Album: Planet Genius
Author: Jeff Davis
Publication: hyperreal (source)
Date: 01/01/1995

fLUX: Planet Genius

Planet Genius is the work of one Frank (Rothkamm) Genius, and is reportedly chapter 1 in a four volume anthology. Frank (dadua@aol.com), periodic perpetrator of the IDM and 313 X-Files, has various historical and sundry connections to random elements of "the scene", and what he has done with Planet Genius is to weave many of these elements into a somewhat cohesive tapestry of his perceptions. Best, although still very inadequately, described as ambient ethno-trance, this is cool, immediately listenable stuff: creatively surprising without being scary, making good use of African polyrhythms and a variety of neat samples. A good backdrop for the dancefloor, chill room or barcalounger, which traverses a fair amount of ground in 8 tracks. An added bonus is the nifty jewel case, which looks like it was cast from a remnant of Morris? holographic Dreamcoat: it?s a rather optical illusory affair that appears to be about 2 inches thick when you look at it from the right angle.


Dadua opens with a flapper era sample that reinforces the fact that "dadua" is pronounced "da-doo-wop", immediately followed by a refrigerated beat and aggressive horn and sax section build. The counter melody is quirky, and builds and folds over upon itself, forever keeping the track off balance. The track is essentially "dueling build-ups", be it horns, trance pulsing, or processed "dadua" samples. Dadua never gets "there", but the foreplay's a good bit of fun.


The sounds of Bliss In Circles bear little resemblance to it's title; this is a very eerie and schizophrenic number, driven by an incessant plink-plonk beat and a ghost-like falsetto opera sample. Gradual tinkering with the dissonant innards provides the aural diary of a broken machine in the hands of maniacal Genius, all for your listening enjoyment. Interestingly annoying, but doesn't really go very far in the eight minutes it occupies.


Flow is a cool tribal thumper, with interleaved sounds and rhythms multiplexed dense enough to tax your personal bandwidth. A funky snake charmer with attitude, a recurring siren-style rewind (that will have you checkin? the rear view if you listen in your car), and a bubbly trancey build trade off against the campfire-lit drum circle throughout this piece until the ceremony ends abruptly.


Tribe 251 is , as the name suggests, another cybertribe anthem, the rallying cry of Hermetic Lodge 251. Punchy bass and some back of the neck drum trilling lay the foundation for a dense collage of tribal chanting and train station clangoring, and a simplistic squirty refrain breaks up the mixture. I like this one because it's self-propelled, with a funky feeling of positivity, and you have to listen closely to sort out all the different layers in the mix.


Never Going Home opens with a cheesed out Technotronic housey intro that turned me off cold (for all of about 16 seconds.) Then the fun begins as the playful interchange between instruments handmade from gourds, acid sweeps, house diva samples, frenetic bongoconga circles, and that lovable faux acid house intro backdrop make this one a dancefloor mover. A "Look At Me Now" sample is used as an intermission break, but then gets hopelessly thumbdragged as the track winds down.


King Creole sounds as if the African flavored rhythm stepper could have been lifted from a "Bush Of Ghosts / Fear Of Music" Eno / Byrne collaboration, but something tells me Mssr. Genius did it all by his lonesome. Nice steel drums and vibes provides the wankel rotary engine powertrain, punctuated by a staccato cornet blast sample on the down of each measure and the continual looping of the stuttering speaker to speaker santeria ritual namesake. Although not progressing tremendously throughout, it holds your ears to the stacks and your jumping feet within the dance circle for the duration.


30 seconds into the next number, and you learn the real "Secret Of 6 Dimensions". Alfred Hitchcock thriller style vibes and marimbas tip toe you through the jungle, beneath full moon skies, toward the scene of the investigation. It's another of those tribal hoe downs, and the natives are restless tonight. Lord knows how they convinced those 2 guys with tenor saxes and that concerto violinist to show. Evil spirits being driven out tonight, mon, so watch your back.


The closer, Avalon, is a cool dance floor bumper with syrupy sweet vocals from Deborah Borchers draped over the do-the-happy-shuffle rhythm section like a lace tarpaulin blowin' in a rhythmic wind. The soulful vocalist duets with an synth oboe pad and the result is quite satisfactory. I love the sound of machines when they smile; this one is a big time grinner and has enough tuggin' diva pull to be cross-overable, while not compromising its creative integrity.


Planet Genius played well from the first rotation, and it continues to hang pretty tough after about 10 compete listens. My only real criticism is that I could do with more variety and progression both within tracks and between tracks. At no point are you bored, but the recipe is usually so thick, that during some extended segments you may find yourself asking a la Phil Glass: "is there a progression here that I'm missing?" Neverless, Frank does well at mixing a variety of elements into a unique and engaging gumbo. Buy it if you can find it.

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