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,
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
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