EBM often gets criticized for being too cold and mechanical. Many artists have responded by incorporating synthpop and goth influences, adding melodic vocal hooks to make a stronger emotional connection with the listener. As one of the founders of cult Belgian act IDLO as well as with his solo project, Grandchaos, Tcheleskov Ivanovitch has taken the opposite approach. His music embraces the machine in all its icy precision, splicing minimalist house grooves with thinly clanking EBM loops. Having released numerous EPs over the years, not to mention a double-CD remix collection, Ivanovitch finally presents the first "proper" full-length Grandchaos album, and these 14 tracks are a perfect combination of the techno elements and and avant-garde vocal production of his earlier sonic experiments. Though his arrangements are reminiscent of classic EBM in that they're very stripped down, often little more than a kick, snare, and bass sequence, there's a definite contemporary feel; these tracks aren't so minimal because they're imitations of earlier minimalist acts, but simply because they are very efficient. The vocals are likewise quite robotic in nature, with vocoders giving a metallic tang to Ivanovitch's monotone vocals on such tracks as "Imposteur" or the brooding "Nord Electro." Ivanovitch's wife, Sophie Martin, also contributes vocals to several tracks, and her duets with her husband on "Raving Mad" and "True" offer an alternate timbre without increasing any sense of emotional expression, giving a bit of an impression of what robots must sound like when they flirt.With the songs reduced to their barest essentials, Ivanovitch is able to create drastic changes in mood and tempo with the smallest of sonic manipulations; the acid house-infused "Hard Way," in particular, manages to create a real sense of progression merely by cutting out the rhythm section at opportune moments. Ivanovitch's music does occasionally move beyond clinical abstraction; darkly funky rhythms and occasional clean vocals give "Mutant X" a more accessible quality, and the cynical but unprocessed singing on "God Is Dead" is sure to appeal to fans of early Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb. While most of Ivanovitch's work lacks the kind of flashy samples and dramatic melodies that guarantee club play, fans that are interested in the structure and theory of EBM will find this album more rewarding with each listen. By taking a modern aesthetic and applying it to EBM in its most skeletal form, Grandchaos gives new meaning to the phrase "intelligent dance music." You don't have to appreciate Ivanovitch's beats and loops on an intellectual level in order to dance with them, but it certainly enhances the experience.
Visit Grandchaos on MySpace at www.myspace.com/grandchaos to hear examples of Tcheleskov Ivanovitch's music.
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