Often confused with the dance music genres it spawned (such as house and trance), techno's roots run older and far deeper. Though the genre's stark, industrial sound is the basis for the vast landscape now known as electronica, it's all but ignored outside Detroit, where it originated. But techno flourished in '80s Europe, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the Germans fully embraced it. Among all the other dance subgenres, techno still thrives today in places like Berlin, where eccentric software programmer Robert Henke, aka Monolake, continues to tinker with techno's robotic soul.

Momentum is full of industrial nostalgia, but it's more distant. With its dark, throbbing machine beats, mechanistic echoes, and empty cathedral-like sounds, the album evokes long-abandoned factories filled with phantom machines rather than the manic activity of Detroit's auto plants. Henke taps into a ghostly world where the physical evidence of an industrial society has crumbled away, but the memory still haunts the land.

If all that sounds terribly heavy, Henke manages to infuse Momentum's minimal sound with his off-kilter sense of humor, and you get a sense that, while somewhat gloomy, the music is also having a bit of a laugh at its own seriousness. What's more, Henke doesn't let the music rest on its conventions, and he infuses elements of Jamaican dub, breakbeat, and ambient music -- more recent genres that have their roots in techno. By mixing his music with more contemporary elements, Henke turns techno into a canvas where he can create new hybrid sounds, thereby reinvigorating the art form and creating the most distinctive dance album in years.


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