Max Graef - Rivers Of The Red Planet

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  • Rivers Of The Red Planet, the new LP from Berlin upstart Max Graef, hearkens back to an era when the album served the fundamental statement of a musician's aesthetic. This is in no small part due to the young producer's diverse ear. Graef has been making waves in the underground house world, but as he recently told RA's Will Lynch, he spends most of his money on old records he can't play in clubs. Rivers, meanwhile, was originally conceived as an instrumental hip-hop album. It has a loose, smoky feel that owes as much to beatmakers like Madlib or J Dilla as it does to any house producer. A casual synthesis of dusty jazz, hip-hop and house, Rivers speaks to Graef's formidable talent. The album opens with a lead that's in turns menacing and comical. The vibrant synth, flanked by saxaphone, introduces Graef as our fearless guide, unbound by genre orthodoxy. Like a good writer, Graef varies the length of his statements. Dance floor tracks like "Vino Rosetto"—a previously released, Jan Hammer-style burner—stretch out over six-minutes. The cheekily titled "Jazz 104," by contrast, is a Rhodes-driven jazz vamp that fades out almost as soon as it begins. Graef's omnivorous ear and precocious youth allow him to fly without a net, pulling off risky, musically ambitious arrangements. Most significantly, he ditches the samples that drove his early records, opting instead for heady instrumentals that echo proggy '70s soundtracks or jazz classics like Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon." "Itzehoe," one of the album's highlights, has a jogging bassline that calls to mind the nostalgic dance sound mastered by Andrés. Wayne Snow adds his tender vocals to "Running," and the result sounds like James Blake with a fetish for boom bap percussion. In yet another nod to golden era hip-hop, Rivers' shorter sketches often include a dry, institutional voice didactically pointing out the properties of the various drums and synthesizers. Graef isn't interested in melting your face with peak-time club tracks. Instead, he takes playful trips away from the dance floor to keep the listener, and himself, interested. This is serious music that refuses to take itself too seriously.
  • Tracklist
      01. Intro 02. Itzehoe 03. Superswiss (Skit) 04. Running 05. Jazz 104 06. Tamboule Fudgemunk 07. Quackeljochen 08. Ohne Erdung 09. Mullholand Drive 10. Drums Of Death 11. Vino Rosetto (Album Mix) 12. Speed Metal Jesus 13. Büchsenöffner 14. Jane 15. Medley Of The Drifter 16. Outro