- You already know what this album is going to sound like before you even hear it. Tosca does not exist to break the framework of contemporary music. That's fine—no one needs to do that. Well, OK, it's true that someone should always be trying, but you shouldn't necessarily get points taken away if you choose to hoe a different row. You just have to be good enough at it for the music to be noticeable.
Tosca—Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber—are pretty good at it, "it" of course being pulse-lowering downtempo. They're synonymous with the style, practically a stand-in for it, particularly Dorfmeister, whose work with Peter Kruder requires no further elaboration. On No Hassle, it seems like Tosca have taken the template to the living room, because the album mostly sits there and doesn't attract much attention. Obviously, settling in the background is one of its purposes: downtempo isn't just furniture by design, it's effectively designer furniture.
Dorfmeister and Huber know what they're doing, though: Even when there isn't much going on, individual aspects of the tracks reveal a sure hand (or two): the lovingly miked hi-hat and stretchy, subdued keyboards that form the base of "My First"; wispy fumes of synth curling through the middle of "Elitsa"; patient dub delay and bubbling programming spicing "Oysters in May." But too often the music drifts off rather than going into deep focus. It sounds effortless, but not in a good way.
The best numbers on No Hassle come late: "Fondue" and "Rosa" are tracks eight and nine (of 12). Neither is all that different from what surrounds it, but they grab your attention in a way that others don't. "Fondue" builds around a scruffy acoustic guitar part, which gives the woozy soundtrack synth and random sound bites ("Be kind to yourself") some earthy heft. And "Rosa" sways sinuously; its neatly layered, simple guitar parts, neatly curved, woody bass and congas-and-shaker percussion give it the feel of a beach-ready Balearic comedown. The rest? Mostly just a comedown.
01. My First
05. Oysters In May
06. Joe Si Ha
07. Elektra Bregenz
11. Mrs. Bongo
12. No Hassle