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Justus Köhncke
Justus Köhncke & The Wonderful Frequency Band Theo Ploeg , November 28th, 2013 08:55

Rumour has it that Justus Köhncke, Eric D. Clark and Hans Nieswandt are planning on reviving Whirlpool Productions. The trio scored a big hit with 'From: Disco to: Disco' in the 90s, reaching a number one position in Italy in the summer of 1997. Not a bad idea, considering the current disco revival. It didn't stopped Köhncke from finishing his first album since Safe And Sound, released in 2008. Justus Köhncke & The Wonderful Frequency Band, out on Kompakt, is the album where all the different musical pieces finally fit together.

On the album cover Köhncke shows his true nature: in essence he is a troubadour, traveling around with his instruments through sometimes known territories, sometimes shiny new and sometimes dark places. He tells stories using disco, pop, techno and house, which makes the conenction to the Kompakt record label in Cologne even more appropriate. There's Schlager here too - Köhncke is a master in blending the German chansons with pop aesthetics. Since his debut album Spiralen Der Erinnerung (1999) his music has been labeled Schlager techno. "It's a curse", he told me in 2005 when I interviewed him after a show in club Petrol in Antwerp. "I never want to hear the word Schlager again. The Seattle Weekly described my music as nü-compu-soul. Now that's something nice."

In a way it's tragic that Köhncke's music is often mistaken for what it is not. Besides the Schlager reference, his music isn't melancholic at all. "That's self pitty and deterioration. My music is about longing for the future", he told me. So maybe the best label for his music is fernweh, or wanderlust techno. The problem with the albums of Köhncke is the diversity. Was Ist Musik (2002) and Doppelleben (2005), both good albums, are a collection of songs that range from slick pop to ecstatic house and techno. Classic dance floor stuff 'Elan' and 'Timecode' seem to have nothing in common with pop disco songs 'So Weit Wie Noch Nie' and 'Wo Bist Du?'. Safe And Sound has a much darker atmosphere and shows Köhncke flirting with ambient and krautrock.

The problem with song diversity hasn't been solved on this fourth album but Köhncke manages to add a certain kind of cohesion without changing his sound that much. The German magazine De:Bug called Justus Köhncke & The Wonderful Frequency Band Köhncke's opus magnum and I tend to agree. In a way this album reminds me of DJ Hell's Teufelswerk. Both are masterpieces by producers in their late 40s, using their extensive experience to create the ultimate album without restrictions in any sense. It is interesting to read Steve Shaw on Fact Magazine comparing songs on the album to Pet Shop Boys and Hot Chip, but that doesn't do justice to the refined tongue in cheek blend of slick European pop, disco and house that Köhncke is so good at.

As said, Köhncke does what he has been doing for the last two decades but this times his different angles blend together more smoothly than ever. Pop song 'Das Selbstgesprach’ is one of the best I've heard in years - just listen to that piano riff and sublime vocals. It has the same disco vibe as dance floor filler and new single 'Tell Me'. In opener 'Flitter Und Tand’ Köhncke indirectly leads the way: this album is frippery and kitsch to the max. Köhncke walks the thin line between pop and kitsch and remains focussed throughout Justus Köhncke & The Wonderful Frequency Band, which is his finest yet, and one of the best of 2013. Fernweh techno of the highest order.

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