- As we've touched on previously, the ongoing saga surrounding big name producers enlisted for a sleeve-note only accreditation is an argument best left out of the confines of a record review. It's almost impossible to second guess how the dynamics of any given working relationship plays out "on the ground." In the case of Thomas Koch (AKA DJ T.), however, you can't help but think the Get Physical boss would exert nothing less than his sheer, undiluted will. And that's no bad thing. The follow-up to Koch's 2005 Boogie Playground summons fellow Berliner Thomas Schumacher to helm the desk following the pair's initial hook up for the slightly unremarkable "Lower Instinct" single from earlier this year.
Whereas Koch's LP effort previous trod a path lined with brash synthesis and a palpable electro/funk influence, The Inner Jukebox moves with comparative subtleties. The hype cloud surrounding the album's release was pervaded by talk of the "real" house sound Koch was returning to, and of the 2000-plus pieces of vinyl that had been painstakingly pillaged in the process. So was it a triumphant return? Well, yes and no.
While the eleven tracks offered do throw-up some marked moments of dance floor clout, the whole thing feels a bit too stuck on the grid; too rigidly quantized to cut loose and truly groove. Wheezing chords, bone-dry wooden percussion and razor-cut vocal refrains slip the album into a noticeable modus operandi; a path that leads down roads of reward as well as blind alleys. Lead single "Dis" probably fares best under the rule of this equation, and provides an effective enough dance floor moment as reflected by its lofty placement in the latest RA chart. "Mr. Piano Hands" is one of the few occasions in which an idea is allowed to bleed legato into a subsequent phrase; fused with a dust-coated Rhodes, and the most effective bassline on the album, the track ascends to a definite high point.
Development takes place instead on an almost exclusively micro level, which helps the playful "Bateria," but hinders the maladroit "Weirdo." Elsewhere, "Shine On" is a nice enough homage to the Detroit minor 7 blueprint; "Lit From Within" ventures down a beatless path for some much needed experimentation, and "Rituality" pushes a different headspace via softened jazz hats and a broad off-kilter bounce. Unfortunately, the dastardly duo of "Gorilla Hug" and "To The Drum" planted the seeds of doubt in my mind early on: cut-up samples, bang on the box percussion and creeping synthesis stuck on repeat, smacks of an idea flogged just a few too many times.
Despite The Inner Jukebox's obvious shortcomings, there is enough here to suggest a continued partnership between Koch and Schumacher (of which there is already talk) would amount to a bearing of fruit. If either had the audacity to fully let their hair down, they could feasibly attain the heights scaled by their cherished predecessors.
01. The Inner Jukebox
03. Gorilla Hug
05. Mr. Piano Hands
06. Lit From Within
09. Shine On
11. To The Drum