It takes a certain confidence for an artist to withdraw from what made them popular in the first place. In the case of Danilo Plessow (aka Motor City Drum Ensemble) and Marcus Worgull, they seem to have it in spades. The past releases of these two German producers have been bouncy and zippy. Worgull, in particular, has been going through a very productive phase recently. It’s entirely possible that the result of their previous collaboration on Musik For Autobahns, a compilation overseen by Gerd Janson, may well have spurred them on to form Vermont.
Their contribution to that release, Onassis, mechanical and comparatively sparse to their normal work, is a reliable indicator of what to expect. With this self-titled debut, they’re stripping everything back to bare bones and the result is a collection of satisfying minimalist techno. Vermont finds Worgull and Plessow offering a combined mix of their sleek, machine-like meticulousness that has worked before with their respective solo endeavours, but has a more open-armed approach to ambience. It’s seen them come up with a solid album’s worth of songs.
There is a sense of calmness permeating nearly every track. Übersprung is one of the few moments where stillness is all but forgotten but, even then, its dreamy atmosphere prevents it from being touted as something for the clubs, further emphasising that this is an album to be listened to at home through good headphones. Vermont certainly doesn’t have the energy of the club music, but it’s a signifier that there’s more to the producer’s skill sets than making people dance. They’re both beginning to value space, leaving room for the listener to conjure up their own imagery.
This music also, at times, has a tendency to tease with melodies and hooks that sound as if they could work just as well at a faster BPM rate. However, those melodic morsels are ultimately what drives the lion’s share of the tracks, and the way that Vermont plays about with them is intriguing. Katzenjammer’s hook starts out as a meditative piano melody that then morphs into spacey-sounding synths, gradually becomes more abrasive and penetrating and then returns to the piano, bringing it full circle. Elsewhere, all the momentum of Elektron comes from its simple, warping melody rather than its beats, which are placed very low in the mix.
In fact, those who are prepared to look past the more prominent layers will find plenty of other interesting aspects of Vermont’s music. Beneath the repetitive, twinkly-eyed melody of Cocos lies a slow, seductive rhythm that gives it some depth. The bassline in Drioxhe, even if it’s a mere quiet rumble, complements the wiry, frenetic electronic whirrs perfectly.
Vermont isn’t a particularly radical project, especially considering that it finds comfort in harking back to the Kraut movement of the ’70s. None of that seems to matter though. This is an antidote to both Plessow and Worgull’s respective day jobs and the way they craft their soundscapes is admirable. Hopefully a second album would allow them to branch off into uncharted territory, exploring other influences and perhaps making an identity for themselves, but what they’re doing here is rather enjoyable in the meantime.