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Esplendor Geométrico, "Cinética"

cover imageI am not sure which is more remarkable: the fact that these iconic industrialists are currently celebrating their 40th anniversary or the fact that they somehow seem to be getting even better in recent years. Aside from Legendary Pink Dots or Swans, I am hard-pressed to think of any other band that has had such an impressive renaissance after their supposed heyday and this particular case is all the more remarkable since Arturo Lanz has remained so single-mindedly focused on pursuing the same narrow stylistic niche all along. Given that consistency, it is no surprise that Cinética is yet another feast of pummeling industrial-strength percussion loops featuring a yet another handful of alternately propulsive and crushing highlights. However, I was surprised at how this latest batch of rhythmic assaults occasionally transcends the duo's "industrial dance" aesthetic to approach a sort of trance-inducing strain of heavy psych.


One of the more fascinating aspects of Esplendor Geométrico’s oeuvre-and the likeliest key to the project's longevity-is how Arturo Lanz has managed to make beat-driven music for so many years while nimbly avoiding just about every single possible trend in underground dance music.Instead, he has stayed relevant by remaining a perpetual outsider, often drawing his inspiration from cultures far outside the cutting-edge dance milieu.While the backbone of the project has long been Lanz's unwavering devotion to the relentless, machine-like repetition of rhythmic loops, he has proven himself to be remarkably resourceful in finding new ways to keep that rigid formula fresh and has never stopped evolving in his own subtle way.The most obvious example of his eclectic approach to innovation was the incorporation of Arabic rhythms on 1991's Sheikh Aljama because that was the theme for an entire album, but an alert listener would have no trouble at all finding nods to sundry other cultures strewn throughout EG's many releases.I would be curious to know how much of that is deliberate and how much is simply absorbed by cultural osmosis, as Lanz has stated that he does not actually listen much outside music beyond "the classics from his youth."He does seem like an especially well-traveled guy though, so it is not hard to believe that he simply moves through life picking up new ideas from the sounds around him like a tirelessly innovative post-industrial sponge.I am especially fond of the more Latin-sounding strains that have found their way into EG's grooves over the years, though there are lamentably no overt nods to Cuba, Colombia, or Brazil this time around.Then again, maybe there are, as both the shuffling and clattering "Friccion" and the manic, skittering "Acoplamiento internacional" seem to have traditional roots that elude me as a non-ethnomusicologist.

More frequently, however, the beats are either fairly straightforward, punishingly industrial, or ambitiously alien. All are equally likely to be great, as both the tempo and the accompanying hallucinatory maelstrom of distorted voices and machine noise tend to play key roles in whether or not a piece catches fire to become something more than just a cool rhythm.For example, the opening "Construcción transformadora" is essentially built from little more than a relentlessly bulldozing and bass-heavy rumble and some distorted guitar chords, but it works beautifully because it is augmented with eerie submerged voices and ping-ponging percussion flourishes.Similarly, "Regulación percusiva" is propelled by a fairly textbook (if overcaffeinated) breakbeat, yet its streaking trails of chirping electronics and swirl of chopped and manipulated voices makes it an unexpectedly absorbing tour de force.The aforementioned "Friccion" is one of the more leftfield delights, as it evokes either a clanking, lurching conga line of robots or a massive mechanical caterpillar.Despite that, it somehow manages to be one of the most improbably soulful and hooky songs on the album due its surreal mélange of soul diva vocals and pitch-shifted weirdness.Elsewhere, "Modulaciones" comes close to completely stealing the show with its uncharacteristically simmering downtempo groove, calling to mind a half-speed homage to "Funky Drummer" enhanced by drifting, ghostly samples of chanting voices.It is easily one of the most nuanced and sensuous pieces that I have heard from Lanz and Saverio Evangelista and I absolutely love it—I would happily listen to an album-length remix of "Modulaciones" alone.

The same is true of the closing "Inercial," which is arguably one of the most distilled and perfect examples of EG's singular vision to date.It is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity, as Lanz and Evangelista take a one second-long beat snippet and loop it into a mercilessly surging and unstoppable juggernaut of seismic abandon.On one hand, it sounds like an out-of-control Carnaval party and a full-scale political riot improbably turned down the same street and merged together, yet the endlessly repeating crunch and throb of the beat almost make me feel like I am sinking into an ecstatic trance-state.Between that and "Modulaciones," Cinética boasts at least two instant classics that make Lanz and Evangelista seem like rhythmic savants on a plane all their own, which is exactly what I have grown to expect from recent EG albums (though those two pieces were still great enough to surprise me anyway).The rest of the album is quite solid as well, however, as there are not any songs that I would describe as either a misfire or too far over-the-top.In fact, even the most album's most indulgent and experimental piece ("Resumen de cantos") manages to be outré enough to keep me interested, resembling a time-slowed and stammering rave of the damned.I suppose I could probably do without the avalanche of bonus material appended to the digital version of the album, as an "all killer, no filler" approach is always best, but I cannot fault Lanz and Evangelista for taking a victory lap after putting the finishing touches on such a murders' row of masterfully crafted and mind-expanding mechanized assaults.

Samples can be found here.