- Gritty fusions of funk and dance music in the Apron style.
- Under the guidance of Steven Julien, Apron Records has become an incubator for a particular brand of lo-fi dance music that combines the swagger and sway of West Coast synth with elements of jazz, funk and fusion. It's a nostalgic sound suggestive of late-night drives and dripping in cosmopolitan ennui. With its knotty funk workouts and dusty drum programming, Ratgrave, the self-titled debut from Berlin bassists and producers Max Graef and Julius Conrad, fits in like a visiting cousin.
The album has more in common with the expansive analogue vistas of Julien's Fallen and the bass-forward lurches of Graef's Apron EP than the crate-digging hip-hop of the German artist's 2014 album, Rivers Of The Red Planet. Most tracks here are clouded in tape hiss, lit by cheap-sounding synths and pushed forward by programmed drums that could've been sampled from a Baldwin Fun Machine.
But where Fallen was smooth to the touch, Graef and Conrad's bass-playing makes Ratgrave a knotty, winding affair. High in the mix and thin as a needle, the live bass bores through most of the album's first half, taking circuitous paths and often meeting equally twisted guitar lines along the way. Juicy keyboards high-step through the mix, while humid synth patches occasionally dampen the scene. As a result, Ratgrave often comes across as the sound of a live band rather than the work of two dance producers.
But as it proceeds, the LP begins to challenge its band-in-the-studio conceit. While the tones throughout Ratgrave are warm and warped, dubby echoes whirl forcefully across "Blizzard People"'s stereo field. It's a breezy jam that could've soundtracked a NES surfing game. Later, a tractor beam of bass emerges midway through "El Schnorro," which precedes a drum & bass coda. These unusual touches give the album a sense of unity that goes beyond the pervasive lo-fi production and the prodigious bass playing, and, in keeping with much of the Apron catalog, elevates Ratgrave's wigged-out fun beyond pure nostalgia.
02. Big Sausage Pizza
03. Ubi Hubi
04. Wider, Gib Hut
05. Fanstastic Neckground
06. Johnny's Road Song
07. Blizzard People
08. El Schnorro
09. Ein Kola Bitte!
11. Karenn Du Renold