Genre Peak: Your Sleekest Engine
Genre Peak is basically songwriter, electronic-percussionist, vocalist, producer Martin Birke and, well whoever have can squeeze into the boot of his car and then only release when they agree to spend some time in his studio. At different points most of Japan turn up (the band, not the country), the late great bassist Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and, also ex-Porcupine Tree, Richard Barbieri contributing. However with Jon Hassell (Brian Eno/Peter Gabriel), Matt Malley (Counting Crows), Charlie Woodward (Falco), Lesley Braden (Fast Arrow) and Palestinian artist Manal Deeb all adding their personalities to the mix, eclecticism – although within a tightish framework – is the name of the game.
That framework plays out as dance, ambient, electro, dub, progressive – allowing not only enough room for the protagonists to play, but also to still give the impression of a 'band' at work. Something that Birke himself must take much of the credit for. Lead single "Fix Me Deeper" gained much notice, its Peter Gabriel like percussion clanks and thwacks creating a stark landscape of jagged edges and smooth sounds. The Barbieri remix that shows up two tracks later adding a surprisingly claustrophobic oriental edge that would be easy to imagine unsettling your senses as Ridley Scott's Bladerunner plays out.
The spoken word contribution from poet Michael Spring, who narrates his "First Born Of The New Millennium" over the song of the same name, brings an early, unsettling Porcupine Tree to mind, his considered, knowing, yet unnervingly calm and threatening tones perfect for adding bite to the electronic percussion and deep, hums of synth. On first listen, it seems like the album's least engaging moment, however after numerous playbacks, it grows into one of the strongest. "Metanoia" (not the Porcupine Tree track of the same name) brings a brighter but no less brooding feel, John Hassell this time Birke's expert collaborator on an expansive yet intricate piece.
There are some vocal tracks on Your Sleekest Engine and while the likes of "God Fearing Man" finds Charlie Woodward giving a seriously good account, I have to say that it's the instrumental selections that feel the freest and most natural. Birke's work hitting harder when your own imagination can fill in the blanks with the 'visuals' and atmospheres you desire.
A modern, yet backward glancing album, Your Sleekest Engine satisfies on many levels and yet at times it just doesn't quite scratch that itch, leaving you seeking that certain illusive little something. That said, electro-buffs will undoubtedly find much to get excited about – although maybe in the most introverted of ways...
1. Nightfalls (feat. Steve Jansen & Lesley Braden)
2. Denizen Darklight
3. Metanoia (feat. Jon Hassell)
4. God Fearing Men (feat. Charlie Woodward)
5. American Civil Rage
6. Fix Me Deeper (feat. Manal Deeb)
7. First Born of the New Millennium (feat. Michael Spring)
8. Fix Me Deeper (Richard Barbieri Mix)
9. The Waiting Station (feat. Charlie Woodward)