Elektro Guzzi challenge techno conventions on new album, ‘TRIP’

Image by Casper Maare

The term ‘techno’ can be quite controversial in the world of electronic music. Depending who you are talking to, ‘techno’ has become somewhat of an institution that requires music to possess a definitive set of conventions in order to be identified as such. Techno purists so earnestly stand by this, that a whole smorgasbord of sub-genres and categories have been established to differentiate between styles and forms. Minimal techno, tech-house, hardcore, industrial… There has been an incredible amount of effort put into delineating the genre’s countless evolutions that even its original form requires specific definition as “Detroit” techno. The one common factor across these transmutations however is the reliance on machinery. Techno, as its name might suggest, is a form born from technology and the utilisation of technology to propose sonic ideations of the future. 

Enter Elektro Guzzi. The three-piece Austrian band identify their sound as techno, yet there are no computers or loop machines. Rather, they play live, analog instruments in time to create the sounds producers would formulate from code. A bass guitar is plucked and distorted to create that distinct, twanging synth and an actual drum kit is beat in common time to produce the unmistakable four on the floor pounding. The theoretical conundrum that this proposes is clear; without machinery, is this techno? Is techno defined by electronics, or is it a stylistic modality that can be interpolated by way of anything that can create sound? By forgoing the formulation of techno’s conventions through machinery, Elektro Guzzi have effectively subverted the identity of techno as electronic music. 

The latest album from the trio, TRIP, is one that captures their raw, intuitive approach to music making and looks to encapsulate the energy of their live sets. Indeed, the music on TRIP is pulsating and full of excitement, with an energy that courses through the album’s rhythms and layers of sound to make for an electrifying listen. What immediately differentiates TRIP from their previous work is Elektro Guzzi’s extensive use of an effects circuit. This allows Elektro Guzzi broader and infinite manipulations of the sound of their instruments, and it is a choice they embrace fervidly. The strings on Eskalator are pulled and distorted to such lengths that they become indistinguishable from the same sounds produced by way of a synthesiser. The same goes for the 9 minute long Horst, which is full of crunchy distorted buzzes and bleeps. The percussion is largely unaffected however, but by sticking to the four on the floor bass drum roadmap that techno proposes, this too is indistinguishable from what could be created on a drum machine. The only way to differentiate between Elektro Guzzi’s methodology and that of an act like Soulwax would be to witness the two live. This begs the question; in the context of recorded music, does Elektro Guzzi’s analogue approach to techno hold any subversive credence over traditional techno if it sounds identical? 

It is in this approach that TRIP falters. Whereas their previous work such as 2018’s Polybrass saw them execute an interpolation of techno while retaining the spirit of their analogue instruments, TRIP looks to disguise this spirit in such a way that the music borders on appropriation rather than interpolation. The novelty of the music on TRIP is something that would likely best flourish in a live context. It is not surprising then that the band performed much of TRIP‘s music live months before its release, and made this performance available online. To see the sounds on this album produced in real time is something to behold, and ties together the threads of what Elektro Guzzi is trying to do here. In the context of recorded music however, the most distinguishing and subversive element of their artistry feels dismissed as effect, lost to a choice to mimic a machine so closely that they become the machine itself. 

Download TRIP, released via Palazzo Recordings, here and watch the band perform the album live below. 

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