Review Summary: New dog, old tricks.
Berlin based electronic musician Lorenz Brunner has been hard at work steadily pumping out music as Recondite since his initial string of EP’s for the Plangent label in early 2011. By the beginning of 2014, Brunner had released another handful of EP’s and two successful full-length LP’s that saw the development and maturation of his unique brand of minimal, moody electronic sketches. While his debut full length was a minimal excursion into the world of acid house, 2012’s Hinterland
saw Brunner further evolving Recondite’s music into areas that were moreso influenced by the minimal and ambient techno explorations of the likes of Ritchie Hawtin and Robert Henke, further refining his sound and approach into something was less a sum of these influences and more of a salient and unique entity. Hinterland
was a sonically sparse but emotionally saturated release that successfully counterbalanced the inherent forward momentum of tracks more suitable for a dancefloor with sparse, esoteric soundscapes better suited for armchair consumption. The result was an album that contained what was easily some of his best music to date and, while a bit overlong and unfocused in places, cemented Recondite as an act full of potential.
Now, in the cold months at the end of year, Brunner has quietly unveiled his third full length, Iffy
, (released under the Berlin based Innervisions label) as a sort of bookend to an already prolific output in 2014. Following a string of four EP’s that contain tracks with a range of club and bedroom applications, Iffy
feels less like a collection of tracks recorded simultaneously with this year’s earlier output and more an expansion of the approach taken on both last year’s Hinterland
and 2011’s On Acid
. This time around, Lorenz seems to have rekindled his interest in the house flavors more readily apparent on his debut, taking the backbone of techno that pervaded his most recent full length and giving it sort of a facelift, as it were. While still saturated with the cold, analog sounds of his previous efforts, the thick Roland drum samples and plodding four-on-the-floor rhythms turns Iffy
into an album of resurrected ideas in more ways than one.
However, in working with this sort of throwback aesthetic, Iffy
is a record that ends up replacing a lot of what was so successful on Hinterland
with a few new perspectives that unfortunately don’t work as well as the previous juxtaposition of styles synonymous with the Recondite name. While certainly not slow, Iffy
is remarkably laid back compared to previous releases, seemingly content with dwelling on sounds and moods in lieu of teasing out that pleasing tension between sparse atmospheres and forward movement that was so successfully executed with his previous full-length. Not only that, but while the sounds contained on Iffy
are certainly well executed, the more heavily placed emphasis on house stylings has turned Recondite’s sound palette into one that is noticeably homogenized compared to previous releases. What this does, in tandem with the slower, more relaxed tempos and rhythms, is make for an album that ends up sounding flat, both in sound color and momentum. The lack of climaxes and resolutions of tension make Iffy
a record that feels a lot longer that it should be, and in the end seems more like a step backwards than an evolution in approach.
Fortunately, this doesn’t necessarily overshadow the successes present on Iffy
. The highlights of the album, “Garbo” and “Buteo”, hearken back to the more techno influenced tracks present on Recondites’s previous release and manage to successfully integrate the new set of sounds Brunner works with into his previous style of thumping, moody aural propulsion. This is aided again by the fact that Iffy
sounds as good as it does, containing lush, cold timbers which retain the thickness of analog synthesizer sounds without sounding overtly warm (as analog sounds tend to do) that are mixed expertly to allow the rhythmic backbone breathing room amongst the atmospherics and melodies that float around it. Regardless of whether it’s because of their noticeably more energetic and anticipative structure or if they simply just contain better ideas, these two tracks, along with a few other isolated moments throughout Iffy’s
nearly 50 minute runtime, are proof that Lorenz Brunner is still able to craft engaging tracks that evoke the most effective core elements of his sound.
isn’t the watershed moment it could have been, it is a record that proves yet again that Lorenz Brunner is an act with a lot of potential. Even if the slightly less challenging and esoteric song structures and overall approach to Iffy
seem as if they might be an attempt to appeal to a larger, more general audience, there is enough good material here to please both fans of last year’s Hinterland
and potential newcomers to Recondite’s moody electronic environments. Regardless of whether or not Iffy
is a disappointment relative to his previous output, it is a record that is certainly worth checking out for both former fans and new listeners alike, and should be considered a generally successful release even under the weight of the relatively high standard it was attempting to match.