M.I.A.
Schwarzweiss
Sub Static
2004
C+



if there’s one thing that the sadboys and females are bringing to the Kompakt distributed world of house music, it’s a keen melodic touch. Ada, of the Areal label, recently carried the second Bis Neunzehn compilation by supplying 25% of the music and 100% of the highlights (even amid a star studded cast). M.I.A. has also found herself as the emotional center of two recent mixes—Fabric 15 and Selection 2 —via the use of the achingly melancholic “River”. And while none of the tracks on Michaela Grobelny’s debut LP for her own Sub Static label have the immediate chord sequence that drove the particular resonances inherent in that track, Schwarzweiss does contain numerous gems that beg repeated listening.

Perfect for the LP format, Grobelny eschews creating tracky compositions designed merely to mark time on the dance floor. Instead, she makes stand-alone tracks that have one eye towards climactic fist pumping and another towards appreciative home listening. I can’t vouch for the former, but in terms of the latter she succeeds admirably.

Grobelny kicks the album off with the Novel23 synth of “Fortress”, weaving the two keyboard lines with a scraping and ticking rhythmic backdrop. It’s sublime tech-house that hits its stride as a stumbling and wavering melodic line takes center stage during the middle portion of the proceedings. The Dettinger-lite synth makes reappearances throughout, gradually losing its oddness factor and merely becomes part of show, a trait shared by many of the strangely distorted melodies and harmonies present throughout.

The other major highlight of the disc is “Superstitious”, featuring what probably are Grobelny’s own distorted vocals (also heard on “Let Your Heart”). The voice isn’t employed to enormously interesting effect production-wise, but fills its niche admirably. It’s the breakdown, however, that makes the track. Floating merrily along and gradually adding elements, the song suddenly drops out except for a frenetic bass that plies its trade with merely a tick at the end of each line for accompaniment until the kick drum makes its return. It’s one of the most affecting moments—aside from the closer, "Ballad II"—on a record that is short on anything big, obvious and emotional.

The attendant tracks pursue the same sorts of tacks throughout Schwarzweiss, mixing the familiar with the strange, subtly adding to the German tradition of innovative tech-house without making any huge leaps of style or technique. In so doing, Grobelny doesn’t end up producing the forward thinking masterpiece of a Lawrence, for example, but instead lays done one of the most instinctively pleasing and melodically rich tech-house releases of the year. Recommended.



Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2004-05-20
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