It seems to me that, every so often, one figure emerges from obscurity to stamp his or her style on contemporary music. Jacques Lu Cont, for instance, had so many ideas that he soon wore out the Les Rhythmes Digitales alter-ego and moved on to the equally fantastic Zoot Woman. Japan’s Cornelius, too, is of such ability that he can dip in and out of any genre at any given time without losing any credibility whatsoever. Berlin-based German Andre Abshagen, better known as Pet, would appear to be the latest in the long line of one-man musical armies.
Like Jacques and Cornelius, it is hard to pinpoint Pet’s influences. Player One Ready range from Super Furry-style lyrical quirks to songs so cleverly written that you’d think a Dandy Warhols album was playing. All this and he still finds the time for soaring instrumentals and cute, ad-friendly hooks. After only one listen you know that Player One Ready is a work of considerable talent.
No Yes No, the album’s opening track, has already enjoyed some notable success on the European airwaves, and it’s not hard to see why: With its dandy blend of male/female vocals and some simply composed instrumentation over a driving drum loop, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were to soundtrack the next mobile phone advertising campaign. Hovercraft takes Pet’s principles even further, making slightly more use of dynamics to make the track sound like a natural successor to the song just gone. In fact, they’re really quite similar, but the listening is never less than engaging. That, surely, is a sign of quality songwriting.
On the subject of songwriting, Abshagen has confessed that all of Player One Ready’s tracks, unlike his electronic creations of old, began life as on the guitar. It actually makes pefect sense – from Intro Theme’s unspoken story right through to Monza’s rich texture of sound, everything seems to be built around pillars of simple chord work. The result? No matter how complex or obscure the instrumentation of lyrical content is, Pet songs are entirely accessible. You could classify the album as electronic pop, because it largely is. The point is, however, that Abshagen’s ideas would sound good on a paper and comb. There aren’t too many artists you can say that about and mean it.
As far as album highlights are concerned, it’s a trying task to pick a couple above the rest. Sleepless, towards the back end of the tracklisting, would have to be up ther with the best of them, sounding like The Jesus And Mary Chain in a good mood. Similarly, I/O will live on in your dreams long after the music has stopped playing, most likely scoring a dream (or nightmare) about one of those aliens from the Daft Punk videos attacking a moog. That’s a really strange way of describing what is essentially just a great electronic track, but it’s been said now. Snooze, however, sits at the top of the hill, being an unashamedly upbeat, quasi-dreamy blend of acoustic guitars and vocoder vocals. Magic.
Player One Ready leaves you utterly fulfilled in a way only high quality music can. Moreover, it leaves you entirely perplexed as to why such a basic songwriting ethos does not find its way into more music of the genre (see the hapless M83, for example). Just as our old friend Jacques Lu Cont went on to produce for Madonna and the like, so too do I expect Andre to make his mark on the bigger picture in due time. Let’s not get carried away, though – let us first absorb and love Player One Ready for the attractive amalgamation of styles that it really is.