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ZACHT AUTOMAAT

Krautrock • Canada


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Zacht Automaat biography
ZACHT AUTOMAAT (yet another variation on the name Soft Machine) are a duo from Ontario, Canada, consisting of the keyboard wizard Carl Didur, who also handles drums and all forms of electronic noise devices, and, on the low end, Michael McLean, who, in addition to playing bass, wields electric and acoustic guitars. Drummer Louis Percival and saxophonist Colin Fisher also guest on some of their releases. Legend has it that the band was formed in 2010 and recorded no fewer than seven albums the same year. As of mid 2017, their discography includes 13 studio releases (excluding the now unavailable debut Electrische Duo), as well as a double LP compilation.

They are a truly unique band in the infinitely large forest that we are permitted to wander in, as they describe the musical world on one of their web pages. The duo blends the Canterbury sound in the vein of the Soft Machine, Egg, and Quiet Sun with the music of German experimenters such as Can, Faust, Cluster, Harmonia, and Dom, dipping their toes in 60's combo-organ-dominated psychedelic rock, African genres such as highlife and Ethio-jazz, odd sounds forged by electro-acoustic composers in the 60's, and the sui generis cosmic jazz of Sun Ra. According to their Discogs biography as well as my own research, ZACHT AUTOMAAT record on a 4-track cassette recorder, which enhances the music with a very pleasant, warm homebrew quality. Methinks their music sounds somewhat like a dream-like reflection from a distant, alternate past that never was. In this regard, it has a cinematic tincture, its tone being a sonic equivalent of the candy-like colors of Super 8 cameras.

In all, this kooky Canadian duo is one of the most interesting undiscovered modern gems. Strongly rooted in the past, yet constantly exploring intriguing unknown musical vistas. For me, a genuinely life-changing discovery.

Written by Tymon (ALotOfBottle) on behalf of the PSIKE team

Zacht Automaat official website

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ZACHT AUTOMAAT discography


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ZACHT AUTOMAAT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
We're Glad You Agree
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
Smart Candle
2010
4.90 | 2 ratings
I Can Feel the Mold in Me (dead slow, no wake)
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
As It Is Spoken, It Shall Be Done
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Smiling Wilderness
2010
3.00 | 1 ratings
We Can't Help You, if We Can't Find You
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Bags Inside Bags
2012
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Disturbed Ground
2013
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Normality Bias
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
More Down Than Out
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Cover Tape
2015

ZACHT AUTOMAAT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ZACHT AUTOMAAT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ZACHT AUTOMAAT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Zacht Automaat
2013

ZACHT AUTOMAAT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
GET BAACK
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
There's Nobody Home
2013

ZACHT AUTOMAAT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 I Can Feel the Mold in Me (dead slow, no wake) by ZACHT AUTOMAAT album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.90 | 2 ratings

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I Can Feel the Mold in Me (dead slow, no wake)
Zacht Automaat Krautrock

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I Can Feel the Mold in Me (dead slow, no wake) was released as part of a stream of albums Zacht Automaat produced in 2010 and is sandwiched between the minimal Smart Candle and the heavy, Canterburian As It Is Spoken, It Shall Be Done. On I Can Feel the Mold in Me, the duo unveil a wide array of influences, from the deep, liquid comic excursions of bands such as Can, Faust, and Cluster, to the post-industrial gloom of Throbbing Gristle, The Residents, and Zoviet France, to 1960s west-coast garage psychedelia, to cheerful synth-driven anthems reminiscent of Wendy Carlos, to colorful jazz-rock of Soft Machine from Volume One, to academically-flavored musique concrète and sound collage.

I Can Feel the Mold in Me is undoubtedly one of Zacht Automaat's most atmospheric works, taking the listener on an occasionally charming and sentimental, other times nightmarish and haunting cruise into an alternate past. A past partially familiar, but a past that never was. Might it already be the future? A future? A prophecy? It is a journey through the abstruse, abyssal, ill-lighted human brain. Or is it an Armageddonic journey through the dull, unfeeling 'souls' of once-promising and meaningful human creations and visions? The answers to these question lie within the listener. At times, the music on this record does indeed convey an intriguing vision of what mold could sound like. 'DEAD SLOW, NO WAKE' is a frequent sign on lakes and rivers, demanding an amphibious vehicle to move as slow as possible without losing steerageway. As little sense as the title might ostensibly make in relation to music, if looked at properly, the listener may occasionally find themselves on a boat, which very carefully and slowly sails into the sonic remotes and far-offs.

Every so often, it might be hard to believe the whole album is performed by just two musicians and not a collective or musical monastery. According to the incredibly hard-to-find back cover of the album (which I managed to track down on the band's old MySpace page), Carl Didur handles all keyboard instruments, including the gracefully imperfect-sounding combo organ, synthesizers appearing in a broad plethora of colors, and metallic electric pianos. He is also responsible for the bulldozer-like humming and spacey sweeps of a signal oscillator and drums. The other half of Zacht Automaat, Michael McLean, plays bass as well as acoustic and electric guitars. The back cover also makes mention of him playing drums on some of the tracks. The uncommonly versatile and proficient instrumental performance is one of the album's many trumps (back from when it used to be a positive word). Another one of them is an eminently skillful soundscape sculpture. The duo uses numerous samples, recordings, and other sonic diversions to make the album a deeply intense journey. The fact that Didur and McLean decided to cram all of their tracks and musical themes into two continuously playing side-long landscapes only amplifies the power of the album's sonic veneer. Furthermore, we may also discern many unique or unrightfully unexplored recording and editing techniques, sudden breaks into another track, which, combined with abrupt shifts of musical images, result in somewhat of a mixtape-like effect, being one of them.

Side A, named DEAD SLOW does not conceal its menacing essence, opening with a deadly slow, contemplative, cosmic string-and-organ chord sequence, bringing to mind 1973's Cyborg by Klaus Schulze or the opening credits of an early 1970s underground science fiction psychological noir thriller. The atmosphere gets even more closely-knit and misty with the appearance of gentle cymbal crashes drenched in echoes, phlegmatic oscillator sweeps, and delicate synthesizer drones. A bold, fast-paced drum-and-bass grind starts fading in, slowly monopolizing the sound spectrum. The constantly-growing palette of psychedelic effects does not leave, creating a bottomless sonic landscape in conjunction with the aggressive groove. When it fades out, the synthesizer whirr, accompanied by single notes of what sounds like an eastern precursor of a guitar as well as field recordings of the sea, take its place. This brief prayer to old, indifferent hinterland is being slowly replaced with a static falsetto voice of organ. For me, this symbolizes new hope, virgin life, a newly-born nestling breaking its egg shell. This image is disturbed by one of the most baffling sudden shifts on the album, welcoming an instrumental folk-rock song with a surf guitar melody, reminiscent of The Ventures. This sounds like a nostalgic flashback of early 1960s California. Much like the state's youth culture during the decade, the piece transforms into psychedelic-folk-rock guitar improvisation, akin to The Greatful Dead, gradually diving even deeper into liquid, acid-burned ecstasy. The 'inappropriate' instrumental lechery is stopped by an abrupt peek of the musical epitome of 'the American Dream' - a bright and sunny echoed jingle that could have very well been playing on a gas station in the middle of Arizona in 1958 or could have served as an introduction to an advertisement of the newest laundry machine you would hear in a shopping mall around the period. For once, this moment is not unexpectedly destroyed by another musical picture, but instead, it slowly fades out. The next track sounds like a lighthearted electronic adaptation of a classical piece for children, somewhat similar to Wendy Carlos' achievements on Switched-on Bach. The track features a lot of beautiful synthesizer timbres Carl Didur manages to squeeze out of his instruments. There is, however, a hint of something consciously silly and artificially upbeat in this track, which, for me is even scarier than shrill, sinister soundscapes we hear in other places. The psychopathic quality is boosted with a multi-layered chaotic climax. An uncertain lullaby sounding like an outtake from Can's Tago Mago follows with a sleepy, yet puzzling electric piano solo. Once again, through the use of various effects, it almost sounds as if the main character of the imaginary movie I've mentioned was falling asleep after a day of manic experiences. To end DEAD SLOW, the very cosmic theme from the opening, now escorted by heavy drums and bass guitar, returns, only to remind of itself very briefly.

Side B, NO WAKE, sounds like an early morning of the next day. A distant, reverberated synthesizer plays a military bugle-like melody to help our protagonist open his eyes. Once he does, he is reminded of an enigma or troubles he is facing. A speedy jazz-rock track creates this mood of hurry. It is driven by swinging drums and an elegant bassline with Farfisa-like organ chords on top and then also an absurd-sounding melody played on two organs. This jazzy masquerade is suddenly broken by musique concrète-esque collage of repeating cacophonous noises and only hazy glimpses of the previous theme. This unsettling moment stops when another drum-and-bass organ grind, similar to the one from DEAD SLOW, secures the crown. Even more agile and instrumentally richer than its predecessor, it lends a sense of constant movement. The next track, a short drum machine-guided tune, sounds a bit like a clunky walk through a messy room with hundreds of books opened on the floor. It is, surprise surprise, abruptly disturbed by another mad, loud and chaotic number with a regular pace, energetic bass guitar playing, more flavorful keyboard wizardry, and what sounds like a recording of some fair in the distant foreground. While the party fades out, mechanic, bustling noise fades in, naturally segueing into a beautiful, romantic, and very 1968 cheesy organ-driven song, bordering on the sounds of late-period psychedelic rock and very early attempts of progressive rock. Adjoining is the track which vaguely resembles the slowed-downed jazz-rock tune, which we heard earlier in NO WAKE, but this time around all covered in question marks. In this imaginary movie I am using as an alternative way to describe the atmosphere of I Can Feel the Mold in Me, it would go well with a scene of creeping, peeping, hiding, and espionage. The track changes, but the aura persists. Then, we get a noisy sound collage again. This time, it is set in the higher register . . . and it is much noisier! A few organ notes find enough courage to distinguish themselves from the rest of the fuss and lead to the next segments. The uncertainty of the previous motifs comes back for a brief moment, before slowly fading into the dark. The last track of the album is noticeably calmer, warmer, and, most importantly, meditative. It sounds a bit like an homage to the wonderful, mysterious wilderness. NO WAKE closes with a charming field recording of wind fondling the water. Or are those trees?

I hope I have managed to convey just how dense and atmospheric this excellent album by Zacht Automaat is, consciously cherry-picking the most bombastic, rich, and exaggerated grammar I could think of. (Sorry, but not sorry.) I also hope I successfully and insightfully cast light on this virtually unexplored and unknown, yet phenomenal and fascinating musical outfit at the height of their creativity and proficiency. A completely original masterpiece (in the truest sense of the word) that it is, I Can Feel the Mold in Me (dead slow, no wake), deserves way more attention than it has ever received. And of course, in my view, it demands the highest rating possible. A monumental treasure of 21st century music!

Thanks to rivertree for the artist addition.

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