Review: Driftmachine- Colliding Contours

Florian Zimmer is a member of the German post-rock trio Saroos. Andreas Gerth is a musician, composer and visual artist who has played in The Tied & Tickled Trio with brothers Markus and Micha Archer from The Notwist and, incidentally, also designed the covers of that group’s classic albums Shrink and Neon Golden. Together, Zimmer and Gerth are Driftmachine, a Berlin-based duo whose “wraithlike dub grooves gone awry” flicker in the limbo state “between insomnia and slumber”.

Colliding Contours follows their 2014 debut album Nocturnes, which came with a forebodingly grey front cover. A similar Factory-meets-Constellation Records design might have been more appropriate this time round as well. Instead, the artwork of Colliding Contours is dominated by its bright orange blocks of colour and pleasant shades of bluey-green. It looks like something Jakob Skøtt might have designed for his El Paraiso label; something that might contain 60s-influenced psych-rock; something that sounds like Moon Duo. Perhaps it’s best to focus on the cover’s more morbid black, white and grey sections.

Indeed, the pulsing murmurs and buzzing sounds of Colliding Contours’ opening track ‘Radiations’ flirt with the mechanical grind of industrial drone. To be fair, its atmosphere is slightly warmer than that comparison, thanks to its plonky percussion patterns and tranquil bass notes, but perhaps “warm” isn’t quite the right word as the album’s next track is titled ‘Sans Soleil’ (i.e. “without sun”). Aptly so, this piece is even harsher and more intense than its predecessor thanks to its noise music-like brattling, sloshing liquid effects and crackling beats, becoming particularly abstract in its final minute of five. ‘Observant Siren’ takes things up another notch by experimenting with the kind of hyperactive, polyrhythmic beats that William Bennett has been busy exploiting through his recent Cut Hands work. Here, they’re accompanied by a range of hostile crackles and fizzes, along with something that sounds decidedly like a panting Terminator.

Thereafter, the record calms down a little. ‘Gaukelwerk’ and ‘Ambler’ possess a more stoned, dubbier feel, verging even towards a vague New Agedness. The latter is Colliding Contours’ poppiest, mellowest and dreamiest moment, practically resembling some lost Peaking Lights instrumental remix. It’s the record’s penultimate number and would have ended the album in soothing post-club style were it not for the inclusion of the actual final track ‘Nunc Stans’, a short and superfluous moogy drone outro. That’s only a quibble, however, and the album’s second side also includes two nice, long and spacious compositions, ‘Dogov Godov’ and ‘Lost Travelers’. The first has a sort of eerietropical sci-fi feel, like hunting for The Predator in a rainforest. The second slowly builds its ominous atmosphere with skeletal beats, feedback soundscapes and ghoulish drones.

Overall, Colliding Contours is a well-paced, intelligently sequenced record that withholds from naffly overstating its sense of unsettling menace. Many acts would have taken the more obvious route by foregrounding and multiplying the nastier, noisier parts and winding up with an unremarkable block of macabre techno. Driftmachine are subtler and cleverer than that, even if their choice of sleeve doesn’t quite fit the moody ambience housed inside.

Written by JR Moores