Human Resources by RDTKRelease date: June 26, 2018
Revisiting your youth can dig up wide-ranging emotions and discoveries. It can be reassuring to find the beginnings of followed paths, humbling to realise wrong turns and misconceptions, and, as I found recently during an attempted rewatch of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, wince-inducing to discover quite how drastically your tastes and views have diverged from your former self. Whilst there is almost always an urge to spill a tint of rose across treasured recollections, often the reality of those times doesn’t quite match up to the encoded memories that we have taught ourselves to be true. As Bill Pullman’s character in Lost Highway states “I like to remember things my own way. How I remembered them, not necessarily the way they happened”.
Alas this, 17 years in the making, collaboration from Ricardo Donoso and Thiago Kochenborger strikes me as rooted in a nostalgia that only they can appreciate. Where Donoso has been creating compositions within the worlds of techno, noise, and drone, Kochenborger has been performing across Latin America with various rock bands on major labels. Whilst combining disparate ideas and approaches is not, by definition, a bad thing, it can lead to a loss of focus and dilution of the individual strands that seek to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
With Human Resources this avenue of disappointment does, unfortunately, look to be the case. The music is fairly pedestrian throughout. It hovers just above the tempo of trip-hop without ever venturing into anything more lapel-grabbing. It’s not quite slow enough to boast a swagger within its gait nor sufficiently uptempo to rouse any flickers of energy from tired bones.
There are certainly moments of worth on this record, however. ‘A Rubik’s Cube’, for example, contains a hazy blur of colour and intent brought about by swirling and merging wordless voices. And ‘Seal The Chamber’ is flooded with the type of ratcheting hi-hat, looming bass, and (what sounds like) frantic glockenspiel that really does manage to turn the screw and increase levels of intensity and anxiety before dropping in that longed-for strut of subby bass kicks and crisp snare snaps.
Short string stabs over rhythmic yet muted leads are enough to initially lure listeners in on ‘Forever Imprisoned’ but, sadly, this is soon washed away by a wave of forceful drums. More patient exploration of these instrumental passages and following wherever they might lead to could have resulted in more substantial sonic worlds to get lost in. I guess that it is a little difficult to experiment in this way when there are oceans separating the two musicians.
Regrettably this type of anticlimax is quite representative of the album as a whole. The opener – ‘Affective Forecasting’ – is a plod of impatient percussion tocking over a floaty arpeggio. A soft rock chug appears alongside the metronome rim-shots and it threatens to build into something explosive, something soaring but, like an MDMA-fuelled orgasm, the payoff seems to always be just out of reach.
Part of the problem, from my perspective, are Kochenborger’s vocals. He seems to be spending more time enjoying his own voice, indulging in it even, than providing an actual service to the songs. ’Surface and Together’, for example, sounds like it’s from the fading second act of an electronic opera. All disillusionment and schisms with a peppering of acoustic guitar whilst his voice nasally lurches from note to note like a more affected David Sylvian (if that’s even possible).
The track on the album that has stuck with me the most is undoubtedly ‘There Is Still Time’ and that’s almost certainly because it brings to mind, from its ambient beginnings, the faint whiff of a memory of a sample from something potentially (mis)heard long ago. It’s there on the tips of my lobes but I just can’t seem to grasp it. If you’re reading this and know exactly what the bubbling synth at the 45 second mark is reminiscent of, please put me out of my misery.
For RDTK, despite brief flirtations with experimentation, it’s safe to say that, sometimes, it is better to just leave the past in the past.