It feels like the debate around new production software and mp3 distribution is just going to run and run, and to an extent we’re all pretty sick of it now. I’m certainly never checking one of those “VINYL WILL NEVER DIE SUXX0RS” forum threads again. These changes to the way music is made and sold, however, have one effect that hasn’t been talked about that much, and that’s the increase in the number of artist albums. Because it’s so much easier to produce an album and send it out these days, many more artists are doing them. And that’s having an effect on the nature of albums.
So what is a good album? Mango is well produced and there are some really nice tracks on here. The general way it sounds isn’t surprising—there are a lot of clean sounds, trancey basslines and melodies like sunshine on a cold, wintry day. This is what Sascha Funke has always been most liked for—that techno with a poppy edge which brings to mind classic Kompakt (which is odd because he’s on BPitch).
On the other hand it just doesn’t feel unified at all, which is also par for the course for Funke, who’s always been a frustratingly inconsistent producer and one who’s very hard to pin down. He’s done classic techno (‘A Boy’) and unmitigated cheese (‘When Will I be Famous’) and a host of more forgettable releases to boot.
There are three basic styles on Mango. The first is lazy, melodic tunes that sit halfway between club fare and home listening, for example ‘Mango’, ‘Feather’ and ‘Chemin des Figons’. These are well constructed, rich and pleasant to listen to. They’re also not terribly memorable, lacking catchy melodies and not picking out a unique enough mood to really stick in the mind. It’s comedown music, but not the kind that makes you feel better, just the kind that makes you feel like you’re coming down.
More successful are the darker pieces – ‘Lotre (Mehr Fleisch)’ and ‘Double Checked’. ‘Lotre’ is definitely a stand-out and would have been a great single. It’s an epic journey of shifting sounds, drum fills and gothic ambience underscored with punchy and overwhelming bass. There’s a stuttered, cut-up vocal section with a metallic riff that will put a serious boot up the ass of the dancefloor and really get everyone sweating. I can definitely see this track being used to shift the evening into high gear. ‘Double Checked’, which was a single, has a similarly dark edge to it, but is tense rather than intense with a choked-sounding bell doing a staccato jig over a very foursquare rhythm and marginally corny downpitched vocals.
The third style is what I’d call first-wave trance—reminiscent of Rising High or Eye Q records from the early ‘90s. ‘We are Facing the Sun’ is the poppier of the two tracks in this vein, with a Hi-NRG bassline that bounces along satisfyingly under chiming pianos and some jacking snare sections. There are distinct sections to the song so it ‘progresses’ in classic style and that bassline is definitely catchy. Less upbeat is ‘Take a Chance with Me’ which is more spacey in feel with quasi-electro blips and an echoey almost-melody which really reminds me of Oliver Lieb. This is one of those ‘holding pattern’ kind of tracks that don’t take you up or down but rather inward and may be a chance to look around and take in the scenery without leaving the dancefloor.
Finally, worth mentioning is the closer ‘The Fortune Cookie Symphony’, which is an ambient piece. There’s a spoken vocal on the theme of ‘dream on, dreamer’ which falls just the right side of cheese making it feel genuinely inspirational despite some of its downbeat subject matter: “the revolution won’t be televised, won’t be live, won’t happen at all”. The trickling water sounds and melancholic washes complete the mood and dropped at the right time this will make hearts swell or eyes moisten. Not bad for closing mixes with either.
It’s hard to come to an overall conclusion on this record. If an album is just an EP with more tracks to choose from, that’s fine. If on the other hand you’re shooting for something like Asa Breed or From Here we Go Sublime which has that unified feel, and can be put on and listened to all the way through, it’s not. I’d say that the tracks you want here are ‘Lotre’, ‘We are Facing the Sun’ and ‘Fortune Cookie Symphony’. The rest are probably safe to miss. As an EP of three songs, that would be absolutely killer. As an album this is rather less so.
I think that as the quantity of music being produced continues to increase, editing is more important than ever. Nobody wants to check on hundreds of albums every month, we need shortcuts. We need labels like BPitch to stand for quality and to do this it’s important not to put out albums when EPs would be better. That’s why, even though labels as a round piece of paper and a facilitator of distribution are becoming obsolete, the role of the label is has never been more significant.
02 We Are Facing The Sun
04 Take A Chance With Me
05 Summer Rain
06 Double Checked
07 Lotre (Mehr Fleisch)
08 Chemin Des Figons
09 The Fortune Cookie Symphony