- A Berlin-based friend of mine tells me that Kollektiv Turmstrasse are "curiously popular among Germans." I'd surmise that the reason he finds their popularity curious is because their music doesn't neatly fit into the reflexive descriptions of what "German music" is, specifically: Steely, elemental, abstract. But Rebellion Der Traümer sounds like Berlin, not so much in its architecture and sound, but rather in the graffiti that bursts out of walls and storefronts in neon plumes, wipes and zigzags. Though Kollektiv Turmstrasse is inclined towards the melancholy and the spectral, their music is nevertheless vibrant and malleable, shifting in shade and dimension with subtlety and slinkiness.
It's also a bit anachronistic, but not to the degree that the sounds are passé; in fact, Rebellion Der Traümer might even be considered kind of charming. It's a downtempo album, and I stress "downtempo" because the word feels like such a bugaboo in dance music circles, recalling such gauche images as hotel lounges, French Connection t-shirts and expensive weed paraphernalia. So on one level, there's a level of audacity here, somewhat like Mylo's Destroy Rock & Roll in the way simple methods and obvious touchstones succeed by virtue of their inherent pleasure. On "Schwindelig," a clipped "Yeea-ah" slips over a textbook hip-hop drumbeat, woodwind-sounding keys and elegiac strings. The sound is familiar and rudimentary, but with so much more attention to detail in dance music nowadays, it's kind of a relief to hear something that's more or less comfort food.
What's interesting is that, as much as the album can be classified as being a throwback downtempo chill-out record, it flutters between genres and time periods, suggesting that downtempo music never really went anywhere, it mutated. Opening track "Affekt" is prime Hyperdub circa 2007, with Kode9's signature clap-crawl in the breaks and the watery, warbly whine of Burial's sampled vocals over the top. "Deine Distanz" is a lost Dial cut, easily blending into Lawrence's The Absence of Blight or John Roberts' Glass Eights. "Uneins" flashes back to late '90s Mo' Wax, and closer "Addio Addio"'s jaunty drums and humid percussion unearths memories of The Cinematic Orchestra. Though there are 19 tracks, only ten of them are proper songs—in between each track is an ambient interlude titled "Dazwischen," structuring the album much like A.R. Kane's post-rock touchstone "i".
As welcome as the reemergence of these styles may be, Rebellion Der Traümer also serves, in some way, as a reminder of why downtempo went out of vogue in the first place. Even as the sounds themselves are enjoyable, they're also a little too plain, and at times a bit too imitative. One gets the sense that Kollektiv Turmstrasse is very talented at recreating the sounds of others, but perhaps hasn't quite figured out how to make music that has a distinct identity of its own. Maybe that's why their supposed popularity among Germans is mysterious: The music is too anonymous to register as being from anywhere. Except, maybe, the Internet.
02. Die Sphaere
08. Deine Distanz
09. Was Bleibt
10. Adio Adio