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Zeitkratzer, Lou Reed

Metal Machine Music

Label: ASPHODEL

Format: CD + DVD digipack

Genre: Electronic

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Lou Reed's original release of Metal Machine Music had gathered an awful lot of mythology by the time I got around to hearing it. However, my tolerance for noise already well developed thanks to more modern noise artists, the impact this album had on me was negligible. I appreciated the power of the statement but the actual musical content was underwhelming. Since my first encounter with it, I have grown to enjoy it more, no longer looking for a sensory overload or volume one-upmanship. Instead I accept it as a harsh sonic soundscape, something to pick apart rather than endure. As such, when I initially read about Zeitkratzer's arrangement of Metal Machine Music, my interest was piqued to say the least, how would "ordinary" musicians play Reed's noise?
Quite well is the answer. Although I can see that it is only conventional instruments, the noise conjured up is unreal. Obviously Zeitkratzer never sound as metal or machine-like as Reed's original but they still pack as much of a punch as that feedback-ridden LP. The end result of Ulrich Krieger's score is a hybrid between an orchestra tuning up and a steamroller running over an instrument shop. It does sound like Metal Machine Music but due to the organic nature of the instruments, it sounds richer and more vivid. It is alive rather than a machine. Ironically, the weakest part of the performance comes from Reed himself. Towards the end he comes out and plays the guitar on his own, completely disrupting the vibes that Zeitkratzer have built up. If he had only joined them without them stopping it would have been immense but the jarring change from the full orchestra to a guitar being ran through some rather crummy sounding digital effects really takes away from the power of the piece.

Taken as a whole Zeitkratzer's Metal Machine Music is a testament to the patience of the group (both in transcribing the music and in playing such an arduous piece). It is definitely a more musically enjoyable experience than Reed's Metal Machine Music, the range of sounds seems to be larger and there is a lot more texture to the noise. I imagine being there in the room with this playing is an intoxicating experience, as much as I did not enjoy watching the footage, seeing the musicians in the flesh would be an entirely different story.
Details
Cat. number: ASP 3002
Year: 2008