- Contra to the immediate gratification the name Crowdpleaser suggests, Gregor Schönborn likes to take his time with things. He's a graphic designer as well as a DJ and producer, and the play evident in his music—a "slinky, rumpy l'il microverse," Peter Chambers dubbed Crowdpleaser & St. Plomb's 2006 in his RA review—has a confident draftsman's line. There's a whimsy to Crowdpleaser, his first solo album, that pervades even its furthest-flung aspects.
"Together We're Strong" kicks the disc off subtly—mostly just slow-winding sub-bass, muffled electric piano and a whapping snare. It slips in through the side door rather than making a proper entrance, but "Spinelli" and "Nenekri" take care of that. The former starts with a temple-massaging sub roll and occasional guitar/drum interjections, before turning into an update on the kind of dubby groove Sly & Robbie cut at Compass Point Studios. The latter is full-on Afro-house fusion, with Wamian Kaid of Burkina Faso singing lovely and dry over a forward-leaning bounce—the kicks seem more like floor toms—and a laidback Rhodes lick that could have been sampled from a Fela intro.
For all the forward-looking qualities of Crowdpleaser's music, there's something very retro—and willfully naïve, and cloying—about sampling Terence McKenna at this late date. And indeed, you can almost imagine "Jewel Self Dribbling Basketball" popping up at some point on an old Hardkiss mix. But the production touches have too much brushed laptop steel at the edges to seem like a mere throwback. Anyway, Crowdpleaser answers himself better than anyone with the title of the next song: "My Grandmother Could Tell You That," which uses only a few obvious elements (swooning synth chords soon overtaken by jabbing funk guitar and neat layers of percussion) but is hardly minimal.
The album's back half is simpler, more straight-up house and tech house, but Schönborn twists things everywhere. He uses lots of filters, but in a way that doesn't call attention to itself. Those touches often make the tracks: the ghostly organ countermelody hovering over "Jonx," deepening its initial impression as a simple, uplifting piano track; the dirty videogame-chomp noises that muck up the pristine hi-hats and taut, light-echoed piano at the center of "Was?" When the keyboards pile up on "Hang Out (For Paul)," there's a ramshackle quality to it, but there's never any doubt that you're in the hands of someone who knows exactly what he wants.
01. Together We're Strong
04. Jewel Self Dribbling Basketball
05. My Grandmother Could Tell You That
10. Hang Out (For Paul)