Machine learning: Fjaak nod to classic techno on self-titled debut album


Fjaak may look like three young H&M models, but they make machine-tooled techno with plenty of old-timer grease under its fingernails.

 

Childhood friends from Berlin, Felix Wagner, Aaron Röbig and Kevin Kozicki have been an item since 2009, after dumping their guitars and drums for an ever-expanding collection of synths, drum machines and samplers.

They’ve just released their self-titled debut album, after 10 EPs of gritty, hardware-driven techno and breakbeat, and a locked-in live reputation that earned them a slot at Berghain as the youngest ever live act.

The album sounds like it’s been crafted out of classic techno’s ‘best bits’, without slavishly copying any artist. You’ll hear echoes of smudgy Basic Channel synths, tough, visceral drum programming and that satisfying ‘tish-tish’ hi-hat Jeff Mills used on his 90s Purpose Maker EPs. They also run a vinyl-only club night called ‘Machine Vibes’ – just to give you another idea of where their loyalties lie.

Opener Spnd Ballett – a nod to their Berlin district rather than a homage to the new romantics – pins things down immediately with rattly oil drum breakbeats and breezy synth flutters, while Sixteen Levels shuffles along in a similar vein, with a nervy, twisty motif that sneaks up from behind.

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The centrepiece of the LP is Das Programm, which ditches the breaks for a 4/4 martial belter, all metallic hits and sci-fi pads, and Gewerbe 15 sounds like a perfect transition record between warm-up and taps-aff techno.

In an interview with District last year, the lads joked about a phone call with Gernot Bronsart of Modeselektor, who rang to say he’d like to meet them, then called round to their flat 10 minutes later and offered to release their next EP Don’t Leave Me on 50Weapons.

Their label bosses turn up on Fjkslktr here, a wonky, playful bass track with warm ambient swells to close the record, and Rødhåd also turns up to add further Berlin kudos on the elegant, chime-led Offline.

The 808 cowbells and wiry, piston-fire snares on Fast Food recall Future Sound of London’s We Have Explosive, another link to the 90s through its appearance on the soundtrack of Wipeout on the PlayStation. But even if they’re elbows deep in wires and classicism, Fjaak doesn’t feel like a shameless retread – just a snug techno comfort blanket that fits just about right.  (Monkeytown)