CD, Hands Productions, 2010
It’s not often that I come across a CD that I have difficulty listening to in one sitting, but Geistform accomplish this on “Transistor Music”, their fourth studio album. Imagine this: high-energy, synth-driven, uptempo stuff, but with an underlying menace that is quite likely to scare off the usual fans of similar offerings.
I’d go so far as to say that this album’s destiny is irrevocably tied to one of two directions: dance floors in dingy, underground clubs or the pristine halls of Satan’s personal chain of gymnasiums… You can almost imagine, from the first wail of static on “Source Sensor”, demons in questionably tight exercise gear yelling at you to “Feel the burn!” in time with the punishing, unrelenting beats. It is this unstoppable, driving percussion, overlaid with very slightly, very tastefully textured bassline synths that is the hallmark characteristic of Geistform.
Sadly, that’s about as far as identifiable characteristics go on the first impression: the continuous analogue battering that slowly pulps the cerebrum tends to distract you from individual elements from track to track, leaving you in a haze where each follows into the next – a bit like the bonus discs on any recent Combichrist release. Taken as separate entities, however, each track shines as a masterpiece in technoid production: song structure, sound reproduction, dynamics, energy – nothing is lacking here. It’s only that the sensory apparatus fails to assimilate the album as a whole under its massive barrage of static radio discharges and ear-mashing drums.
Out of this piecemeal approach, highlights emerge: the aforementioned “Source Sensor” starts out as an excellent minimal techno track, but follows the unwritten rules of contemporary industrial and keeps building and layering into a sonic assault that isn’t out of place on any rivethead playlist. Towards the end of the album, “General Electric” plays with quirky off-beat incidental sampling to create an interesting syncopated beat, but the absolute winner has to come in at track seven, “Tesla”. As well as being a fitting tribute to one of the greatest minds to walk this dimension, it is one of the best examples of tension and release in modern electronic music that I’ve heard in some time. The ping-pong bass jumps between channels (and is echoed later with further synth melodies) while an old-school EBM rimshot ticker-ticker-tickers in the background, marking time and keeping the energy levels up.
The remainder of the record maintains this attitude of acknowledging what has gone before (illustrated by track names like “Radiacion”, “Alta Energia” and “2osc”) – in fact, the entire disc pays its allegiance to the humble transistor, without which no electronic music would exist. It’s really a pity that “Transistor Music” inspires such sensory overload, because this could be an awesome album; as it is, I can only say it’s a great record, with moments of utter brilliance shining through.
— David van der Merwe