I can think of few bands that are as cheerfully single-minded in their aesthetic vision as Esplendor Geométrico. In fact, I suspect I could have written a remarkably accurate (if vague) review of Fluida Mekaniko without ever having heard it: lots of visceral and hypnotic percussion loops, no melodic hooks at all, plenty of low-level radio wave and static chaos, and some occasional tuneless and rambling vocals from Saverio Evangelista. Done. Predictably, Fluida Mekaniko DOES provide all of that, but I keep buying Esplendor Geométrico albums because they also tend to feature at least one or two absolutely mesmerizing pieces where everything comes together perfectly and Arturo Lanz seems like a goddamn genius. Fluida Mekaniko continues that tradition beautifully and even finds room to let in a bit more light and nuance than usual. As a result, it is probably one of EG's strongest and most listenable albums yet.
The opening "Sindroma" is textbook prime Esplendor Geométrico, instantly launching into an obsessive and infectious rhythm that lies somewhere pummeling industrial repetition and shuffling Latin sensuousness. As with just about all EG pieces, the groove is absolutely everything. There is certainly plenty of activity in the periphery (washes of white noise and burbling electronics), but it is mostly there to add density and enough textural variation to keep the propulsive and relentless rhythm dynamically compelling. It is a well-used and very simple formula, but it works extremely well here.
"Sindroma" is also one of the rare pieces on Fluida Mekaniko to prominently feature vocals. Describing Evangelista’s vocals as "spoken" or "shouted" does not quite hit the mark, as they have a distracted-sounding and somewhat arbitrary element that makes me feel like I am overhearing half of a cell phone argument in Spanish. Curiously, that does not detract from the piece at all, as–again–the groove is absolutely everything. The vocals are just one more thing that happens to be occurring. As much as I like "Sindroma," however, it is "Kooperativo Centrifugilo" that is the absolute zenith of the album, resembling an unstoppable juggernaut of a mechanized Latin dance party bulldozing through a protest rally: no frills, just pure hypnotic and all-consuming rhythm. Elsewhere, "Todavia Mas" is an arguable dark horse contender for the album's centerpiece: though it boasts a fairly standard-issue EG groove, the surrounding music is surprisingly harrowing and ambitious, resembling a pitch-shifted fascist rally being dive-bombed by menacing swoops of swirling and flanging electronics. The deep, lurching, relentlessly forward-moving shuffle of “Objektiva” is also quite absorbing, even going so far as to break with tradition by attempting a sort of stuttering left-field hook.
Within the extremely narrow confines of the EG sound, however, Evangelista and Arturo Sanz do sometimes find room to experiment a bit. For example, "Tempa Akso" keeps the percussion at a bubbling background simmer for a bizarre soundscape of gurgling and gargling vocals that sounds like an infernal choir of cicadas or crickets. It is probably not one of the album's best pieces, but it is an interesting and unexpected detour nonetheless. A bit closer to my expectations is "Tenante La Ritmon," which intriguingly deconstructs EG's penchant for crushing rhythms into little more than a rolling bass rumble that sounds like a contact mic at the base of a mountain as a distant avalanche approaches. My favorite (and the most endearing) of the anomalies, however, is definitely "Eterno Della Vita," which (unintentionally?) boasts a repeating loop that makes me think that Lanz and Evangelista are about to grab their surfboards and hit the beach. Second prize probably goes to "Mosselprom," which sounds like the bizarre middle ground where Middle Eastern rave, mass demonstrations, and "hip" action movie soundtracks all improbably come together (picture Jason Statham suavely administering choreographed beatings to everyone who stands in his way at a crowded and churning rooftop party in Abu Dhabi).
Naturally, the issues with Fluida Mekaniko are the same ones that have followed Esplendor Geométrico for most of their career: there is an obvious formula, these pieces are all just rhythmic vamps rather than evolving songs, and melodies or strong hooks are in short supply. To their credit, however, Lanz and Evangelista do not make any attempt to conceal those issues or change at all. Rather, they make a perverse virtue of them. I am especially fond of the way Evangelista continually subverts the normal expectations for a vocalist, seemingly viewing himself as someone who merely provides the ambient sounds of a typical day at the giant crushing beat factory. Viewing Esplendor Geométrico as a factory makes perfect sense, actually: they single-mindedly produce one thing and one thing only (viscerally heavy and obsessively repeating rhythms) better than anyone else around, so there is no urgent need to expand their available services anytime soon. That said, EG definitely tweaked operations in a significant way this time around, most likely as a result of their recent touring. For example, this album is lot less brooding and 'industrial' than its predecessor (Ultraphoon). Also, Lanz and Evangelista seem to have unexpectedly cultivated a lighter touch with their samples–there is still plenty of noise and entropy, but some more poignant snatches of melody and dialogue now manage to sometimes bubble their way up to the surface or peak through the mechanized display of force. Rhythm and power are still king though. Characteristically, it is the more vibrant "global" dance rhythms that work the best and there are only a handful of such pieces, but Fluida Mekaniko's other fare is unexpectedly strong and varied enough to keep the momentum going for the entire album.