Good electronic music should be a dissociating experience, taking you away from whatever you’re doing without holding you captive to some narrative or tired verse-chorus-verse strong structure. It’s about mood and the ability to spirit you out of mundane logics to hear the isolated beauty of pure sound and noise — the creation of an active background soundscape that pokes and prods at your consciousness and never drowns it.
Which describes perfectly Kammerflimmer Kollektief’s Cicadidae. At work, when I’m performing some dreary, repetitive task that requires a modicum of attention (but not much more), it’s a perfect soundtrack. No single mood ever dominates and Cicadidae, the third release by the German six-piece, is by turns ominous, dreamy, driving and creepy. It is never boring or predictable.
In fact, for electronica — a label that sells short the work’s ability to cut across genres — the range is striking. Opener “Neumond Inselhin” charges forward with a piano melody washed by synthesizers, and shuffling jazz beats aren’t rare on the album. But most of the songs are less than directed, made up as they are of meandering fuzz and chirps and chimes.
The overall feeling is one of disembodied beauty — the piano and droning guitars — always on the verge of plunging into chaos and confusion, represented by some screeching free jazz elements. But while Thomas Webber, the man behind Kammerflimmer Kollektief, never loses control of the compositions, his restraint is never heavy-handed. The work has a light, airy quality.
All of this, plus the band’s name, which translates to “Shimmering Collective,” makes the work sound more academic than it is. In reality, Cicadidae is, quite simply, beautiful, evocative mood music that even in its defiance of genres is always focused and never extravagant. It’s certainly worthy of place on the shelf next to Aphex Twin, Portishead and Phillip Glass.