Dominik Eulberg

Bionik

(Cocoon; 2007)

By Mark Abraham | 8 December 2007

This is more like it. Just a few months after the disappointing Heimische Gefilde collection deflated in my player, some decent songs intercut with a pretentious bag of faux-artiste tricks, Bionik pretty much dispels any concerns I had that Eulberg had secretly offered us his self-pink slip and finally made good on his threat to quit music and become a fulltime park ranger. A scant minute into his new park-less album he’s already proving exactly why he’s one of the most original and creative voices in electronics: see that casual, metallic sample that strolls up and knocks against the door of the beat? Watch how it gets dragged in the house and locked into position as the hook of “Der Traum Vom Fliegen.” Gorgeous, and brilliantly played, even if the album’s title is a tad heavy-handed in explaining that this is not a continuation of Eulberg’s nature-fetish tracks. Even if the net sonic sheen here skews metallic, bird noises and spark plugs sound pretty similar in the right deep house/techno space. And that’s the kind of production we’re talking about here: even with everything going on, you could still pull these songs over your head like a hat with more than enough space to avoid all the clanging and whirring objects. By which I mean: the exterior’s harsh and business-like, yes, but the inside is all warmth and comfort, at least until the last few tracks where that polarity inverts itself and Eulberg hits incredibly forward avenues for sound by going old school.

“Libellenwellen” is a fascinating example of Eulberg’s keen ear for the melodic and tempo-related qualities of samples. One sourced inhalation is here the inspiration for a track that constantly inhales itself, the sample both a slight melodic passage and employed like a micro-break as a transition between chordal clauses. It’s the type of effect that sounds effortless—like he just inserted the sample as a hip afterthought—but I’d be incredibly surprised if the entire song wasn’t built around the motion the sample represents. The sequencing moves like the sample, an intricate synergy of minimal techno techniques, chimy melodic synths (it’s like everybody has borrowed Pantha Du Prince’s patches these last few months), and a spate of low-mix textures that crowd the pulse towards the center and sometimes coil themselves up in the wake of breath. Another example: “Autopfoten” maneuvers weirdly vocal metal shots into a twenty-first century re-enactment of the vocal blurps from “I Only Have Eyes for You” over a vaguely-Bruce Springsteen-plays-punk percussion riff. There’s a lot to like about the way Eulberg approaches genre centrifuge on this album, wisking electronics into a variety of dance-centric grooves and innovative new sounds at the same time. More gratifying, though, is the way he gets inside each of these tracks and plays the fuck out of them. The breakdown on “Autofoten” is an excellent example: the beat gets skittish and off time in an increasingly tense standout until the entire track re-explodes with more natural-sounding drum sequences.

But the main attraction of Bionik is how, despite its more innovative turns, it just keeps pushing forward. The amazing percussion play on “Haifischflügel” may provide all sorts of technique epiphanies moment to moment, but pull back a bit and just witness how the track pounces, uncoiling like a spring across mental and actual dance floors. That whispy whine that accents the guttural (and sometimes glitchy) feel ties the loops together in knots before being unleashed towards the end like an otherworldly fugue. The most conventionally melodic segment on the album, it gets past its straightforward delivery by acting as a sounding board for everything else on Bionik: a moment of clarity where Eulberg shows us what his sound might be if pristine and unadulterated. This reinforces how the normally adulterated excess of Bionik stretches the concept of minimalism in interesting ways: the seemingly sparse but incredibly active percussion of “Freche Früchte,” the subtle inversions of intuitive beats on “Löwenzahn-Luftwaffe” that reinvigorate an obvious and tired dance floor bass line, or the descending phases that caress the percussion on “Rückenschwimmzipper” before a subtle 808 pulse anticipates some Prefuse-style modifications that wrack the shit out of the song.

If “Rückenschwimmzipper” goes retro in measures, “Lotuseffekt” is a wild trip back to the ’90s, a buzzing flourish of manic synth patterns that run full tilt towards their conclusion. It’s a shocking moment in many respects, a nostalgic garrote of elegant, mechanic proportions. So when Eulberg turns another corner and “Bienenstich” follows him back down the rabbit hole into the present, the effect of “Lotuseffekt” is even more profound: the weird connections between the songs mark them as irrevocably different and strangely comfortable besides one another. What else is there left to do besides let album closer “Rattenscharf” mix every other idea on the album into a bleary mess of gorgeous passages? This is a Eulberg that might disappoint fans of his more esoteric tendencies, but fuck if this isn’t a pretty, vibrant album.