NMC Review: Apparat Organ Quartet – ‘Pólýfónía’

FTWL: Kraftwerk, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Shout Out Out Out Out

Organ quartets are few and far between in our modern age of synth boards and the many incredible things one can do with a laptop. But since 1999, Iceland-based Apparat Organ Quartet have created incredible, intense and ever shifting musical arrangements by pounding out on an organ. They brings the depth, richness and tonal sincerity that so many gear heads strive to reach in their endless looping and adjusting. The key lies in their not-so-secret weapon: honest to goodness analog keyboards. Drawing comparisons to Kraftwerk and Motörhead, they are once again dropping jaws with the complex arrangements, rich instrumentation and range presented in Pólýfónía. 

Incredibly, every note on Pólýfónía – as in their previous releases – is played by hand, no sequencers or computers. Self-described as “mechanical rock and roll”, Apparat Organ Quartet exclusively uses keyboards from their vast collection of analog musical equipment. While knowing what happens behind the music creates a stronger sense of awe for Pólýfónía, the range they manage to fit into one album is truly amazing.

Glitchy (mechanically so), poppy vocoders, robot like vocals and complex instrumental melodies all lead into a head banging crescendo before fading into a moment of calm only to ramp back up faster and harder than before. It’s a smashed-together electronica dance party with a metal band playing over each track. It sounds like it couldn’t work in theory, but in practice, it is fast and fun. It gives meat to the thin sounds expected out of synths – no looping required.

“Cargo Frakt” employs funky robotic sounding vocals, simple melodies and pounding intervals of intensity – almost preparing the listener for something unexpected. Not only is it incredible to hear this dancy, electronic style being filled out with true organ tones and pounding hard-rock influenced drums, but each track goes to a different place, sometimes more than one. “Songur Geimunglingsins” channels Phillip Glass, Stereolab, David Bowie and Frank Zappa. It isn’t often that those artists all come to mind in a single track. Apparat Organ Quartet is an incredible gem and the creations that have emerged are strangely beautiful and quite certainly hypnotizing.

Apparat Organ Quartet will be bringing all their glory to Canadian Music Festival, playing three different showcases March 20, 22 and 23 in Toronto. Not a show to miss. Even if it is just to witness these artists play their way through a maze of Russian analog synths, semi-working Hammond organs and any number of altered Casios.

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