The USCSS Nostromo was the ill-fated ship in the classic Alien film. After the intrusion and subsequent violence on board the ship, we can be thankful that the events were set in a fictitious future. Biomechanoid, however, is very real; it is anything but fiction. Xenomorphs scuttle and squirm their way through the tight air shafts and the hanging black tubes conceal the horror lurking inside. The blood red synths drip with venom, oozing out of the blackly lit corridor and corroding the lower floor as if it were some spilled, unwelcome liquid.
The year is 1980 – one year on from the Alien nightmare. Biomechanoid is coming, producing a radical, dark sound that could have screamed its way into the world like an infant chestburster, into the bleak electronic setting of Germany with its violent kosmiche experimentation and ultra-dark beats.
Coloursound Library were onto something. Something massive.
Biomechanoid’s cover art was commissioned by HR Giger (designer of the original Alien creature and based off his previous Necronom IV model). Capitalizing on the success of the film, Joel Vandroogenbroeck’s eerie, twisting corridors of experimental synth helped to revolutionize the way we perceive sound and therefore music. Dark blobs of synth trail down the sides of metallic doorways. Computers give the user the required information nonchalantly, but deeper inside the relatively primitive technology, inside the circuitry, the music is held captive. It knows that it has an intruder on-board. The music has also played victim to some kind of extra-terrestrial transmission. It is a dark, foreboding and unsettling listen, populated by experimental tweaks, squeals and previously alien concepts.
The deep bass-infected roar of thrusters cannot hide the horrifying beyond belief. It is a sinister opening, but this shouldn’t deter you. Life in itself is frequently a very scary thing, so the relatively unknown, outer reaches of the Milky Way shouldn’t provide any kind of relief. Synths broadcast their emergency data onto tiny, neon-lit screens of luminous green print. The synths themselves are flimsy, prone to the gurgling substance that pulses around it and seeming to slightly rip its own fabric as it grinds against the acidic residue. Scientific experiments writhe in containers and fragile tubes that look likely to be breached. Second track ‘Elements’ purposefully taps out its intermittent rhythm against the glass with what could only be an authoritative intelligence.
Alien, despite its roaming Xenomorph, makes you afraid of the ordinary; the sliding door, the dark of the corridor and even the cat, Jones. A red siren of synth emits its sickly light onto the music and the dull clanking of the ship cries out in pregnant agony. Radar picks up sounds that shouldn’t exist (an SOS call?), or perhaps it’s the subtle melody of the ‘Strange Lady’. In a world where the everyday can be just as frightening as the supernatural (if not more so), it is the disorientating horror of the street and in the television set that takes precedence the further we go. In suburbia, we might, on the whole, feel safe, but the staring eye of the internet service provider – not to mention the NSA – and the creepy, unwanted cell phone calls can send chills down the spine despite the warmth of the radiators, in a secure place that should’ve been the comfort of home field. For instance, a plastic gnome in itself isn’t harmful or remotely threatening, but when you come back from the supermarket to find it several feet away from where you left it – accident or not – you may find a less than pleasant feeling scuttling just underneath the shallow break of the skin. Just try to rid yourself of the nightmarish possibility, or the eraser-blank look in its eye.
On ‘Lost Planet’, single synth lines snake their way through a chilly, ambient environment, and ‘Asteroids’, with its playful interlude, echoes out of a stranger sphere with what sounds like a planet populated by the cute pink Clangers, a decade before the Xeno arrived on the screen. The creature has since stalked the world of science fiction, but it has quickly invaded the wider world of popular culture, assembling multiple nests outside of its original lair like the sprawling kosmiche sub-genres and krautrock inspired music. Early synth music has expanded over the decades, but Vandroogenbroeck’s music takes us back to the original kosmische explosion.
Vandroogenbroeck would, in later years, produce ambient music and video game specific sound bites and soundtracks. And while the headphones block out outside noise, it would seem that, when the music is playing, no one can hear you scream.