Review Summary: patience
The way I see it, the most stunning part of Phillip Sollmann’s debut, the eponymous Efdemin
, lies within its first moments. A quiet, mysterious bell tolls. Once more, a higher pitch – then, back to the original tone. A simple beat enters, and the bell pattern continues over it. That’s it. Nothing, right" What makes this opening passage gripping is the burning, impermeable near-silence created by the resonance which divides each chime. It’s full of dread, anticipation, and intrigue; it gives the impression that there is something urgent to be heard down the line. And there is – though it never reaches the resolution we want. A churning bass and disquieting vibraphone melody soon join in to supplement that original motif over repeated measures, heightening a muted anxiety until eventually, one last chime brings it to a sudden halt.
I find this kind of immediate poignancy quite unusual in music, a medium which often relies on time in order to prompt an emotional response, but it just makes sense here. Efdemin
is an electronic album built around negative space, utilizing moments of reticence to string up subtle tension – not only in “Knocking at the Grand”, that breathtaking opener – but consistently throughout its run-time. Sollmann is comfortable playing with and stretching this taut line very slowly to its limit, which is probably why the album ends up being a somewhat long ordeal, clocking in at a hefty 72 minutes. It is a calculated length, though; Sollmann is smart enough to ride every tap, shake, tick and clap to the maximum, ensuring each rhythm has fully ingrained itself in our heads before beginning to add and subtract other elements.
is a deeper sort of techno that takes clear influence from ‘90s house heroes, evidenced by Sollmann’s emphasis on groove above all else. It takes a page from the meditative side of things without going overboard, providing enough variety in tone to make each slight twist and turn more exciting than they ought to be. There are more straightforward affairs, like the deep bass swirls and spaced-out synth explorations in “Further Back,” but Sollmann proves to be quite good at subverting expectations in other places; in the first few minutes of “Salix Alba,” it sounds like a quiet rave building up to some inevitably fiery end, but he instead opts to pull back into a smooth, understated groove to carry the midsection along. “Lohn und Brot” does the exact opposite, building over a precisely layered, trance inducing melody until suddenly, the beat is set to the side and the pearly gates open for a cathartic synth eruption. It’s jaw-dropping, but truthfully, instances this overt are rare here. What Efdemin
excels at most is providing the consistently sublime moments that you don’t always realize are happening – keeping your head bobbing and feet moving, regardless of its frequent shifts in tone and dynamics.
With all this, Sollmann manages to balance the free, loose groove of his forefathers and his own measured sense of control with panache, giving Efdemin
a unique voice among its late 2000s counterparts. It is certainly a slow burner, but those who are patient enough to let it seep into them will find it hard to let out again.