General Eclectics is the first material in nine years from Thomas Brinkmann under his Soul Center alias. But “Walk With Me,” the fifth track on the album, was released earlier this year on the Curle label under Brinkmann’s own name. Some kind of statement from Brinkmann about stylistic fluidity? Is the album photo, a pissing horse with a GE logo branded on its ass, meant to critique the behemoth multi-national? Does this relate to “Hal2010”’s sample, taken from a turn-of-the-century Macintosh commercial, of HAL stoking Y2K fears by announcing that computers “had no choice but to cause a global economic disruption” in the year 2000?
Brinkmann hears ya, Brinkmann don’t care. In a recent Time Out interview, he took a stab at intelligently explaining the album title, then backtracked by saying that he had to call it something and thought General Eclectics “sounded cool.” He also dismissed questions about “process” and his stylistic diversity, and he ended the interview by stating, tongue perhaps in cheek, “Believe me, I do [like to have fun].” He’s a tricky fellow to pin down, and though he’s more than willing to discuss the state of techno and electronic music (see this Resident Advisor interview from 2008), he seems, at least at present, completely uninterested in discussing his work in terms other than “I just felt like doing this.”
So, Thomas Brinkmann felt like making dance music and revived Soul Center. And General Eclectics is a gas, easily his most satisfying album since 2004’s Tokyo + 1. There’s no sense of the heavy-handed art-mongering of 2008’s When Horses Die…, nor the played-out conceptual rigidity that straightjacketed Klick Revolution. Trying to draw parallels between this and his turntable experiments seems particularly pointless; this is just Brinkmann having some fun.
The album doesn’t even have much to do with the other Soul Center releases. While General Eclectics is fun, it lacks the unique warmth and, yeah, soul of those albums. Brinkmann hinted at potential disdain towards his earlier, sample-heavy approach with that intelligent stab in the Time Out interview. Regarding the album title, he said, “I was using it to mean how people take all these different things from the past and put them in the soup again and again, and there is nothing new anymore.”
The album’s pleasures instead lay in how he pulls bounce and funk out of ostensibly cold techno textures. “Boot Box” utilizes a simulated clavinet that sounds imported straight from “Superstitious.” Perlon-style sleekness is present throughout the album, most obviously on “Pig Peg,” only with a few twists. “Marmalade” slows the mnml down to a crawl, “Hal2010” uses the Mac commercial sample to hilarious end, and “Liza U” and “Dyr Bul Scyl” incorporate that sort-of soul to end the album on a more Brinkmann-esque, noisy, maximal note. But, of course, the whole point of the enterprise, if there is one, is to define “Brinkmann-esque,” as whatever the hell the man wants it to mean.