- '80s synth pop for the modern dance floor.
- There are few remixers whose impact on dance music can match Shep Pettibone's. Starting off as a radio DJ, he'd move from remixing disco and freestyle to providing crucial versions of tracks by '80s pop figures like New Order, Pet Shop Boys and, most famously, Madonna. Phillip Lauer's recent trajectory reminds me of Pettibone, whose portrait hangs on the Frankfurt-based artist's wall at home. There's the production-line approach to remixing he takes alongside his Tuff City Kids partner, Gerd Janson—Discogs credits them with 127 remixes—and now there's Power, 80s-pop-indebted album made for today's clubs.
Power's pristine arpeggios and nuanced, dubby drum programming clearly point towards Pettibone's wild '80s run. Despite the broad range of music he's made or remixed (previous albums have dabbled in Balearic, classic house and electro), Lauer has felt the gravitational pull of bold '80s synth pop, too. "Philip has slowly gotten round to liking Depeche Mode too," Janson joked in a 2016 interview. "I discovered, while we were DJing together, this folder on his USB called, I think, 'Pop and Dance Hits?' There's all this stuff in there that he makes fun of me for playing." On Power, he fully indulges his love of '80s hits. The result is his most focused work to date.
To achieve this sound, he does what New Order, Visage and Robert Görl did: laying soaring pop melodies over taut, Roland-style arpeggiation. In this context, as on "Direction," a synth bass line can become an earworm lead. Ever-morphing percussive flourishes recall the live remix style Pettibone employed on his legendary KISS FM shows. Throughout the album we get more and better versions of this tried-and-true style. "Phaser7" adds soaring string synths. "Realistic"'s audacious pads could soundtrack the meeting of the power-suited businessmen seen on Heaven 17's Penthouse And Pavement.
Lauer's also linked up with Jasnau, a skilled vocalist and regular collaborator who lands in the neighborhood of Dave Gahan, Bernard Sumner and even Ian McCulloch. Naturally, these tracks are the album's most anthemic—Jasnau bellows about fading love on "Mirrors," then goes for a more sensitive approach on the closer, "Power." Lauer's written catchier material in the past, like the Borndom highlight "Gammelan." But on Power, he's harnessed his melodic gifts and production know-how for an updated take on a sound he cherishes.
04. Mirrors feat. Jasnau