The Paranormal Soul
, November 20th, 2012 03:34
At this point in electronic music culture, it's hard to avoid being part of a trend, or at least what someone somewhere perceives as one. Pretty much any given style is apt to be set upon and revived in (narrows eyes) tastemaker circles, but it tends to be somewhat surprising when it happens. Who'd have expected – if we were discussing it five or so years ago – that whole stone-faced panelbeating Downwards Records style of techno would have come so sharply back into vogue? What about nineteen-year-olds wearing snapbacks and making swing-y vocal house? And if the new Arkist single 'Spiderdrudge' is an indicator of anything (which I'm not saying it is), we might be looking at a nu-skool breaks revival soon.
All this piecemeal trainspotting makes someone like Legowelt still more cherishable. The Dutchman, given name Danny Wolfers, has been represented on wax (and self-released CD-R, unusually for a dance producer) since the late nineties. During this time, his style of music – synth-drenched analogue electro, and multiple branches thereof – has been extremely hip, later less so. Throughout, he's continued to just do whatever he fancies, releasing product under so many fantastic names you suspect he creates tracks just for an excuse to use them (personal favourites: Twilight Moose, Nacho Patrol, Franz Falckenhaus) and giving away The TEAC Life, a 110-minute album, for free last year. The "forest techno" contained within, he advised, was not be confused with "that boooooooooooring contemporary shit they call techno nowadays" played by "overrated talentless pretentious douchebag cunt DJs".
I have no real idea what Wolfers means by forest techno – if you're thinking the kind of sturm und bosh that gets played at free parties in remote woods, you're mercifully way off – but The Paranormal Soul is demonstrably more techno, more kickdrum-led and Detroit-leaning, than the great majority of his output. It leads off on a comparatively sedate, even soulful tip: 'Danger In The Air', all tender strings and tearjerker electro melodies like peak-performance Juan Atkins. The hulking up is imminent, though. 'Rave Til Dawn' flirts, rhythmically, with breakbeat hardcore, but pairs this with the walking-on-airiest cooing keys you ever heard. It's willfully nostalgic as its title suggests, and could pretty much be a lost Future Sound Of London cut or something, but assuming you can vibe with this notion, it's exemplary.
Although the Legowelt sound has palpably developed since his early productions, where a Kraftwerkian iciness felt generally audible, one thing which has prevailed is his ability to write melodies. Just these beautiful bursts of serotonin, on nearly every track. 'Sketches From Another Century''s bass and drums are fairly gnar, in a Robert Armani, Chicago kinda way, but the synth threaded through it gives it a wholly different complexion. Makes me want to go up to the penthouse roof, peer down at the chaotic city and muse on how much happier I am since I quit the arms trade. Equally, the robotic claps and clattering hi-hats on 'Transformation Of The Universe' ensure that this is no chillout room soundtrack, but you'll want to climb inside the droney, blurry keyboard parts and fondle their surfaces. Yeah, you will.
Arriving around the LP's middle, one imagines 'Voice Of Triumph' would pop up in a similar place if Legowelt played it live: it's a crunchy hobnailed stomp with the busy brassiness of LFO, and by some distance the least tuneful thing here. 'I Only Move For U' follows, handing out another shot of home-stretch adrenalin with a gurgling 303 acid line and pistoning beats. Not that Danny Wolfers wants for a fanbase, as far as I can see, but if this had been an Aphex track from his Analord series, creepy shut-ins on IDM forums would have picked it apart and licked its bones spotless years ago.
After which it's just the sleek and forthright Big Drums of 'Renegade Of A New Age'; 'On A Cold Winter Day', whose electro-not-electro pulse is perhaps this album's clearest nod to Legowelt's scene (I-F, Orgue Electronique and other dons of production who go hard in Den Haag); and 'To The Homeland', which brings back the Chicago techno jackmastery and throws in some rising/falling synth and FX which sound like the ghosts of electronic music's dead pioneers calling through the wind. Yeah, they do.
Depending on how you look at it, The Paranormal Soul either has very little to do with what's hot in dance music right now, or just about everything. That is to say, barriers between scenes and subgenres are crumbling every week. Danny Wolfers could be an avatar for all this: a dude who carries on regardless, cutting a swathe through bandwagoneers and bed-hoppers via the medium of frequently incredible, incredibly danceable music.