It took me a couple of albums to figure it out, but Jonas Reinhardt isn’t real. Rather, Jonas Reinhardt isn’t a living and breathing person, but the embodiment of an idea: specifically, a suave, perhaps academic, German electronic musician from the 70’s. Although press materials lead one to believe Jonas Reinhardt is a he, not an it, unmasking the truth hardly ruins the fun. And with the full lineup listed on the band’s Website and MySpace page, it doesn’t seem like anyone’s trying too hard keep the illusion alive. The “self-titled” debut was more of a solo synthesizer/drum machine excursion by San Francisco musician Jesse Reiner (Crime in Choir, Ascended Master, Citay) where the name served as an alias. New album Powers of Audition sees him welcome equal partners Phil Manley (Trans Am) on guitar, Diego Gonzalez on bass, and Damon Palermo on drums, so a strict maintenance of the illusion, which would act to displace some truth about the process, is no longer necessary or desirable, even as the name, inasmuch as it sounds arty and German, still works in suggesting an era and a style.
If you’ve spent any time listening to the original krautrock, kosmische, and synthesizer music coming out of continental Europe in the 70’s, Powers of Audition will ring a bell instantly, and it will ring it louder and clearer than any of those reissues or vintage presses. This clarity and volume of recording makes Jonas Reinhardt, despite obvious stylistic differences, an esthetic bedmate with acts like Boards of Canada and Add N to X, who use the nostalgic beauty of analog electronics to temper their more boisterous beats and tempos. Cyclical patterns and drifting arpeggios are here in full force, and like obvious influence Manuel Göttsching, the band is equally fluent using guitar or synths to spin circles around your brain. Two tracks, “Atom Bomb Living” and the title track, really power forward with might and momentum, tearing the roof off the sucker like they’re actually fueled by atomic reactions, each sky-reaching lead element grounded by a group of pulsing rhythmic elements. The remaining five tunes are more subtle and spacey as they either explore the outer limits while twinkling and brooding (“Orbiter Dicta”, “Near a Mirrored Pit Viper”), or spinning slowly from within a gaseous center (“Only You Can Achieve Nitrogen”, “Wastrel Eyelid”), calling to mind more nebulous but no less revered sequencer-based European acts like Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre.
The powers of audition in the title refer to each listener’s ability to audition new sounds when a song lulls, breaks down, or has been intentionally left blank. Perhaps the guys in Jonas Reinhardt used this avant-garde theory to keep their compositions spry and intent, but these songs don’t seem limited or minimal. Even though Powers of Audition often feels restrained and meditative, the sounds confidently jump to the front of the mix to take their turn being seen before shuffling out. Considering the style they’re working in and the obvious affinity these fellows have for their instruments, perhaps the deepest praise to give them is that they don’t confuse being busy with being vivid. By foregrounding the feel, the flow follows.