Ellen Allien & Apparat – Orchestra of Bubbles

5 out of 5

Produced by: Ellen Allien and Apparat

Label: BPitch Control

My Apparat interest is still in a fledgling state, and I’d not previously heard of this wacky Ellen Allien woman.  So who am I to review a collaboration between the two artists?  Shouldn’t I do my background listening first, have a full catalogue of related reviewing experience to leverage?  Well, thankfully, someone already did that: this thorough Allmusic review not only has those chops, but the writer also knows his synthesizers and machines, which I can’t speak to at all.  And then double thankfully, music generally doesn’t work like that, requiring foreknowledge of its listener.  Often it only requires ears, and those I have.  So I am a dude with ears.  Who hears…

…One of the most layered, and yet listener-aware, electronic albums I’ve yet heard.  Extrapolating from that review and what I know of Apparat, on one side of the equation you have a more dance floor basis (Allien) and on the other, something more calculatedly abstract (Apparat).  It’s not necessarily novel to marry the two, but I do think the results rarely achieve a full blend, rather switching between the two modes, or leaving the dividing line clear.  Orchestra of Bubbles, however, is ridiculously seamless.  You can tell me the two artist-defining traits above and I can say it makes sense for what I’m hearing, but no distinct moment emerges that shouts one style over the other.  Which is a compliment in this case, as the synthesis is such a unique experience.  And this is all in addition to how the album as a whole is mindfully sequenced between IDM, more housey stuff, grime, jungle, and the sprinkling of vocal tracks here and there; the listener awareness I mention above is the tricky balance between innovation without indulgence, that Eilleen / Apparat get up to some madly impressive tricks but always stay the course for what makes sense for the track.

The depth of the layering being done initially most apparent on the more IDM-esque tracks, like opener Turbo Dreams and Rotary; these are undoubtedly electronics but with an organic edge.  And we get introduced to some house stylings early on as well, with Way Out, featuring Ellen’s peaceful, whispy croon, and then the funky Jet.  These are already lush tracks, but may slip by our dissection, until Sleepless, which morphs and remolds itself with vocals, a harsh beat, electronic chatter, twinkling synths… all while remaining playfully accessible throughout.  The awesomeness is hard to ignore thereafter: Metric has touches of Amon Tobin with grime /dub elements; Floating Points goes for a clipped AFX beat and then somehow divides that into an undercurrent of warmth with some old school house atop; Do Not Break gives us a full-on club breakdown, grounded by IDM fireworks.  We even get ridiculously rich and moving tracks – one with Apparat vocals (Leave Me Alone), another from Ellen (Bubbles) – that could easily become radio singles, if that was ever a goal.

And that’s all I can tell you: What I hear.  Which is a stunning masterwork – from an individual or a collaboration – that has encouraged me to find out more about those involved in producing such greatness.  So maybe next time I will come armed with that history you so adore.