I Am The Great NJS

Thursday, May 31, 2007

More recycling; erroneously written for Stylus one absent morning, a review of Tromatic Reflexxions by Von Südenfed.

Von Südenfed is the nom-de-plume for a new collaboration between German post-techno luminaries Mouse On Mars and Fall mainman / madman / svengali / dictator Mark E. Smith, whose obstreperous career has seen him release well over twenty albums with The Fall, and recently play a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking Jesus in a BBC sitcom. He was fifty in March, and has an autobiography scheduled for publication in June.

The partnership was germinated when Smith attended a Mouse On Mars gig and subsequently guested on the “Wipe That Sound” 12” in 2005. Given his oft-expressed love of both Krautrock and electronica, it makes total sense that he would eventually find himself providing the vocals for a German techno outfit.

And indeed, as soon as you press play, Von Südenfed seems like the perfect unification; Mark E. Smith, mumbling even when he’s shouting, has never sound more brilliantly deranged than on Tromatic Reflexxions, ensnared within an axiomatic, Teutonic machine, banging his fists and trying to get out, while Mouse On Mars, aided by Smith’s lunatic genius, have finally made the album of abstracted pop techno that they’ve been desperate to concoct since the alienating philosophical experiments of Ideology in 2001.

Essentially what we have here is robotic postpunk. Despite allusions elsewhere, it doesn’t sound particularly like LCD Soundsystem; there’s no tastefully retro hipster sheen here, just genuinely danceable and futurist pop, albeit mashed, paralytic, and unintelligible. It’s hard to tell which is more exhilarating; the barrages of packet-switched digital waveforms and algorithms, or the belligerently croaked tirade of vocals, the two elements combining brilliantly to make up the likes of “Fledermaus Can’t Get It” and “Family Feud”.

It’s important to assert that this isn’t just Mark E Smith getting drunk and ranting over a Mouse On Mars record, though, but rather a genuinely new creative union that pushes each artist in previously unseen directions. The gibberish bluegrass guitars & shouting of “Chicken Yiamas” is unlike anything in Andi Toma and Jan St Werner’s history, for instance, while the blissful electropop of “Rhinohead” improbably sees Mark E Smith crooning beatifically (albeit a stream of garbled nonsense culminating in him claiming “I’m a rhino”), something few people can have ever imagined.

He’s still a cantankerous sod, mind you, at one point accusing a rival DJ of wetting the bed during “Flooded”, while his cohorts are capable of digital brainfuck as much as ever; just check the woozy fluid-loss of “Serious Brainskin”. When these elements combine to find twisted hooks such as on “That Sound Wiped” and the astonishingly deranged “Duckrog”, the results are close to terrific.

The final track, “Dearest Friends”, fully demonstrates this collaboration’s ambition; a strangely affecting Afropop-cum-chamber-pop-cum-techno kiss-off, it sounds like something from Jim O’Rourke’s splendid Eureeka album as re-imagined by an inebriated tramp, and as such is unlike anything one might expect from a union between Mark E Smith and Mouse On Mars. Tromatic Reflexxions is hopefully just the start of a fruitful relationship


Thursday, May 31, 2007


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Nick Southall was born in southwest England at the tail end of the 70s, and is the youngest of three brothers. He has a degree in popular culture and philosophy and has written about music for Stylus Magazine, The Guardian and Drowned In Sound, amongst others. He likes red wine, expensive headphones, spicy food, and the Hungarian national football team of the 1950s. His favourite record is the last one he listened to. You can contact him by email via sickmouthy @ gmail dot com should you so wish.

All material copyright Nick Southall 2006/2007/2008

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