Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier, with the help Ame, Dixon, Henrik Schwarz and the like, can claim responsibility for bringing in a darker, minimal form of house music to our dancefloors – but it seems now is the time for the duo to broaden their horizons.
Too often when electronic acts start down this path they overdo the effects, layering on the strings with a trowel and drowning the beats and bass in a mush of texture. No such problems occur here, for the Hamburg duo are economical with their scoring, and when using strings obtain an unusual, Elgarian glow, rich in the mid-viola section.
This complements the darkly cool keyboards and sparse beat structures perfectly, and in the occasional instances where vocals are used, the strings back off and let them come forward. The balances achieved therefore make perfect sense.
These subtle nods to acoustic performance look set to enhance the already formidable Booka Shade live experience still further, though it’s good to see they still pump out good dancefloor fodder when required. Charlotte is effectively a powerful update of Blue Monday until some Balearic vocals come in, while Control Me is most impressive as it pushes forward, a lean bass and brooding strings giving extra power to the mix.
Cool techno provides an airy entrance point to the album though, with Outskirts and Duke setting out the darker hues of the Booka Shade sound. The former blends the John Carpenter-esque strings with a lighter, mellow keyboard, while the latter is more obviously machine based. Dusty Boots, meanwhile, harks back to the classy blend of house and country Deep Dish somehow achieved with Stranded, only this time it’s a ghostly rockabilly reference that creeps in and gradually takes over.
What impresses most of all about this album, however, is the accomplishment and confidence with which it’s constructed, and the economical way Merziger and Kammermeier make use of the huge array of colours and sounds at their disposal. It’s surely a matter of time until they’re providing film soundtracks – but when they do it’s to be hoped house music remains at the top of their list of priorities.