Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Electronica Obscurities: An Occasional Series.
1: "Frantz" by General Magic.
First of all: Best Band Name Ever! Makes me consider the occult equivalent of General Electric or General Motors - a hysterical confusion of the corporate with the magickal- or, perhaps a jovial, portly children's cartoon character with an aristocrat's demeanor but a wizard's power. Apparently, it's also a type of psychedelic mushroom.
Anyhoo, General Magic are sort of the house band at excellent Austrian haus-der-noize Mego. I have a lot of time for this label but I've always wished they'd concentrate more on releasing records by their core roster (Pita, Farmer's Manual...) and less on putting out sub-par CDs by avant luminaries such as Merbow and Rob Mazurwhatsit.
So to Frantz, which was the duo's first "proper" full-length album. It remains so obscure that I don't think it even sold through its initial deluxe packaged edition. This is a crying shame because it's a truly enchanting mix of oval-style glitchtronica with post-basic-channel tech-dub.
Actually, none of this really does justice to the album's uniqueness. In it's own way, Frantz sounds just as alien as Farmers Manual's wonderfully baffling Explorers We. That it does this within a relatively straight rhythmic framework is amazing and really puts General Magic up there with the best of 'em as far as I'm concerned.
Their second (and final?) album Rechenkonig uses a similar format but is much more abstracted. Initially, I preferred it to Frantz but I've recently discovered that, while Rechenkonig is funny, ingenious, challenging, otherworldly and brilliant, Frantz is all these things and also BEAUTIFUL.
On both albums, there's a good-natured whimsy at work but with a little something dark and threatening lurking around every corner. It's very hard for me to put my finger on what the motivation behind it all may be but I keep coming back to these CDs -usually a good sign. I'd very much like for them to be more widely heard.