- In 2016, Booka Shade reissued Movements as a lavish 10th anniversary package stuffed with remixes—and who can blame them? The German duo's second full-length found Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier crystallizing the dark, rich aesthetic of their 2004 debut, Memento, with instantly memorable melodies and plenty of sonic baubles orbiting them. Assisted in no small part by club anthems like "Mandarine Girl" and "Body Language," Movements arrived somewhere between minimal techno's peak and its creative decline.
Booka Shade have struggled to achieve similar highs in the 12 years since Movements. The steady stream of LPs that have followed were loaded with inert mood pieces and unmemorable dance floor tracks. But their first proper full-length in five years, Cut The Strings, renews the duo's focus on melody over atmosphere. The LP also has a playfulness largely absent from their recent work. A low-slung vocal sample hangs over the chiming build of "Confessions." A hip-hop-style drum break kicks open album highlight "Tyrell," making way for anthemic synth stabs and warped vocals that recall, of all things, Burial's Untrue.
This eclecticism, however, can be a weakness. When they try their hand at something like filter disco, as they do on "Kolibri," it sounds less like two artists finding a new wrinkle in their sound than a game of sonic dress-up. Occasionally, the music is just about engaging enough that this lack of identity doesn't matter. The loop-de-loop synths of "And You?" are punchy and effervescent, and the dizzying synth lines of "Black Crystal" are a lot of fun. But these flashes of inspiration on Cut The Strings throw into relief the more standard cuts that surround them. Booka Shade remain capable of making good music, but, as Cut The Strings shows, consistency still eludes them.
01. Easy Drifter
02. Night Surfing
03. EMS Love
04. Cut The Strings feat. Troels Abrahamsen
07. And You?
08. Lost feat. Daniel Spencer
09. Black Crystal
11. Aftermath feat. Giorgia Angiuli