- Sweet minimal house from a master of the style.
- DJ Koze has it. He might be the king of it. Roman Flügel kinda has it, but in a different way. Axel Boman and Kornél Kovács of Studio Barnhus certainly have it, and so too does Bella Boo, a new artist on the label. Robag Wruhme massively has it, and has shown it since he started releasing music nearly 20 years ago. "It"? I'm talking about mixing humour with emotions like melancholy, euphoria and sadness. Leading labels like Innervisions and Life And Death tend to deal with such emotions with a sense of scale and seriousness. These artists I mentioned use humour and, by extension, weirdness to make these emotions complex and ambiguous. Venq Tolep is an album that's very much in this tradition. It's released on DJ Koze's Pampa label, ground zero for this stuff, and arrives eight years after Thora Vukk, a canonical album of the form.
At this point Robag Wruhme, whose real name is Gabor Schablitzki, almost creates symphonies within this style. He layers and processes electronic, acoustic and acoustically modelled sounds to create rich and multidimensional tracks that sit somewhere around house, minimal, ambient and pop. This is especially noticeable on tracks like "Advent," "Nata Alma" and "Volta Copy (Ambient Version)," but the whole album is a joy in this respect. Schablitzki's handling of melody and harmony could almost be considered traditional, but it's with that realisation that his trickster instinct kicks in.
He'll take what sounds like a car door slamming, warp it, slap a nice plate reverb on it, and call it a snare. "Ago Lades"—a minimal track that lasts 51 seconds, begins fading out after 30, and is one of my favourites here—uses what sounds like coffee cups clinking as percussion. "Iklahx," another highlight, pierces a warm, fuggy atmosphere with sharp Clicks & Cuts-style processing, a move also heard on "Ak-Do 5." Whatever loveliness Schablitzki conjures, rest assured he'll be along to disrupt it very soon.
Still, as great as he is—and always has been—at this, Venq Tolep does suffer a little from a sameness of mood. On Thora Vukk, his last album, Schablitzki weaved in five numbered pieces he labelled "Brücke" (bridge), dark ambient sketches that counterbalanced the sweeter sounds elsewhere. Last September, Schablitzki released an album's worth of material, Wuzzelbud FF, a follow-up to his 2004 debut album that expressed the meaner and more banging side of his musical personality. Although some of the tracks on Venq Tolep are apparently up to seven years old, it's almost as though Wuzzelbud FF represented a descent into Schablitzki darker impulses before Venq Tolep arrived as his cleansing redemption.
By the time another toy piano arrives on "Bézique Atout," Schablitzki's reimagining of Oxia's 2006 smash "Domino" that appears towards the album's end, you might be left wishing that he'd allowed just a bit of Wuzzelbud FF's bite to influence this album. The collaboration with Sidsel Endresen and Bugge Wesseltoft that follows is less cutesy (for something more cutesy, see the voicemails of the final track), and it bottles what Schablitzki excels at, and does so frequently here: surprising decisions, enveloping atmospheres and working with a glint in his eye.
01. Advent feat. Lysann Zander
02. Westfal feat. Lysann Zander
04. Ak-Do 5
05. Volta Copy (Ambient Version)
07. Ago Lades
08. Venq Topel
09. Bézique Atout feat. Oxia
10. Nata Alma feat. Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft (You Might Say)
11. Ende #2