Published Feb 16, 2018Jonas Rönnberg, Christian Stadgaard and Isak Hansen make up the Empire Line, and their debut is a fittingly intrepid exploration of the murky overlappings of drone, techno and punk. Simply titled Rave, the album is best approached as a kind of mission statement for the group's deconstruction of the concept of rave and the broader role it plays in people's lives. It's perhaps more interesting conceptually than musically for those not already immersed in the goings-on of Copenhagen, Berlin and Stockholm's techno scenes, but anyone interested in exploring the outer edges of rave and techno will find Rave edifying, at the very least.
There's an appealing live-off-the-floor feel to the proceedings, its pre-programmed elements locking into each other with the kind of rhythmic push and pull not usually found in electronic music. This, in addition to the vocals (always buried in the mix, like they're being shouted from one end of a warehouse to the other — and they probably were), gives Rave a compellingly raw aesthetic, and when it all comes together, things sound great. The claustrophobic pulse of "Music for Catwalks" for instance, or "Fast Forward (intet glemt, intet tilgivet)", with its ragged and passionate vocals reminiscent of KMFDM (who definitely hover in the periphery here), display alluring glimpses of the group's potential.
However, one gets the distinct feeling that the impact of the Empire Line's music is lessened significantly by its commitment to tape. The group initially garnered attention for their intense live performances, and there's a real sense of having missed out on the party here; it's music so rooted in scene and geography that it sounds almost incomplete outside of its socio-cultural context, and the group don't always make up for this lack musically. Much of Rave slides by without leaving a lasting impression beyond the group's obvious passion and commitment.
The notion of retaining rave as a lived concept after the night is through is an interesting one that the Empire Line will hopefully translate into even more interesting music in the future. Until then, put on Rave while researching your next flight to Berlin. (Northern Electronics)