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The Young Gods - Super Ready/Fragmente

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Artist: The Young Gods

Album: Super Ready/Fragmente

Label: Ipecac

Review date: Sep. 14, 2007

David Lynch once said something to the effect that that which is almost, but not quite, human generates the most effective horror. Substitute enthrallment for visceral terror, and that axiom could ring true for Switzerland's Young Gods, now in their 20th year of plying more or less rock-based music by way of sampler and live drums, with nary a human-operated stringed instrument among them. In the hands of a lesser band, to forgo guitar and electric bass from the formula and present more or less rock-based music might be akin to kayaking without the paddle (without the kayak, even). And even for the Young Gods, it's a path that is not without the occasional dead end and subsequent stylistic break, a la 2005's synth- and trance beat-heavy Second Nature.

Thankfully, the Young Gods hashed out enough of a personal musical vocabulary to have kept things steadily interesting over their career. Super Ready/Fragmente's umbilicus extends back to 1992's TV Sky, a record that established TYG internationally as a rock band that kind of wasn't, entirely. The stuttery sampled guitar riffs are present and accounted for, as is the occasional wafting synth pad or rhythm sequence. And vocalist Franz Treichler's sounds as breathy, earnest and disarming as ever over the Jesus Lizard-esque lockstep riff of "I'm the Drug.” Likewise, "Freeze" snips metal guitar chords out of their original habitat, stripped of both natural attack and sustain. The fuzzy lead synth line in Judas Priest's "Turbo Lover" comes to mind as a rough comparison.

In context of this electronic environment which envelopes him, the presence of drummer Bernard Trontin continues to be an intriguing one. What the songs lack in swing, he makes up for in acoustic timbre and dynamics, as in "C'est Quoi c'est Ca,” where drum set augments electronic percussion, burbling sequences and blown-out guitar. There's a similar interplay with the machines on the title track, and the snare rolls of "El Magnifico's,” which accompany guitar samples alternately pitch shifted and stretched apart. The ambient lounger "Stay with Us" dispenses with the kit in favor of a gentle ebb of electronic texture and rhythm, backing a sitar and Triechler's pitch-processed vocal. It's refreshing to see not one "industrial-metal" copout here; "About Time," with its looped, layered and recombined guitar breakdown, and the thrashing hook of "Secret" peppered with squelchy synth swoops, are about as heavy as the Young Gods allow things to get.

Perhaps a few sentiments get lost in translation. Unless it's meant as a joke on cruddy blues or rock lyrics, the acapella "Machine Arriere" makes for a throwaway, perplexing listen. Likewise, "Un Point C'est Tout" closes the record with a pastiche of blues guitar noodling and the low-rent glitch rhythm of a skipping CD before a big "bonzo" beat and slide guitar surfaces anticlimactically. While the trio breaks no new ground to speak of, Super Ready/Fragmente stands as a solid, focused effort that inches the Young Gods back into the orbit of guitar-based rock.

By Adam MacGregor

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