Raupenbahn is a simple yet fascinating idea- twenty-one recordings (or only eleven if you buy the vinyl) of old mechanical industrial looms in action, presented as purist field recordings, but of material so rhythmic and comprising of so many moving elements that it is far from ambient and instead offers up its own form of accidental music.
Three of the recorded looms date from the late 19th century, the other two between 1967 and 1972, so whilst not the earliest examples of industrial rhythmic machinery, the older looms do come from towards the very beginning of what might be thought of as ‘industrial sound’. Many of the recordings clock in between 100bpm to 140bpm making them feel like precursors to (and potentially great rhythm tracks for) modern industrial or electronic music. The thumps and clicks in “Ruti / ód / PL, 1892” feel like the 19th century prototype for a 4/4 kick-clap electro beat, while “Lentz 2 MG” even feels like it ought to have Underworld chords and Karl Hyde lyrics applied directly to it. The double pounding pattern of “Grossenhainer EU lower floor” really does link industrial sound to industrial music.
The stereo effect in “Henry Livesy BO” is an example of the detail and care with which these sounds have been recorded, really filling the sonic space but without pushing it into the realm of an oppressive sound, even though visitors to old industrial museums might be expecting such sounds to be unbearably loud. That being said, certain pieces like the strangely tractor-like “Saurer 400 BO” are certainly noisier than others. Some recordings are relentless and somewhat flat, whereas others encapsulate the machine’s start-up and switch-off processes as well, some of which add neat little bookends.
At 70 minutes, the digital edition is an extensive pack and that’s perhaps too long a time to sustain avid interest in any pack of purely rhythmic sounds- so as a full-length listening experience it may be better in small doses. There are plenty of fascinating individual tracks though, that make this intriguing presentation of old genuinely-industrial rhythms certainly worth dipping into.
Passing mention has to be made of the artwork, of course; presumably there’s some excuse for putting a lesser-clothed woman on the cover. Titillation draws attention, obviously, but it totally misrepresents the sound product, and leaves some potential customers maybe having to explain to their wives or partners that it “isn’t what it looks like”.