Tiefschwarz - Ral9005
Not all Brits are disposed to dig beneath the surface where foreigners are concerned; by their worst excesses shall we know them, and by the same shall they be universally damned or adored. The softer, schmoover side of the German dance scene, then, two weeks after the horn-blowing boa-wearing float-rocking fleshbath that is Berlin's love parade, should remain a matter of wilful, blissful ignorance to the average Islander. But enter, to shake it up a bit, brothers Ali and Basti Schwarz.
An unpredictable and infectiously eager DJ team, the Tiefschwarz chaps have been labelled 'The European Masters at Work' by whatever cut-price mystic is employed to spout such things, and an evident love of soul, jazz, deep house and Latin rhythms seems to bear the comparison out. But there are reference points closer to home; on Emma (Dub) and Acid Soul they reveal a debt to acid (check out the whistles on the former), while the irresistible filtered gem On Up sounds, well, like filtered house. And we all know where in Europe that comes from.
The 16 tracks suffer from uniformity of tone in places, but some idiosyncratic touches - the weird, austere voice that rises over Schwanitz's fluid bass, or the loopy vocal on No More Trouble - save this from joining Kevin Yost in the deep house mire. Music carries a sterling performance from German soul singer Joy Denalane, Monday and Tuesday convince as mid-tempo jazzy instrumentals, and City Sounds is slinky and sexy enough to hold its own with the pre-club set, no doubt destined for the dubious honour of being appropriated by Hed Kandi. The all-too-evident duffer is You, a mix'n'match disco stomper intent on grabbing you by the glitterballs, but lacking the force of character to pull it (or you) off.
The advantage of being Masters at Work is you can get India to rescue the crap tracks (i.e. Runaway - come on, it's rubbish); it may be on the cards, but right now Tiefschwarz don't have that sort of firepower. What they do have over the high gloss of their American peers is a feel for the European clubber who's too discerning to punch the air to Sven Vath but still fancies a gurn now and then. Take the scene-setting intro Follow Me, which mixes ballsy piano chords, firm, confident bass and a dreamy female vocal in true Nuyorican style, but with rolling synths and an arms-in-the-air feel that's more D*Note's territory than MAW's. Don't know about you, but I've always reckoned Kenny and Louie better at soundtracking carnivals and barbies than peak-time on the dancefloor; Ral9005 is by no means consistent, but at its best it can do both.
(c) Nathan Midgley 2002
Nathan Midgley runs the excellent and mighty