Jonas Reinhardt is the recording alias of San Franciscan Jesse Reiner, most probably a cheeky reference to the trailblazing Krautrock bands of the 1970s who have clearly shaped his musical world. Drawing heavily from the likes of Harmonia and Cluster, the music on Powers Of Audition really does feel like it should have been created by a group of German sound scientists hunched over banks of synthesizers.
Following his self-titled 2008 debut, Reiner recruited bandmates Phil Manley, Diego Gonzalez and Damon Palermo to take Jonas Reinhardt out on the road, and it is this fleshed-out unit that took to the studio to record Powers Of Audition. Whilst Reiner’s initial Kranky outing was a distinctly one-man affair, Powers adds live drums and a wider range of instruments such as guitar and woodwind to the mix, adding depth and warmth to the sci-fi tone poems of its predecessor.
Opener “Mumma Deed Family Clone” quickly establishes that keyboards still play a huge part in Reinhardt’s sound; buzzing sub-bass and oscillator are layered, then joined by two further synths, one playing an ascending riff to the other’s descending counterpart. By no means a change in direction stylistically, this short intro track barely hints at the musical expansion evident in the following “Atomic Bomb Living”; guitar and synth duel for the honour of lead instrument, both losing out to Damon Palermo’s motorik drums which sit up-front in the mix, providing a metronomic, racing pulse before exploding towards the song’s end into a series a theatrical rolls. It’s one of a pair of tracks, both album highlights, where Reinhardt channel the more rhythmically-inclined likes of Neu! rather than the new-age dreamscapes of Tangerine Dream and the “Komische” brigade.
The seven-minute “Orbiter Dicta” offers little opportunity for recuperation; whilst lacking the bass-heavy throb of the previous track, every possible space is filled with strobing arpeggios, dreamy textures and Phil Manley’s guitar noodling. Palermo keeps the drumming simple with some subtle, shuffling hi-hat work, riding his cymbals as the track gains momentum, recalling the treated, jazzy loops of minimal techno producers like Jan Jelinek. Throughout the track, the band steadily increases the tension, but confound expectations by never offering the expected release. Instead, the layers simply fall away, washed over by atmospheric wind-tunnel FX and shimmering bleeps.
The pace slows down for a 10-minute breather mid-album, with the wonderfully titled “Only You Can Achieve Nitrogen” and “Near A Mirrored Pit Viper.” The former, a beatless cascade of low frequency drones erupts midway into a faux sax solo reminiscent of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack; the latter’s pace is dictated by pulsating dub bass, with synth stabs like slow motion echoes of the main orchestral motif from “War Of The Worlds.” The following title track revisits the earlier motorik explorations, however this time all the instruments are punching out the same amplified tick-tock rhythm; with guitars, bass, drums and keyboards all locked into the same groove, it is here that Jonas Reinhardt sound most like a “real” band, at the peak of their unified creativity.
On this sophomore effort, Jonas Reinhardt – as a group opposed to an individual – craft a striking, memorable body of work that will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed recent releases from Oneohtrix Point Never, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas. It combines the synthetic alien landscapes and cosmic disco dubs produced by those artists with the humanity and warmth of a live unit, giving yesterday’s future sound another successful contemporary update.