Though he describes his work as equal parts rock and electronica, Martin Steer’s debut album as Bad Stream is closer to the latter than the former. With expansive synthetic but cinematic atmospheres, dark Rob Dougan-esque vocals, dramatic breakbeat drumming patterns, the guitar work is just one element in a very richly textured album with an extremely high production value. This is the sound of a very accomplished producer- less surprising when you find out that Steer is or was a member of Frittenbude.
Some tracks are more driven, with pulsing patterns that underpin tracks like “Already Dark” and one of the rockiest tracks “Megafauna”, while others such as the opener “Transition” have a grumblier and less urgent tone to them. “Nervous Love” pushes that contrast within itself, playing a steady confident walking-techno beat in the ‘verses’ against angry relentless drum crashes and louder guitar work in the sort-of-chorus.
I’ve very enamoured with this album, which is certainly going to get repeat plays above and beyond the reviewing process, but if I was scrabbling to find criticisms, I might suggest that consistency is its downfall. Across 71 minutes there’s a lot of epic mood atmospherics that hit mostly one particular pitch, and for that kind of running time, you could possibly find the sheer epicness of it tiring and wish for a little bit more variation. That’s not to say there is none- the almost house-piano elements in “Black Weed” being a great example, the long spoken-word samples in “Transition II” a less distinctive one- but it does appear that Steer has stayed somewhat in his comfort zone at times, which is a shame as the production touches are so deft that you do wonder if he could have been more ambitious in his scope.
As well as having a definite appeal to fans of the accessible-rock-music-with-electronica that seems to come out of Germany in satisfying quantities, this release is an absolute most for fans of UNKLE that I’ve already mentioned, but also Hybrid, M83, Ulrich Schnauss and beyond.