Booka Shade - The Sun & The Neonlight
Tue 20th May, 2008 Music Reviews 5078 viewsin
2006 was pretty much the year that Berlin electro-house/tech duo Booka Shade (AKA Walter Merzinger and Arno Kammermeier) found the entire world at their feet, thanks to their conquering second album Movements its break-out 12”s like Mandarine Girl and Body Language, as well as stellar remixes for the likes of Depeche Mode and Yello. Toss in a global tour reknowned for its searing live performances and the fact that Merzinger and Kammermeier represent the real production muscle behind labelmates like M.A.N.D.Y., and you have a serious force to be reckoned with indeed. Two years on, this keenly anticipated follow-up album The Sun & The Neon Light arrives amidst considerable hype and sees Booka Shade injecting an additional warm ‘human’ element into their streamlined electronic structures with the additional of instrumental textures such as strings, and even full vocal performances on four tracks here.
Opening track Outskirts certainly beautifully illustrates this newfound approach in action as moody orchestration swells around a shifting backdrop of icily melancholic synths and sputtering electro rhythms that’s equal parts John Carpenter and Juan Atkins. While it perhaps at first suggests a more subdued, introspective ride ahead for the listener, Duke and the aptly-titled Dusty Boots soon arrive to drag proceedings straight back to the dancefloor, the former with an eerily atmospheric fusion of doomy bass chords and Akufen/Sutekh-esque contorted rhythmic programming, while the latter sends sampled fragments of Southern blues guitars and shimmering dub horns spinning through a tight web of minimalist kick drums and elastic bass pads.
Control Me, the first vocal track on offer here resembles nothing so closely as later-period Depeche Mode, as deep, crooned male vocals glide over an eerie backdrop of shimmering electro synths that sits somewhere between Enjoy The Silence and Trans Europe Express, and indeed the spectre of the Mode is one that crops up frequently throughout the comparatively downbeat middle section of this album, particularly in Merzinger’s phased Martin Gore-esque delivery on downbeat electro-pop highlight Solo City.
While overall, The Sun & The Neon Light sees Booka Shade operating in a comparatively more downbeat and widescreen mode than seen on the more tangibly dancefloor focused Movements, there’s certainly still more than a glimpse of the ‘Shade of old in first single Charlotte’s swirling, disco-tinged electro-house rhythms and stretched female vocal samples, and while the aforementioned track is perhaps the one moment here that borders on crowdpleasing cheese, Planetary more than makes up for this miss-step with its spinechilling meld of sinister Detroit synths and echoing loudspeaker samples.
While The Sun & The Neon Light may have some Booka Shade fans scratching their heads at the comparative lack of huge dancefloor bombs here, this is an album that rewards repeated listening by revealing new detail with every turn, and arguably shows the duo moving into the next phase of their ongoing musical explorations.
Booka Shade’s new album The Sun & The Neon Light will hit the stores courtesy of Inertia on June 14th, click HERE to preorder. And check out the tracklisting…
3. Dusty Boots
4. Control Me
5. Solo City
8. The Sun & the Neon Light
9. Sweet Lies
10. Karma Car (album version)
14. You Don’t Know What You Mean (J’s Lullably)
And have a look at this promo clip for the new album, courtesy of the Get Physical crew…