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Timo Maas - Pictures


Review: Jack Foley

GERMANY'S Timo Maas continues to confront the norms of what dance music represents in 2005 with his second album, Pictures.

And given the generally bland state of modern dance music (Ibiza-style), it's pleasing to be able to report that the follow-up to 2002's Loud is a hugely impressive affair, featuring collaborations with the likes of Brian Molko, Kelis and Neneh Cherry.

Primarily recorced in Maas' Hannover-based studio over the past two years with production partner, Martin Buttrich, Pictures is an ecelctic listen that draws on a number of influences, from rock, hip-hop and other alternatives.

It's darker and more pensive than, say, The Chemical Brothers' latest album, and nowhere near as funky as anything on the Ninja Tunes or Grand Central labels.

But it does have a distinctive sound of its own, given extra edge by the repeated presence of someone like Placebo lead singer, Molko.

Former single, First Day, is a classic case in point - a deeply atmospheric dance track featuring a typically insistent rhtyhm and an irresistible hook that's darker and more sinister than most mainstream fodder.

The chorus alone, 'it's the first day of the rest of your life' is quickly offset by the warning 'don't fuck it up', which brings an added touch of menace to the equation, particularly as the line is delivered by Molko at his most volatile.

Yet Maas cleverly offsets Molko's vocals with the softer style of newcomer, Jo Kate, who adds a sultry presence.

Neneh Cherry guests on the impressive but haunting, Crystal Method-style High Drama, which, incidentally, was originally written for P Diddy's long overdue dance album.

While the ethereal Enter My World offsets some spooky electronics with the choir-like presence of Symphony of Voices to create a dance track that breathes with its own individuality.

Better still is the hip-hop beat that accompanies Kelis' 4 Ur Ears, a track where the R&B queen genuinely appears to be having fun. It probably represents the album at its funkiest, with a downright groovy bassline driving it forward.

Rodney P contributes a smart urban style to Release, one of the more hard-hitting tracks (which contains some nice guitar riffs), while the strings run riot in Big Chevy, which contains a distinctly cinematic feel (of the James Bond variety).

Burn Out is another gem, as well as one of the more chilled out numbers, while another of the undoubted highlights is Like Siamese, which features the return of Molko, and a genuinely delicious bassline-driven beat.

With lyrics such as 'the war will soon be over', the track probably best represents the contemporary sound of the album, given that Maas wanted it to be reflective of the sound of 2005, as well as more forward-looking.

It's gratifying, therefore, to be able to conclude that this is one dance album that really does deliver, providing conclusive proof that there is so much more to the genre than wretched Crazy Frog remixes or pounding Ibiza beats.

Pictures deserves the maximum exposure it can possibly receive.

Track listing:
1. Slip In Electric Kid
2. Pictures
3. First Day
4. High Drama
5. Enter My World
6. 4 Ur Ears
7. Release
8. Big Chevy
9. Devil Feel
10. Burn Out
11. Like Siamese
12. Haven’t We Met Before

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