Sterac aka Steve Rachmad Sterac aka Steve RachmadSecret Life Of Machines (Remastered)
Precursor, maestro, legend: Steve Rachmad was there before anyone else was. Before luminaries of melodic techno like Aril Brikha, Vince Watson, Arne Weinberg, and Redshape stepped onto the scene, before labels like Delsin or Rush Hour were born, way before someone came up with the term 'neo-Detroit'. It was 1995 and “Secret Life Of Machines” came out, proving that in Europe, they could make techno with the same weight and transcendence as the music that came from the Motor City at the end end of the 80s. Seventeen years have gone by, yet that record (released under his most popular alias, Sterac), is still there, on the highest alters of European techno. Because this is probably the best Detroit album ever made this side of the Atlantic.
For a piece of work to reach that status, it must turn out to be pioneering on the one hand, and (at least bordering on) perfect on the other, both in form and emotional impact. And Rachmad's debut is all that. With regards to its influence, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the conception of a significant part of Dutch underground electronica is largely in debt to this album. Not only aesthetically, but in the sense that it put the scene on the map internationally, where it’s now firmly established. On a formal level, the execution of the nine tracks on the original version (in this case, seven, plus two remixes, more about that later), is simply magnificent. From the trance-like bass lines of the title track to the cosmic arpeggios of the incredible “Astronotes”, from the rhythmic echoes of “Axion” to the nocturnal melodies of “Mysterium” and the bottomless pads supporting “The Lost Of A Love” and most of the other tracks, the level of expressive precision and textural cohesion is astonishing.
Like all good classic techno, the conception of the tracks is simple - and the equipment they were made with is bordering on the austere - which makes their emotional impact even more valuable. If the album is especially unbeatable in one aspect, it's its ability to sublimate the idea of techno emotion. Submerging in “Secret Life Of Machines” is a spiritual experience, it's rejoicing in synthetic utopia, it's getting lost in a world where the machines come to life to tell us one of the most beautiful techno stories ever recorded. It's perfectly imaginable that, at the time of recording, Rachmad was going through some kind of emotional catharsis. The liner notes confirm this, in addition to closing the circle of its meaning: “The loss of a love. A broken heart can be the food of your inspiration, or is it just a way to forget the love you have lost. This album is dedicated to Kim and my mom Norma G. (Wherever you are)”.
So there's no doubt that this reissue on 100% Pure is little less than essential. However, this is where the only objections emerge one could possibly have against it. First of all, it's not a re-press in the strict sense of the word, which, in the case of such a magnificent piece of art, is an inconvenience. For instance, they oddly left out magical tracks like “Satyricon” and “Draghixia”, and included “Thera” instead; which, even though it's just as good, wasn't on the original but on his second, self-titled album (which is something like Rachmad's cursed album). The two new remixes of the song in question and “The Lost Of Love” aren't particularly relevant, two attempts at updating tracks that don't need updating. Just as the re-mastering wasn't necessary, either, or at least not the way it's been done now. Obviously, the tracks sound better, but a small part of the extreme vivacity and warmth of the originals has been lost. Even so, and for all of the above reasons, this is an essential release for any self-respecting techno lover.