Any electronic musician releasing music on the esteemed German techno label Kompakt has a certain degree of gravitas. Despite electronic music becoming ever more fragmented and disconnected, the Cologne based label retains a central position in the genre. Danish producer Rune Reilly Kolsch has been making striking singles for label off-shoot Kompakt Extra’s Speicher series since 2010, and 1977 marks a collection of those singles combined with a smattering of new tracks to make up the producer’s debut full length album.
Despite being Danish, Kolsch has a rich German heritage that he taps into here. The added umlaut in his recording name is the first example of how he taps into a German lineage. The Kölsch sound is rooted in high energy, strongly defined club music. The sounds of classic house and techno are filtered through Kolsch’s evocative childhood memories of time spent holidaying in Germany. A number of track titles reference German words, and cultural touchstones, such as Opa (Grandfather) and Silberpfeil (a German racing car). The music also references the lineage of pioneering German electronic artists like Justus Köhncke and Michael Mayer. There is, though, an undeniable freshness to most of Kölsch’s work.
The early 12” singles are among the obvious highlights. Loreley is a brilliant piece of bright and vivid, weirded out pop featuring some inventive use of tone and pitch. At times, the music sounds almost as if something is malfunctioning before softening out and settling into an undulating, woozy groove. Opa provides a stark contrast. Here a monolithic lurching synth sound dominates, giving it an abrasive and vigorous electro house feel. There is base level thrill in tracks like this that make them perfect for the club. Kölsch has a nice knack for flitting between sweeping graceful symphonic sounds and gnarled aggressive beats and synths. It’s this mix that keeps 1977 interesting.
The newer tracks like Basshund and Eiswinter are deeper and darker. An enveloping menacing tone prevails here. These tracks are contrasted with the likes of the playful and joyous Zig. The synths fizz and soar here lifting the music to a higher level. On moments like this, you truly appreciate how the Danish producer has made such an impression.
Despite the numerous thrilling moments, a few mis-steps stand out. On a record almost entirely lacking in any use of vocals, All That Matter’s balladry and crooning voice sounds deeply incongruous. There is more than enough emotion and feeling in the evocative music to negate any need for artificial emotion. There are, also, a few pieces that lack a spark.
There is one moment on 1977 that stands out majestically over the rest. Der Alte was Kölsch’s breakout track and it retains its wondrous qualities here. It’s a modern day dance classic. The soaring, melancholic strings and repetitive piano figure bring to mind stirring memories of dance music’s distant past that combine with the questing desire of youth. It’s no exaggeration to say this track bears comparison to Rhythim Is Rhythim’s Strings Of Life.
1977 is an album of sweeping, transcendent highs tempered by a few disappointing lows. It is, however, an album deserving of its place in the history of European electronic music’s most enduring and legendary label.