- Steffie Doms was a DJ long before she was a producer. You can tell: her tracks are almost exclusively streamlined for club play. They also sound just like the kind of records she plays out—old, analogue and a bit dusty. As formulaic as it can be, her flair for hooks makes her best music great ("Yours" is essentially a modern house classic), even if the rest of the equation is left wanting. Doms' drum programming is typically dead simple, and her tunes keep static, robotically going over the same motifs without much in the way of development or tension. These are chronic issues that come to the fore on Power Of Anonymity, a record that highlights its author's limitations as much as it does her gifts.
Doms says she tried to make her second album a more personal one, incorporating ideas from the electro and IDM she loves and often plays (her recent Essential Mix is full of it). It's an appealing thought, but also an exaggeration—these influences rarely surface in any identifiable way. Only "Bang For Your Buck," with its flattened snares, nervy chord progression and little curls of synth (right out of the Drexciya playbook), has an electro edge. The rest of Power Of Anonymity has the same faded-photograph ambience that defined Yours & Mine. It makes the tasteful reverb on "Everyday Objects" all the more appealing, and gives the slow-burning title track a beautiful melancholy shared by another Steffi career highlight, "Sadness."
But retro analogue loveliness is all you get on Power Of Anonymity—the album stubbornly refuses to step outside its comfort zone. "Bag Of Crystals" might be an attempt at a banging techno centrepiece, but its chimes and crashes feel muted and distant. "Selfhood," meanwhile, is just Doms is twiddling her thumbs, yet another track made from gentle chord progressions and draping disco strings. The problem comes down to songwriting: these tunes are ultra-gridded to the point where it feels like nothing happens over the course of six minutes, even if those six minutes are made up of inviting, sit-by-the-fire deep house and techno.
The Virginia and Dexter collab "Treasure Seeking" is the LP's sterling exception. A goofy vocal track, it has a certain hustle the rest of the album, groomed and careful as it is, seems uninterested in. Instead, Power Of Anonymity merely repeats the ideas first laid out on Yours & Mine, sometimes improved yet other times untouched. Doms has always been a brave and adventurous DJ, capable of telling personal stories just by stringing a few records together, but she's got a ways to go before her own productions catch up. Power Of Anonymity is only a one-note look at what makes Steffi such a well-loved artist.
A2 Everyday Objects
A3 Fine Friend
B2 Power Of Anonymity
C1 Bag Of Crystals
C2 Hard Hitting Horizon
D2 Treasure Seeking feat. Dexter & Virginia
D3 Bang For Your Buck