With last years ‘Parabolas’, John Tejada announced his arrival on Kompakt with proficient, and at times, dazzling techno in a pop frame. ‘The Predicting Machine’ attempts to stretch out similarly inclined statements, with each structure built upon more concertedly. There’s the same stratospheric vistas aimed at as on ‘Parabolas’, in terms of the production, with an abundance of glittery sonics and full, echoing tones, and with the use of greater, more accommodating track lengths it seems this all points to a possible emulation of last year’s relative success, with the composition of more convincing atmospheres. But unfortunately ‘The Predicting Machine’ falls unremarkably flat with circumspection that feels far too safe and nondescript. The kind of emotively charged, soaring techno-pop grandeur frequently associated with Kompakt is aimed at by Tejada but all that’s achieved is a confining trajectory which is mostly placatory, at times mawkish and essentially dull: undoubtedly far off any of the enduring material in Kompakt’s canon. At certain points it almost sounds like the result of a corporate advertising commission in which the mission statement was to make outdated, uniformly neutral innocuousness, combined with generic techno-motifs, attenuated elements of trance (‘An Ounce of Perception’) and tech-house and (‘Horizon to Horizon’)an occasional dash of overwrought faux-sentiment (‘Glaringly Happy’). As a result it comes close to diluted sonic sterility primed for those ‘slick’, coaxing, pervasive ads peddling smartphones in which naïve, ‘happy-go-lucky’, ‘unconventional’, self-satisfied wankers gather for some awful public display of ‘quirk’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1qTbs8K3go). Nothing on here is quite as valueless as that music but for a veteran such as Tejada to deal in platitudes which aren’t far off from such vacuity proves supremely disappointing considering the justified ubiquity of ‘Unstable Condition’ last year. But ‘The Predicting Machine’ is truly, truly ordinary; the worst kind of wallflower.
There are exceptions. ‘Orbiter’ being one of them, opening with impressively spaced out, oscillating frequencies which appropriately orbit in and out of focus, backed by clock-like percussion which situates things at a precipice, but this only becomes the promising basis for a climax which never materialises. There is also evidence of Tejada’s significant production experience on what follows; ‘A Familiar Mood’, ‘An Ounce of Perception’ and ‘Winter Skies’ retain the consistency of a vast, stargazing amplitude but, despite an evident sense of magnitude in the production, interactions and harmonies never memorably pick up and instead remain firmly fixed in the mundane. ‘A Familiar Mood’ is the most culpable of this inanity whilst ‘An Ounce of Perception’ includes a trance-like ascendancy with questionable flourishes which wouldn’t be out of place on the tacky footage of some failed new-age spiritual guru. If you feel the need to listen to this album, skip these; they have about as much appealing character as a particularly blank canvas or a positively mediocre default wallpaper.
Fortunately, ‘Radio Channel’ comes as another exception; an exception which is encompassed by a warm, minimal and affective ambience extremely reminiscent of ‘Another Green World’ or Eno’s other collaborative work with Cluster, namely ‘Schone Hande’; a derivative reminiscence but still a welcome and well-executed one. ‘The Function and The Form’ is a clear demonstration of what Tejada is capable of, with the gradual, well-weighted accumulation of whirring sibilance and recurring glacial touches punctuated by accentuating, resonant strokes of bass and driven by abrupt, impactful snare hits. It makes you vainly wonder that if it had been released as an EP, along with ‘Radio Channel’, allowing more time to hone what else features here, then the form Tejada was on at the time of ‘Parabolas’ release could have been maintained and perhaps even surpassed. But instead what follows is ‘Stabilizer’ which, although cannot be reprimanded for banality, does not convince, with an amalgam constituted by stock tech-house percussion and the kind of almost-pre-neanderthal ‘womp-womp’s’ that have come to be such a fixture in the moronic debasement of bass-centred music. This suggests Tejada is venturing far from the mainly techno and post-rock spheres he’s associated with into uncertain territory. This venture, although brave, doesn’t pay off and lush vocal murmurs and a vaguely orchestral climax don’t function as worthwhile commiserations. ‘Glaringly Happy’ which (although it may indicate a less than sunny disposition on my part) should be replaced with ‘Annoyingly Saccharine’; its ineffective, incessant twinkling coming off like a self-dramatizing, emotionally deluded pre-pubescent distilling their ‘feelings’ in a ringtone. It’s the predictable, cliché zenith of ‘profundity’ which like the rest of the album, just feels distinctly trite and forgettable. ‘Horizon to Horizon’ and ‘When All Around is Madness’ are then, the final reminders of how Tejada’s poetical designations are at odds with the colourless impotency heard at this conclusion and for the majority of ‘The Predicting Machine’. It could easily be countered that this is a case of some po-faced over-analysis concerning a floor-focused album and the real, accurate judgement of its quality comes in a context of grand spaces, bright lights and heaving crowds. But even then, this feels devoid of the ability to excite in that context, likelier instead that forced, uninspired motions will ensue, suitably reflecting the nature of the music and this album as a whole.
Despite referring to faint glimpses of hope previously (‘Orbiter’, ‘Radio Channel’, ‘The Function and the Form’) they’re not significant enough in the context of the albums duration to salvage enough of a significant mood or atmosphere for this to require revisits, though they do demonstrate a producer with just enough finesse to overcome this dud. This is not to write off Kompakt yet either, they’re too much of a justifiably valued institution and considering their return to form in recent years (The Field’s ‘Looping State of Mind’, Matias Aguayo’s asininely anthemic ‘I Don’t Smoke’ and Superpitcher’s ‘White Lightning’) this surprising misstep is hopefully an anomaly for both them and Tejada. Still, the potentiality of an atoning recovery doesn’t detract from the lack of risk on ‘The Predicting Machine’; a lack of risk which makes it sonically grand but impersonal, numb and indistinct, to the point where it’s possible you won’t even need to buy or download this – it might well be coming to the kind of glossy corporate circus of shiny shit eternally paraded on our screens very soon.