“You’ll tire of this easily,” warned a long-time Ellen Allien fan, crushing my growing obsession with Orchestra of Bubbles. Released Allien’s Berlin-based label, Bpitch Control, the album was written with her ex-boyfriend, Apparat (née Sascha Ring), another German deejay who co-owns the Shitkatapult label with T. Raumschmiere. What immediately stands out is the repetitive rhythm of the rosin-heavy bow digging into the cello strings on “Retina,” a song that has absolutely no dance-floor potential or particularly epic climax at its end. It is, however, one of the album’s most mesmerizing tracks, getting deep under my skin in a way without boiling over like the volatile “Under” does. The latter is something you’d hear at a club night’s apex, when the floor begins to stick from the sweat and evaporation of spilled alcohol. A close kin to “Retina” is “Metric,” whose lush strings are faster in pace and allow ample breathing room for anyone willing to undertake the challenge of a remix.
The record’s single, “Way Out,” is a great example of how Allien and Apparat perform a system of checks and balances with this project. Allien uses the dance floor as a blank canvas, painting patterns and rhythms that stray far from generic house but never wander too deep into IDM’s obtuse fields. Much like her previous album, Thrills, where she explored a more approachable techno-glitch angle with singles “Magma,” “Your Body Is My Body” and the kinetic “Down,” much of Orchestra Of Bubbles grabs the wheel and makes a ninety-degree turn with the likes of the anthemic muffle of “Jet” and the AFX-like chop ‘n’ screw of “Do Not Break.” Apparat’s helping hand is apparent in “Floating Points,” where an influence of formulaic composition is spread thick across the underlying rhythm. Whereas Allien can be so experimental in the sculpting of her songs, Apparat lends regimentation to the composition of some of the slower tracks. Because of that, the album’s softer points are never dull.
And the aforementioned longtime fan was only partly right. After countless listens at various volumes in several settings, Orchestra of Bubbles did tend to wear on my patience. Still, the record is a satisfying collaboration, a sonic conversation between two talented perspectives. Even “Leave Me Alone,” which you really have to be in the right mood to appreciate, has a mid-section that builds to a steady rhythm. At this point, neither deejay is in no danger of bursting anyone’s bubble, because they’ve carved out their own sonic styles. This record doesn’t surpass the classics of either Allien or Apparat, but it allows them to drive down creative side streets and explore new variations of composition.
Ellen Allien site: http://www.ellenallien.de/
Apparat site: http://www.apparat.net/