It takes little more than 60 seconds of Lukas Schneider's second Auto Aggression album to realise that in the twilight of their existence, Dependent may have been on the cusp of bringing a significant new talent to a wide audience. One that can shoulder the pressure of names like Autechre, Haujobb, and William Orbit without buckling and, what's more, push back one of the most arresting LPs on Dependent for sometime.
There are dozens and dozens of (often single entity) projects that operate in the electronica field, indeed, some labels live off releasing nothing else. But despite looking like they've been genetically engineered to dsoaudio's tastes, most of those simply wind up boring me after a while; long on style but too often fundamentally short on substance. Artefacts however manages not only to effortlessly sustain the interest but it's a varied journey too: constantly changing, shifting genres. A lot of effort has gone into constructing Artefacts - each track brimming with original sounds and well-presented with some accomplished production.
Schneider focuses on composition. Although, of course, expression is part of that, it is expression of emotions in a generic sense rather than a self-centered one. Thus we have a suite of music that is pure expression as a basis for writing rather than selfish expression. The results therefore transcend ego and exist on a higher plane altogether. Stretching from ambient to hard club beats, this draws on everything from industrial to pop, imaginatively fusing potentially clashing genres into a cohesive and polished work. Opening track is the glorious instrumental Meta that sounds like the shaping of the universe set to jumbled beats. It's a thrilling start and sets the bar high for all that follows. The Sky Is Not Yours an example of multiple genres blending to startling effect. Meanwhile, Covenant's Eskil Simmonson guests on A Thousand Fires.
In the films Modern Times and The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin put forward a warning of the dangers of the mechanical world and power, instead urging embracing humanity. The Great Dictator's prophetic speech is used as the basis for Speed wherein it cleverly quotes extensively: "We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity." It's almost as if this concept lies at the very heart of Artefacts. The different track styles representing these differing, often conflicting ideals. From track to track, this embraces and exhalts the wonder of technology, then pauses and reflects on its potential dangers. But Schneider seems to believe that provided one is able to retain control over technology then there is no reason why mankind shouldn't harness the tools. And when the results are as thought-provoking and as thrilling as Artefacts I'm inclined to think he's right. If you buy one album this year then buy this. 8/10
Rob Dyer (March 2007)