BOCHUM WELT: R.O.B. (Rephlex)


Posted on Mar 13th 2008 11:51 pm

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Bochum Welt: R.O.B

R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy)
Rephlex 2008
31 Tracks. 110mins00secs

Alongside bedroom boffins like Mike Paradinas, Luke Vibert and Chris Jeffs, Gianluigi Di Costanzo – or Bochum Welt – was one of the early reasons Rephlex was able to branch out from simply being an outlet for the prodigious output of Richard D. James. And yet he failed to go on to have anything like the success of some of his fellow label mates. Indeed, after 1997 and the release of Desktop Robotics and Feelings On A Screen, he seemed to disappear from the Rephlex line-up altogether.

Over a decade later, Robotic Operating Buddy marks his return, although it is as much a retrospective as anything else. The majority of the double album is made up of hard-to-find material lifted from the 1997 releases and 1996’s Module 2. According to Rephlex, putting this music back on general release will save fans a packet splashing out on the internet. And the label bosses may well be right: a quick look at, for instance, reveals that the three old releases that make up disc 2 would cost the completist a cool £85 in hard-earned pocket money.

But, in a break from the usual greatest hits format that this album seems to hint at, there is also plenty of new music on show here, from delicate ZX Spectrum pastiches to Aphex-esque fist pumpers. At times, in fact, this almost sounds like an early Aphex Twin album – with tracks like Flag certainly bearing a resemblance to the acid-crunching moodiness of the Caustic Window releases.

Perhaps it would be too hard to dismiss this as Aphex-lite, though, because there is much of interest here, including the hazy, breathlessly languid 8221SB and the To Rococo Rot style flickerings of DR2D. The titles, which sound like something plucked from the index of a programming manual, hide a sound that is a rich, playful – an almost mischievous rewrite of eighties synth pop. The music never reaches the circuit-bending brilliance of Aphex, yet after working on music projects with business giants such as Vodafone and Apple in recent years, it is hard not to feel that this is where Bochum belongs. Whether this thirty-one-piece, double-disc monster is a fresh start remains to be seen, for such compilations often help artists finalise the legal niceties on label contracts that are coming to an end.

Either way, the move to put back out into the public domain material that has been lost to all but those with an appetite for big credit card bills is a welcome step. Who knows, perhaps this may even bring closer the day when Rephlex will re-release its sizeable back catalogue of Aphex material, allowing ordinary fans to hear for the first time tracks that are now collecting dust on trainspotters’ shelves.


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