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Sterac – The Secret Life of Machines

Remastered, remixed and repackaged for a new generation –  does Steve Rachmad’s debut Sterac album still sound as impressive now as it did back in 1995? It’s a difficult question because this release does not include the full tracklisting from the original vinyl release, with “Aegis-1”; “Draghixia” “Hydroxy” and “Satyricon” all ommitted.

In their place comes “Thera”, the title track from Rachmad’s second Sterac album, released in 1998, a host of new remixes of “Machines” tracks and the Rachmad classic, “Sitting On Clouds” (although this was also included on some original versions of “Machines” –  but confusingly is not included in this writer’s vinyl copy). Leaving aside these ommissions, the short answer to the original question is a resounding yes. In an era of sterile production and a collective jadedness brought on by the ease of access to any music, The Secret Life of Machines is the sonic equivalent of a breath of fresh air. Admittedly, it does sound dated in places –  the sweeping synths on “Mysterium” nudge a bit too close to dinky trance for comfort –  but in the main, The Secret Life of Machines has not aged at all.

In fact Rachmad’s own tribute to Detroit techno sounds like the inspiration for liberal chunks of Delta Funktionen’s Traces and Conforce’s Escapism. Arguably neither of these contemporary Dutch producers and many of their peers would be where they are now without Rachmad’s inspiration. There is of course one key difference between modern day techno albums and Rachmad’s debut: when The Secret Life of Machines first appeared, he was exploring what was essentially a new world and could write his own rules.

This explains why the warm bass and hushed melodies on the title track became the blueprint for Rachmad’s Sterac Electronics series or how “Axiom”, with its hissing hats, rolling drums and panning, filtered riffs set the tone for Rachmad’s tougher techno releases while not deserting his lithe approach. But even when Rachmad was following a preordained route, he was able to put down his own markers; “Astronotes” owes a debt to Detroit, but the way that the Dutch producer uses slightly detuned, subtly changing keys or melds the brittle drums of electro with Derrick May’s sleek synths means that he will forever be able to claim ownership of a unique, instantly recognisable variant on techno. The remixes of “Thera”, “Secret Life” and “The Lost of a Love” are tasteful and tower over remakes included on other classic techno reissues – but to hear the full, unadulterated genius of The Secret Life of Machines , you need to focus on the original tracks.

Richard Brophy 


1. The Secret Life Of Machines
2. Astronotes
3. Axion
4. Mysterium
5. Sitting On Clouds
6. The Lost Of A Love
7. Thera
8. Astronotes 2.5
9. Thera (Remix)
10. The Lost Of A Love (Remix)