Gerald Donald has remained evasive throughout his journey under the Dopplereffekt guise. Much like Donald’s iconic work as Drexciya alongside James Stinson, the project is heavily conceptual, both hiding behind and exploring various aliases and fictional narratives. But where Drexciya’s narrative creatively disrupts the telling of colonial history, Dopplereffekt is somewhat more sinister, having toyed with scientific, sexually explicit and political allusions including sterilisation and plastic surgery. Originally starting with Donald but now including Nhan Le Thi, on Cellular Automata the duo return to their guises Rudolf Klorzeiger and To-Nhan, which fans will recognise from their 1999 Gesamtkunstwerk LP.
Last year’s audio-visual project Entropy reimagined the epic story of the universe, re-painting it with new scientific discoveries. This album leaps into the same discussion but, unlike much of their earlier work, Cellular Automata seems emotionless and void of humans. Titles like Isotropy, Ulams Spiral, and Exponential Decay won’t draw immediate conclusions for all of us, but they clearly nod towards a system of theories and facts, exploration and discovery. This music could easily soundtrack a film that travels through a desolate landscape. It depicts droning tones as they drag over expansive horizons and new forms of energy as they crystalise into electricity.
Sonically, Cellular Automata is engulfed in space, hauling Dopplereffekt’s earlier Kraftwerk-esque electro into an eerily alien suspension that hangs heavy as if there’s an shortage of gravity. The shimmering harmonic opening of the title track steadily disorientates the listener, dipping into uncanny droning with fleeting arpeggios. These queasy elements fall back on an effortless body of percussion that ultimately keeps the album sounding consistent – even when we tilt between surges of tension as Gestalt Intelligence sinks suddenly under a cold wave. It’s a dark and dense record, but there’s elegance to Dopplereffekt’s detailed programming which makes listening to Cellular Automata a powerful, vision-inducing experience