Rhythms"). Elsewhere, it's as if they've put techno under a microscope and let us see the individual pieces work in painstaking detail, an array of dots and squiggles in constant but almost imperceptible motion. The album's first few tracks are short and exploratory, playing with huge hunks of bass ("Closely Related") or sickly gasps ("Skin") before the LP collects itself into something more closely resembling beats. Eerie melodies in the vein of Alva Noto pass in and out, but feel conspicuously out of reach—a faint glimpse of musicality amidst all the processing.
Longer numbers like "None Of Their Defects" could conceivably work in a club, but even then the beats are more rigorous than alluring, like you're supposed to admire the imposing architecture from a distance rather than dance to it. "Now Imagine" is the record's biggest contradiction, and its most gripping track: the hissing granular rhythm is intercepted by what sounds like an airplane crashing through steel mesh—each and every time, the effect is startling. Even if it isn't dance music, Zeitgeber is dynamic and physical, another missive of cerebral body music from a label that can combine techno and the avant-garde more seamlessly than most.