Joel Vandroogenbroeck - Biomechanoid
Biomechanoid is the classic 1980 album by composer and flutist Joel Vandroogenbroeck. It's 1980, in Munich, Germany. Upstart production music label Coloursound Library releases their debut album. Capitalizing on the success of Ridley Scott's Alien film, the label dropped Biomechanoid, featuring cover art commissioned by H.R. Giger -- whose horrific Necronom IV lithograph served as the basis for the design of Alien -- and the music of the relatively unknown Joel Vandroogenbroeck. Comprised of bleak, cinematic synth soundscapes and percussion, the album served as an inaugural calling card for what would be a decade of dizzying solo releases by Vandroogenbroeck for Coloursound, running the gamut from Mesopotamian ethno-folk to synth sequencer funk to electro drum breaks to in-utero ambient delights. Though the Belgian-born Vandroogenbroeck, 74, may not be a household name, in an ideal world, he would be. As the founder, flautist, harpist, sitar player and keyboardist of the seminal acid-fried Swiss psych outfit Brainticket, he spearheaded the group's three main (and collectible) releases in the early '70s -- Cottonwood Hill, Celestial Ocean, and Psychonaut. Combining a love of exotic instruments coupled with mind-bending out-of-body excursions, the ever-changing collective developed something of a cult following throughout Europe and earned a reputation as one of the heavier psych outfits on the circuit -- which was something of a double-edged sword. While their experimental sound resonated with hippies everywhere, it didn't with the authorities, who associated the act with heavy drug consumption and subsequently began a ban of their music, especially the Psychonaut album, if for the title alone. After that bitter brush with censorship, the group quietly disbanded in 1972. After the dissolution of Brainticket, Vandroogenbroeck departed for the island of Bali with the intent of learning to build and play the gamelan -- an ensemble of primarily percussion instruments from Indonesia. It would become yet another weapon in his ever-growing arsenal of exotic instruments: he was already proficient on the sitar, harp, kalimba, assorted percussion oddities and all woodwinds by this point. Vandroogenbroeck became so enraptured with the frenetic sound of the gamelan that he subsequently left the tropics to start up a joged bumbung (a variation on a gamelan) band back in Switzerland. While playing small festivals and civic events with this group, Joel began to slowly gravitate towards the synth-heavy Kraut sounds of artists like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze at the same time. And once he began dabbling with oscillators, he never turned back. After inking a library deal around this time with the nascent Coloursound label, who gave him complete creative control, Vandroogenbroeck began turning out releases at a rapid rate, often three to five a year, and under a variety of aliases like V.D.B. Joel, J.V.D.B, and Eric Vann. Starting with the desolate synth drone of Biomechanoid, he continued to expand his sound palette while on Coloursound, moving from early arpeggiators on Computer Blossoms to percussive sound collage on Birth of Earth; and from Oberheim DMX drum breaks on Video Games & Data Movements to Apple II ambient programming on Digital Project.