Smash TV
Bits for Breakfast

BPitch Control

uring the last year, BPitch Control has begun to make a splash in the States with strong full-lengths from both Sascha Funke’s Bravo and label-owner Ellen Allien’s Berlinette. The latter revealed a distinct styling that shouldn’t be regarded as solely hers, though. With Berlinette’s elektro-machine pop, Allien enlisted the help of Smash TV’s Holger Zilske. The similarities in production are noticeable. Smash TV’s Bits for Breakfast maintains the high-points in Berlinette’s sound and offers a great selection of electro-tech singles in the process.

Similar to his co-production work on Allien’s Berlinette, Zilske uses a style that can only be described as a splatter-synth. The intricacies of the work push each element to the fore, scrambling for attention. At the same time, Zilske also takes his sound firmly into 8-bit territory. Every sound is, at once, clunky and substantial. Like a strange off-shoot of grime’s collection of video games and alien environments, Bits for Breakfast sounds like collection of songs from a virtual netherworld.

But perhaps in this stew, the opener “Queer of Man,” sets the bar too high for the rest of the album. Guest vocalist Raz Ohara takes on James Murphy with a breathed back-track and bare one-finger bass-synth to create one of the best singles of the year. And it’s almost outdone by Ohara’s other contribution, on “Don’t Wanna Fool You”, in which dry and straight-faced vocals are interwoven with a globby bassline and a wonderful click track reminiscent of a playing card against the spokes of a tire.

Smash TV shines without Ohara—especially with the stop-start serrated chopping of “Luv 4 Luv”. The song remakes electro-tech as compulsively playful, jerking the listener along cascades of falling melodies. Their falling melodies also reveal the groups’ ability to switch between upbeat and slower material on Bits for Breakfast. Found in the sweetly alienating and disembodied vocals of a presumed robot on “Sad”, Smash TV showcases the variety that gives the boiled urgency of the first half of the album a nice counterpoint for a conclusive end.

While songs alternately evoke the synth strings of Metro Area (“Conchord”), micro-editing of Akufen (“TV is Talking”) or the aggressive atmosphere of Isolee (“Everyone’s a Star”), Smash TV maintains a distinct sound, neither mimicking other artists nor falling off into IDM-drudgery. Using influences as touchstones, Bits for Breakfast feels like a true progression of sound.

The album is noticeably uneven, however. When Smash TV’s sound works, the album maintains an urgency that makes every song bleed and yearn for more. But with a quarter of the tracks practically throwaways, from “Intruder” to “New User?” to “Circuit Breaker,” Bits for Breakfast feels like it could have been better suited as a mini-LP like Matthew Dear’s Backstroke. But this complaint is slight. The album, for what it is, is another defining document of BPitch’s sound, deserving of the same sort of recognition given to Ellen Allien.

Reviewed by: Nate De Young

Reviewed on: 2004-08-11

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