@head: Klein kicks Gemutlichkeit’s ass to the ground with smooth sounds
@deck: Klein Records releases electronic compilation, grooves from the club to the bedroom
@by: Aaron Miles
@email: [email protected]
@albuminfo: Various artists
@body: Being someone who’s not always dancing and very rarely jacked enough for fast electronic music, and who possesses an ass that shakes for a minute on the way from the desk to the fridge or from the bed to the quickie mart, I need good grooves. I need good, funky grooves, preferably with vocals and melody, from good songs. Songs should please the mind and the ass.
I need music like the type I fortunately discovered on the new Klein records compilation Sincerely Yours. To be broad, the Klein artists are electronic, and more specifically downtempo, trip-hop, and dub-all disturbingly broad categorizations in their own right.
Sincerely Yours contains tracks previously unreleased on disc from the Sofa Surfers camp, Uko, Mum and a few others you likely haven’t heard of. The tracks flow between 90-130 beats per minute, landing me somewhere between the dance floor and the dark lounge. It’s funk for a pre-club cocktail conversation, chill music for messing around the house and sexy sound to bump in the boudoir.
Before I get distracted, could someone please tell me what “Gemutlichkeit” means? Word I heard is that Klein wanted to give the cliches (of Viennese Gemutlichkeit, remember) a beat down by putting out eclectic music and not focusing on the mainstream green. This sounds like a worthy goal, whatever uber-hip elitist movement or adjective this Gemutlichkeit is. All I know is it’s definitely not a fun word to type or try to pronounce.
Whatever it may be, Klein records, born in mid-’90s Vienna, sought to fill a niche. They aim to fill the void between club culture and the indie scene. Dance producers wanted to do some more eclectic sounds, and musicians and producers wanted to lay down a good beat and to mess with digital technology. Unsatisfied with the uber-cool Vienna groove scene, Klein put out some quality electronic music that feels musical and soulful enough to make the package interesting for different kinds of people.
It’s a tough gap to bridge, but Klein may have done it. The following Klein artists who appear on Sincerely Yours do a fine job of mixing fresh toe-tapping grooves, diverse samples and enough pop sensibility to provide a sweet coating that reaches more heads. These songs could be felt by electronic purists, some openminded indie fans and people like myself who must freak with a good beat and a well crafted tune.
Sincerely Yours first track, “Automatic” by Uko is so catchy with its funky trumpet march and hot vocals that my girlfriend puts it on every morning. Its anthemic chorus starts to get annoying but the song is irresistible.
Mum contributes two bouncing tracks ready for the dance floor or film score. “Son of a Gun” uses some exotic string instrumentation, a goofy keyboard sound and a blues man singing lines from the “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Look out Moby.
The Sofa Surfers tracks, “River Blues” and “Witness,” are dubbed-out, straight-ahead breaks with good vocals and plenty of tasty, somewhat dark, atmospherics. Both tracks appear on their album Encounters which comes out this month. Of the limited full-length albums from the Klein artists I’ve heard, the Surfers is the tightest. Guest MCs and vocalists grace almost every track of the well-composed, chilled-out disc. On “Witness,” keyboards, roving bass lines and deep sentimental female vocals make this love song worthy of any genre’s mix.
Swiss producer Seelenluft contributes a track that some people love and others hate. The song “Manila” was recorded in Los Angeles and features the vocals of a 12-year boy from Compton. The song and production are good; it’s the off-key, half-spoken, half-sung words about disasters and dancing that annoy the finicky.
Mika drop two upbeat, synth-driven, radio-friendly cuts. “Trampolin” is a bouncing drum and bass that mixes a pop feel with a club vibe.
Albin Janoska, a conservatory trained multi-instumentalist lays down a sparse background trip-hop break with ghostly piano and rolling bass on “Lem.”
For the track “Top Dog” Markus Kienzl, the bass and programming quarter of Sofa Surfers lays out a rich rolling bass line, anchoring a track that could easily evaporate.
I-Wolf presents the Electric Band, another Sofa Surfers spinoff, that lays down deep and dark cut, “Hard to Buy,” featuring an a capella vocal group and one of my favorite lines: “The truth sometimes is hard to buy, because everyday you live you live another lie.”
With the exception of a few tracks that seem a little dry and thin, this 10-artist, 15-track comp is a damn fine example of good electronic music. Klein says it feels more akin to the spirit of anarchism than that of the coffee-table chic brigade. I fear coffee-table-chic Westerners will listen to this music more than those who feel akin to the spirit of anarchism, but hey, the more the merrier. It’s great to think that people in Vienna, a place I’ve never even been close to, are creating stuff that can be appreciated by connoisseurs the world over.