- You don't see that fuzzy term "microhouse" used too often in this post-minimal age. It's generally assumed that minimal is what microhouse morphed into. But now and again a record turns up for which this grey-area genre tag best applies. Holz, Holger Zilske's long overdue solo debut for long-term microhouse peddlers Playhouse, seems to be classic microhouse (updated), a lovingly crafted, richly nuanced slow-burner, effortlessly planting contemporary European house in the cosy confines of the living room.
The closest referents to Zilske's sound are prime microhouse producers: Farben, fellow Playhouser's Isolée and Losoul and, most closely, Sascha Funke, artists all famed for their early massaging of G3-era plug-ins and glitches into balmy eiderdown house. Holz is a softening of Zilske's headier Smash TV work, rounding off the corners, padding the drums, tweaking the tones into hazy pastels. As this implies, there's an air of "adult-contemporary" sophistication at work here, Zilske having buffed Holz into a radio-friendly gloss filled with kooky hooks, surprise turns and endless pleasing detail.
Opener "Lichterfelde" nails the air of unhurried anticipation expected of first tracks, with petite beats marching beside an understated riff on what I take to be the Monkey Magic theme. This leads deftly into the bolder rhythms of first single "Mes Yeux," a tightly wound take on lithe and limber house where the vocals are kept to a heavily-treated tic, and the cowbells are rigid and robotic. Both "Rotor Rausch" and "Druckraum" update the bittersweet glitz-dub of Carsten Jost and Lawrence, the former shivering with steel pan reverberations and stuttered bursts of white noise, the latter skipping to android finger clicks, dodging clouds of lush trance synths.
In "Olho Gordo" grand organ chords trip and stumble as a saucy voice coos "ooh," while brazen "Metrodancer" hurls clunky Areal tones around a wacky fairground ride. Most beautiful are the collaborations with vocalist August Landelius: "Golden," an affecting electro-ballad whose weeping synths and pithy, pining delivery recalls a narcotic Erlend Øye; closer "To Them to Me" a somber, touching torchsong.
Holz is not an unqualified success: "Work" is awkwardly themed and presented, like an obsolete Kraftwerk version, and it's difficult to remain glued by penultimate "Have a Cup of This"; like Losoul's Care, the tracks are long, and the polish can be wearying. The sequencing however is nearly peerless, pieces joining like a jigsaw, and I imagine Holz will be one of the few albums we'll still listen to in years to come, from start to finish.
02. Mes Yeux
03. Roter Rausch
08. Olho Gordo
09. Have a Cup of This
10. To Them to Me