- As a member of the old guard of Kompakt producers, Aksel Schaufler, AKA Superpitcher, has almost as long a history with the Cologne giant as almost any other of its graybeards. Across the last decade, Schaufler's run the gamut from formative twelves like Heroin and Yesterday and the icy schaffel and weary downtempo of his debut album, Here Comes Love, to the gothic techno of his Today mix and inclusions on almost every Total compilation. As such, he's played a prominent role in shaping the Kompakt sound as well as in trying to contort our expectations for the label (remember the scattershot tech-pop of the Michael Mayer collab, Supermayer Save the World?). Now, a stout six years after his debut album, Schaufler finally returns with the long-delayed Kilimanjaro, a record that further solidifies the label's interest in vocal-oriented pop even as it keeps one foot squarely in loop-driven and meticulous floor fare.
But we begin with caveats: The prominence of Schaufler's increased vocal presence may take some adjusting to initially. Where before he tended to blur his vocals into the fabric of his songs, here they're more centralized; he's not a storyteller, per se, but a scratcher in notebooks. These are observational fragments, touching on topics both traditional and slightly wtf in that sangfroid tone of his: too-drunk sex (lead single "Rabbits in a Hurry"), rural innocence ("Country Boy"), dope ("Friday Night") and, of course, heartbreak ("Joanna," and much of the album's darker second half). But even if it's a voice we've grown accustomed to over the last ten years or so, there will still be those who wish he wouldn't impose so much on these lush, oft-striking creations of his.
Musically though, Kilimanjaro features some of Superpitcher's most accomplished productions to date, nodding to a wide-range of stylistic crossroads without slipping beyond Schaufel's loose-limbed sense of dance songcraft. Don't get me wrong: Unlike the more experimental and perplexing Supermayer album, Kilimanjaro is unquestionably a "dance" record. Strains of dub reggae buoy the deranged funk of opener "Voodoo," and even bubble beneath the beautiful piano-looped house of "Who Stole the Sun." "Country Boy," however is a strident bit of house more closely aligned with the Kompakt of circa 2002, and "Friday Night" should appeal to those seeking Schaufel's slow-to-warm schaffel.
As the album segues into its latter half though, there's a noticeable melancholy to Kilimanjaro that shades much of the album's levity. Transitional track "Moon Fever" sets a mid-winter tone with its blue chimes and lullaby synths, one matched by the slow gloom of "Who Stole the Sun." Atop mournful guitar and swirling synth melodies, "Give Me My Heart Back" almost sounds like heartbroke country-house. The stark but gorgeous "Joanna"—a dance floor accelerant which evolves from a simple piano loop to a steady chaos of chiming tones and strings and Schaufel's repetition of the song's title character—and the piano stabs and plucked strings of the spacious outro "Holiday Hearts" close the album on a serene note. With that said, given its sonic breadth and a similar sense of playfulness, consider it a Bizarro companion piece of sorts to last year's excellent Matias Aguayo album, Ay Ay Ay. Another standout in the lengthy Kompakt catalogue.
03. Country Boy
04. Rabbits in a Hurry
05. Friday Night
06. Moon Fever
07. Give Me My Heart Back
08. Who Stole the Gun
09. Black Magic feat. Rebolledo
11. Holiday Hearts