September 18, 2007

Supermayer - Save The World

Remember the supergroup? It was a big conceptual thing a few decades back, but it still pops up every now and again. Here’s how it usually worked: a bunch of high pedigree rockers would get together, proclaim that they really “dug each other’s music,” book a bunch of studio time, get stoned out of their gourds, and more often than not, release an album of half-baked ideas and poorly executed jams that proceeded to shift millions of units based solely on the reputation of the players. Sometimes the idea actually workedsee Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young and Derek & The Dominos. Sometimes it wouldn’tsee pretty much everyone else.

Diehard fans of the musicians in question usually lapped this stuff up, but somewhere in the back of their minds, they still felt somewhat let down more often than not. The problem was squarely on themtheir expectations were simply, inevitably too high. No matter how great one of these supergroups sounded on paper, they couldn’t possibly live up to that sort of hype on record. Blaming the musicians, on the other hand, was a futile exercise. After all, they just wanted to hang out with some friends, play some music, and enjoy themselves. Can you really blame them for that?

Which brings us to the case of Supermayer, a supergroup-style collaboration between two of Kompakt’s biggest names: Michael Mayer and Superpitcher. And while the collaboration has more in common with the above than notthis is nothing if not a “fun” recordthis is most certainly not a bad thing. If anything, Save the World is just the kind of project that Kompakt needed, given the (somewhat inexplicable) backlash the label has been taking of late. Too many have complained that Kompakt has taken to making records by numbers; Save the World is anything but your (stereo)typical Kompakt fare.

Just as the grooves of those ’70s albums are laden with artists just trying to have a good time and vibe with each other, so does Save the World exude a palatable sense of smiling, laughing musicians just having some fun and getting down, and most importantly, encouraging the listener to do so as well. Look no further than the first proper track on the album (after the spoken intro “Hey!”), “The Art of Letting Go”the lyric tells the story of the album in a simple idea: over a grooving bass, chunky guitar chords, and some decidedly un-Kompakt sounds (are those horns? Melodica perhaps?), the gauntlet is thrown, “Let’s get to it / Relax / Let me go.” This is a first-class party record, assembled by two of techno’s foremost minds, and if the instruction is followed, you’ll have just as good a time listening as they obviously did making it.

With their mission statement firmly established, Supermayer proceed to circle the universe, capes flying, in search of the magic note, and while they never quite find it, the thrill of discovery is clearly the intent for our heroes (there’s even a comic book insert). There’s atmospheric dancefloor techno, there’s some light techno pop, some swinging indie bouncers, there’s vocals, there’s ambient interludes, there’s horns, there’s even a fucking gong. “The Lonesome King” is Martin Denny in Ralf and Florian’s studio; “Please Sunrise” recalls 808 State and YMO; “Two of Us” is a classic floor-filler laden with peaks and valleys; closer “Cocktails for Two” is a late-night comedown complete with shag carpeting and a disco diva perched on the love seat waiting for an afterhours tumble. It’s a gloriously unorganized mess, but all of it is so lovingly and skillfully done that it sounds far closer to some sort of mad genius.

Save the World is not a work of high art like The Magic Flute and it’s certainly not a pretentious epic like Kid A. It lives in its own skin and its comfortable there. The key to saving the world according to Supermayer is simple: lose the pressure and enjoy things for what they are, not what you expect them to be. There is an art to letting go, and they seem to have mastered it here, at least as much as such a thing can be mastered. They might not have saved the world, but Supermayer might just have saved your next house party.

Kompakt / KOMPAKTCD 61
[Todd Hutlock]

September 5, 2007

Trio of Five

Here’s some recent Beatz-related reviews from the main Stylus site:

Tobias Thomas - Please Please Please (Kompakt)
Kaito - Contact to the Spirits (Kompakt)

Nina Phillips: Thomas is too busy crafting to see the dancers looking back at him from the floor. No wonder this was mixed livein an empty dance club in Cologne.

V/A - Grand Cru 2007 (Connaisseur)
V/A - Rekids One (Rekids)

Nina Phillips: If you build bangers, they will come.

Wiley - Playtime Is Over
(Big Dada)

Chris Gaerig: Playtime Is Over proves that Wiley truly does run the grime game. Hell, hes the only one left.

August 16, 2007

From The Main Site

Check out some of the Beatz-related reviews happening over on the main Stylus site:

Lindstrom & Prins Thomas - Reinterpretations

V/A - Kompakt Total 8

Prins Thomas - Cosmo Galactic Prism

Dixon - Body Language Vol. 4

V/A - Soundboy Punishments (on Skull Disco)

June 6, 2007

Gui Boratto - Chromophobia Remixe Part 1

Like Booka Shade or Hkan Lidbo, Gui Boratto has an extensive background as a “hired gun”, and has produced all kinds of tracks to order. Chromophobia, his debut on Kompakt, is likewise a finely fashioned piece of work by somebody who knows their way around a studio and is intent on manufacturing a product with polish and care. The album sounds exactly as Boratto had intended, which is both its strength and (ultimately) its limit.

This remix EP is also “exactly what you’d expect” - close your eyes and imagine either Robert Babicz or The Field remixing Boratto and (if you’ve any imagination) you’d probably conceive of something almost identical to what’s being offered here. Babicz’s mix of “Mr. Decay” is typically loud, fruity, and rich (his tracks always “sound” about 10% fatter than anyone elses) with his quasi-Wagnerian love of massive stabs and huge malfunctioning reverb breakdowns. With the mids-heavy bassline driving things along here, this is also as close to Alex Smoke as Babicz has ever sounded, but ultimately it’s neither Babicz’s best work nor a magical translation of the original. The Field’s rework of “Hera” does the equivalent of cutting a photograph into tiny squares and then sticking them back togetherin almost exactly the same place. Both mixes are competent works by talented producers reworking decent tracks by a conspicuous professional - but thats not enough, theres no surprise here, nothing dangerous or truly unexpected. Ho hum.

Kompakt / KOMPAKT 158
[Peter Chambers]

April 19, 2007

Jrgen Paape - Speicher 47

Jrgen Paape, one of the several founders and owners of the Kompakt empire, is something of a slow mover. His split release with Tom Pooks on Speicher 45 and now this two-tracker constitute his first new music in roughly five years. Perhaps its quality control; Fruity Loops 1 and Fruity Loops 2 are extremely intense yet well-mannered productions, no matter how strong the connection is with the popular downloadable software of the same name.

The first version is an iceberg, pummeling you with strident, mechanistic tech-house beats above a chilly oceanic swirl, while the more thawed-out second version sports one of those elusive Kompakt almost-melodies to great effect. The gorgeous balance of shimmer and sway dovetail nicely for a perfect Teutonic trance excursion: ethereal enough to be dreamy, physical enough to break a sweat.

Kompakt Extra / KOMEX47
[Mallory ODonnell]

March 29, 2007

Justus Khncke - Justus Khncke vs Prins Thomas


Full Pupps blueprint of acid-washed, spacey electro-disco found curious but undeniable elective affinities with Kompakts less schranzy/trancey moments. Its a love that spoke its name by M. Mayers insistence on not only including Terjes mix of Another Station on Immer 2, but mixing it with Justus Khnckes own Advance. What a shame then, that the A-side (Prins Thomas string plucking diskomikks) doesnt really work. Elementally, theres nothing wrong with the arrangement, its just that, well, it doesnt swing. Theres something slightly off about the strings and the bass playing, as if the session was rehearsed and recorded over Skype, with the slight delay that entails. Where Kelley Polars playing lends his tracks a magnificent liquidity, the diskomikks sounds lumpythe bass just doesnt groove with the strings.

Prins version of Advance is far better, but its just what youd expect and nothing morethe original, soaked in spacemaking delay and reverb until the whole thing whooshes and churns itself to a giddy climax. Tilda, in every apparent way the B-side, comes away as the most interesting track on the EP, although it has very little to do with the meeting of the various sound spectrums that the record seems to have been designed for. Its a really pleasant repeatscape, driven by a metallic dulcimer that conceals a strong sense of pop smartssubtly and quintessentially Kompakt, in other words.

Kompakt / KOM 153
[Peter Chambers]

March 20, 2007

Motiivi:Tuntematon - Speicher 46

Alright: it’s time to fess up. Who put the acid in the Kompakt water cooler? Sure, they’ve always boasted a diverse roster, but suddenly it’s a diverse roster that kicks some serious assnever before have so many releases from the Kln powerhouse simply leapt right out of your speakers. Two very different wide-angle shots from Scandinavian unknowns Motiivi:Tuntematon (please don’t ask the DJ to tell you who’s playing) grace Speicher 46. “I Don’t Feel Good (When You’re Not Around)” flexes powerful electro-tendons around a glorious rave chant and one of Kompakt’s fleshiest drum tracks. Just a bit dark, slightly gooey, and totally anthemic. On the flip, “Mankind Failed” is more than aptly-titled. A melancholy Vangelis slice that slowly unfolds into a pulse-pounding stomp of cold, fearfully-grinning machines that slowly pound out any and all humanity. A single decaying sweep gates us into the last five (beatless) minutes, which on their own form one of the most successful and blistering noise-sculptures I’ve heard since Coil sadly closed shop. Shimmering wraiths of electricity rising above a landscape of twisted metal and crushed bodies, while the bellows of those dark Satanic mills keep letting out steam. Awesomely grim.

Kompakt Extra / KOMEX46
[Mallory ODonnell]

February 16, 2007

Partial Arts - Trauermusik

Why has Ewan Pearson has emerged as a star remixer? His neatly crafted versions of other peoples music often sound like the original should have in the first place. Its a know-how that he applies here with co-consiprator Alistair Usher to produce a record that sounds like Kompakt records might, but often dont. The duo have managed to key in on the particularly lush, rich, sentimental melodic techno sound thats marked anthems like Magnets KissKissKiss, Superpitchers Mushroom, or Robert Babicz Sonntag and transport it into an emotional landscape of their own creation.

Trauermusik begins with a slight electro-disco inflection, boogying past with a neat bassline, but then piles on the synths and falling drums until theres not a dry eye left in the house. Full release (as they advertise in Japanese massage parlors) in eight minutes, guaranteed. But its nothing compared to its evil, mischief loving Alter Ego mix. From the get go, this is a raucous, rambunctious smasherif the original cries tears, then this version rips them. Very close to Rocker and the other huge tracks off the recent Alter Ego album, the track manages to neck five shots of the hard stuff on its way to total annihilation, and no doubt it will take the whole floor with it. Two very different types of emotional hit, both fully realized. Not all Kompakt EPs are worth buying, but this is one of them.

Kompakt / KOM 149
[Peter Chambers]

February 16, 2007

Aril Brikha - Winter EP


Swedish Derrick May devotee Aril Brikha made a big splash with his early releases on Mays esteemed Transmat and Fragile labels back at the turn of the millennium. It seems, however, that along with a taste for spacious and silky-smooth Detroit techno, Brikha apparently picked up some of Mays horrific work ethic, as this two-tracker on Kompakt is only his third release in the last five years. Brikha apparently hasnt spent the time reinventing himself musically, as the two tracks here follow the same funky, spaced-out template as his previous work.

Not that this is a bad thing necessarily, but if youve heard Mays classic works (and if youre reading this and you havent, turn off the computer and go directly to Innovator and dont stop until you can hum each individual synth part to Strings of the Strings of Life in your sleep), or even Brikhas own Deeeparture In Time LP for that matter, youve heard all of this done before, and done better. Theres always a place on my shelf for this kind of ice-cool Detroit material, but these arent particularly inspiring or inspired readings on the template, merely Motor City by Numbers.

Kompakt / KOM 151
[Todd Hutlock]

September 29, 2006

The Rice Twins - Reach for the Flute

Plangent three-track EP on the somewhat puzzling Kompakt sublabel K2. Whatever the K2 raison d’etre might be, the Rice Twins are filling a much needed role with this lush soundtrack to a night of summer city driving with the windows down and a loved one by your side. “For Dan” evokes a wistful, romantic tone; “Rome” gets the blood racing a bit quicker as we merge onto the freeway, and the slightly wacky / nervous “Poppers” plays as you arrive at the club and surreptitiously smoke a joint in the parking lot.

K2 / K2/16
[Mallory O’Donnell]

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