CD, Tympanik Audio, 2008
Perhaps better known for Synth-Etik, New York’s Frank Mokros has been showcasing his more atmospheric leanings for several years now under the name Totakeke, and this interim offering brings us a surprisingly consistent collection of new, previously-unreleased and remixed tracks recorded over a span of about four years. Eschewing the cold IDM glitchery that many of his noisy contemporaries tend towards when they try to chill-the-fuck-out, Mokros prefers a warmer, more analogue sound, having at least as much in common with Vangelis’ Blade Runner score as with Autechre. Having said that, this album surprised me with how heavy and club-friendly it gets at points, helped along by the likes of Terrorfakt and Lucidstatic in the mix.
I once ended up describing Totakeke as electro-ambient, and much as I hate to pigeon-hole, I still think it’s a pretty good tag. However, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all swirling pads and vast reverb, although there’s certainly an element of those running through much of this disc. Even unaided, Mokros certainly knows when to crank up the tempo and lay on some slamming bass lines, such as on the potential dancefloor anthems “Euthanasia” and “Strangle(_d)” which will appeal to fans of Daniel Myer. There are enough moments of cut-up sound-hackery to keep the experimental fans happy, delivered via a smooth palette of sounds that appeals to the knob-twiddling synth geek in me, balanced with enough swirling strings and sampled voices to retain a pleasingly human element.
And you can groove to it too. Even the downtempo bits aren’t so slow and featureless as to dull the listener’s wits – no easily-manufactured audio wallpaper here. Good vibes for pre- or post-club, or even at work – but don’t just go by my vaguely-worded recommendations. As a teaser for the release of Totakeke’s next album, Tympanik Audio is giving away a 12-track mp3 anthology which includes several tunes from this one. Grab it and see what you think.
— Andrew Clegg