Review: Follakzoid Goes Into a Post-Krautrock Trance on ‘III’
Release Date: March 27, 2015
Label: Sacred Bones
The key word most often mentioned surrounding Föllakzoid’s new album is “trance.” The Chilean trio’s music has little to do with the late-’90s club fare the term is best associated with — on the surface, at least — but the emphasis on flat dynamics and throbbing repetition to induce a hypnotic state is unquestionably there on their third album, the appropriately titled III. “We work in a very similar structure to mantric songs or techno, we share a metric language there that coordinates the musical language,” the band explains in the release for the LP. To this end, the group even enlisted electronic maestro Uwe Schmidt (a.k.a. Atom TM) to play keys on the record — the same Korg synths that Kraftwerk used to play in their ’80s live show, no less. It might not be music for glowsticks and MDMA, but it’ll get the strobe flashing in your brain, for sure.
The phrase Follakzoid were previously most connected to was undoubtedly “krautrock,” as the band’s first two albums were heavily powered by the 4/4 motorik drums, steady rooting bass, echoing guitar scrapes, and warbled vocals of classic Neu! and Faust. The spectral guitar harmonics and lyrical murmurs are still there, but the rhythm section has switched up entirely, taking its cues instead from the 15-minute closer to 2013’s II, “Pulsar.” As on that song, the drums are now almost entirely kick and hi hat, monotonously plodding away for double-digit minutes with little more than that the occasional cymbal roll for variation, while the bass mostly serves as an ill omen, rumbling portentously on the low-end. Guitar, keys and vocals float through of the mix, swirling around the ether like a sandstorm, but the beat stays constant, insistent, not quite propulsive but certainly not relenting.
The best way to describe album centerpiece “Piure” — and to an only slightly lesser extent, III on the whole — may be to recall the 15 or so seconds of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” before Stevie Nicks’ vocal enters: the arid production, the evil tangle of guitar, the forebodingly tapping beat. Now extend that to 13 minutes. If that sounds frustrating to you, or even maddening, keep III at a comfortable distance. But if that sounds mysterious and exhilarating (albeit completely terrifying), that might be as exciting a musical prospect as you’ll encounter this year. Why wouldn’t you want to hear the first few steps of trepidation from the “Gold Dust” intro turned into an entire walkabout in the great unknown?
There’s only four tracks on III, and aside from some occasionally evolving guitar lines and indecipherable vocals that weave in and out of the productions like another instrumental layer, Föllakzoid’s songs mostly remain static, never really swelling or winding down and never really shifting shape, structurally or melodically. Tracks begin in media res and end when they cease to continue. The album won’t hold you rapt for the entirety of its 45 minutes, but it’ll never totally release you from its grasp either, seeping its way into your pores like an insidious fog. It’s not driving music and it’d sound like absolute shit on the Autobahn, but should you be caravaning across the Sahara, it’d make for great headphone listening. Probably wise not to fall too deep under its trance, though; it might not be easy to find your way back from.