Art Techno or Future New Wave? In the past year, many buzzwords have surrounded the underground electronic scene, as analog synthesizers and old-school drum machines have become the norm. The new monikers reek of the same ignorance that surrounded Aphex Twin and Warp records when critics dubbed their sound "intelligent dance music." Truth is, techno has been steeped in art school rhetoric since Juan Atkins and Derrick May discovered Alvin Toffler. The entire genre is in debt to Kraftwerk, after all, who defines the concept of arty pretentiousness.
Fischerspooner, then, should not be seen as a retro band, even though its music is steeped in synth and New Romantic attitude. Instead, like any good musicians, they rely on the past for inspiration while creating a fresh sound palatable to today's ears. No. 1, released last year in limited pressing (and later reissued on DJ Hell's seminal electro label International Deejay Gigolos), sounds as good now as it did a year ago. Despite the press' obsession with the new-wave influence, the duo (Warren Fischer and Casey Spooner) utilize a variety of influences, not just new wave. The first single, "Emerge," for example, combines analog synth and New Order vocals with the desolate sound of Detroit techno and the clubby high energy of Eurodisco. The same formula works on the album's closer, "Natural Disaster." The cover of "The 15th" by Colin Newman (Wire), however, is pure '80s melancholia. It's all very dramatic, but then again, this is self-professed art pop.
In addition to their music, Fischer and Spooner have assembled a small army of conspirators from Web designers to choreographers to create an entire multimedia experience. Their live show has been described as a postmodern version of Cats, and one can assume that there's a bit of cheekiness involved. The best track on the album, the instrumental "Ersatz," revels in this sense of artifice. Picture a cross between OMD and Autechre, and you have "Ersatz," a brooding '80s anthem complete with stops and repeated notes that could be created only with modern digital effects.
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This album is as enjoyable as it is disposable; a true postmodern artwork. To quote Ayn Rand, No. 1 is nothing more than a collection of "objects made by men, to be used by men," and it couldn't be better.