Stratus, the debut Traum release from Thomas Bjerring, sounds a lot like those heady days in 2005 when Nathan Fake, Minilogue and Jesse Somfay seemed to take the label up into the clouds. (Dominik Eulberg literally and figuratively represented the Earth-bound contingent.) Just look at the title of the thing. But as much as "Stratus" has those same deep, looming chords and pillow-round beats, it's not simply an upward trajectory we're on. Bjerring takes things up, levels us off, brings us down a bit, goes up again and etc. etc. etc. "Stratus" is quite clearly an epic—nearly nine minutes, natch—but it doesn't quite act like it; we're never allowed to climax for too long before Bjerring is leading us elsewhere. Give him a couple of releases, and he'll either be Applescal (giving up on the dance floor altogether) or Extrawelt (tailoring them specifically for an imaginary crowd's needs).
"2:45" and "Republique" don't offer many clues as to where he's headed. The former is synth pop, pure and simple—a dreamy reverie as indebted to Morr Music as it is to the aforementioned Fake—while the latter heads directly onto the hard drives of the jock's still finding room for more progressive-leaning fare. Cologne's Salz, meanwhile, take "Stratus" into dub techno territory. Clean and elegant, it's a beautiful production with plenty of depth. Unlike Bjerring's effort, though, it does little to distinguish itself. A bumpy ride, after all, is more memorable than one that goes smoothly.