As the electronic music scene continues to re-invent itself, it all too often arrives at some very familiar destinations; at the same co-ordinates which Giorgio Moroder and Ralph Hutter took as their startpoints in the late 1970s. Essentially, the monophonic repeated note, performed at varying frequencies, remains the basis of the electropop world : da da da da da de de de do do, just add disco and you may share the same moment of sequenced discovery that characterised the best known work of both Kraftwerk and Donna Summer. Other German producers such as Konny Plank moved into more experimental and less mainstream -friendly areas, but it took Cabaret Voltaire’s Extended Play EP to highlight what a combination of oscillators and tape effects could fully achieve, and there wasn’t a more challenging and forward looking record released in 1978. Equally, the shock of the new has never really quite worn off from the repetitive hyperdriven beats of “I Feel Love” and “Trans Europe Express”.
So exactly where does a record as seemingly unclassifiable as Blazen fit in amongst the plethora of electronically based music available to listeners today? If it is necessary to constantly hark back over three decades to find the exact blueprints of what we listen to nowadays, then the earliest work of Cabaret Voltaire can provide as comfortable a pigeonhole as needed for an album that is as atonal, metallic and insidiously listenable as anything the earliest incarnations of either the Cabs or the Human League confronted audiences with at the very dawning of the electronic era. Opening track “Rapture” begins in a rush of drill noise which is quickly supplanted by some screeching feedback and a keyboard motif that introduces a barely audible operatic vocal which is itself faded to make way for what sounds like some big band jazz played backwards. If this sounds chaotic and a bit mad then that’s exactly what it is, but Mutant Beatniks retain a rhythmical structure to their sound collage which prevents their combination of sampling and sound generation from loosing focus entirely, although they also quite happily deconstruct this with second track “Axiom” which appears to rely entirely on a combination of white noise and effects chamber insectoid hisses to which are added swathes of garbled circuitry.
Over ten tracks, Mutant Beatniks repeat their formula with a marked variation in results, and while they appear determined to avoid presenting their listeners with anything that could conceivably match the description of a tune, (with the possible exception of ninth track “Wall”), they also mange to avoid the trap which I’ve heard many similarly avant garde experimentalists fall into, which is to say that Blazen is at least a consistently interesting auditory experience and perhaps a work of quite real compositional merit which could find itself filed alongside John Cage and Stockhausen as well as Mobius and Four Tet. I don’t expect everyone reading this will find the entire album of actual interest but those DOA readers whose interests extend to the farther reaches of experimentalism will definitely get something from the multiplicity of sounds and arrangements Mutant Beatniks have collated, all forty five or so minutes of it. Improvisation in any form inevitably presents erraticism as its most obvious feature, but Mutant Beatniks are very able to turn this seeming disadvantage to their own purposes, and their sense of enthusiasm carries onto Blazen with relative success within its own artistic terms.