“Apparatjik” is a Swedish word derived from the Russian word for bureaucrat, typically of the inefficient, red tape-loving sort—literally an “agent of the apparatus.” The band Apparatjik, on the other hand, consists of Guy Berryman of Coldplay, Jonas Bjerre of Mew, Magne Furuholmen of a-ha, and producer Martin Terefe. The band’s debut offering, We Are Here, features eleven tracks that range from the polished pop tunes you’d expect from a project featuring a Coldplay alumnus to dirtier industrial rock tracks.
We Are Here opens with “Deadbeat,” a track that at first made me think I might have stuck a Nine Inch Nails CD in the player by mistake. But then the vocals cut in and the song broke down into something more melodic, and I realized that this wasn’t Trent Reznor’s doing after all. It’s a damn catchy song, moving from rugged synths to dulcet chords at perfect intervals. “Deadbeat” segues nicely into “Datascroller,” the strongest track on the album. The catchy drumbeat of “Datascroller” meshes well with the rhythm of the vocal track and the synthesized, Coldplay-esque harmony. Like most of the songs on the album, it has a fast yet sweeping sound that whisks you into the emotional landscape of the record.
Many of the tracks have a bell-like sound that focuses and enhances the rhythm of the individual pieces as well as threading a consistent theme throughout the record. That’s key to the album: the tracks move easily from one to the next, creating an overarching feel that sweeps you up into the spirit of We Are Here. The seventh track, “Josie,” sounds like it could have been pulled from the B-side of a Coldplay record. Although I’m not personally a fan of Coldplay, I think this is a good thing. Coldplay has a distinctive way of mixing an album that works well on We Are Here. The layering creates an enveloping sound that gathers the listener into the musical folds of the album and doesn’t let go.
Even with the occasional obvious Coldplay connection, it is still hard to believe that this album was recorded by a group of seasoned musicians. The album definitely had a looser, edgier feel than you would expect, more akin to electronic rock offerings from smaller, up-and-coming groups. It looks like Berryman et al. returned to their roots for this record.
We Are Here also features spoken-word interludes by an unsettling, disembodied computer voice (is that you, Microsoft Sam?), which are no doubt intended to remind us of the intrusion of technology into music and, more broadly, into our daily lives, or something like that. More than anything, the gimmick comes off as tacky. It’s a dark spot on an otherwise decent album.
Overall, We Are Here is a fun yet complex album that has a unique sonic quality, despite its obvious connections to much bigger acts. The album is perhaps too mellow for a party track list, but its fun, provocative music is quite suitable for listening to while kicking back on a comfortable couch. The, uh, colorful cover art will also look pretty sporty on anyone’s CD rack.
3. Snow Crystals
4. Supersonic Sound
5. Arrow and Bow
6. In a Quiet Corner
9. Electric Eye
10. Look Kids
11. Quis Show