Booka Shade - More!
Mon 17th May, 2010 Music Reviewsin
When Booka Shade toured here in March for Future Music Festival, it seemed the duo really was intent on delivering ‘more’ in its live show. More bombastic builds and breakdowns, more proggy peaks, more pop star flourishes. While it kept the crowds charged, some of the depth and groove we’d seen on previous visits was missing. It comes as a welcome discovery, then, that on Booka Shade’s fourth album, less is often more.
After opting to deviate from the dancefloor and into synth-pop crossover territory on 2008’s The Sun and the Neon Light, with often mixed results, More! sees Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger confidently toying with the tech-house atmospherics that made second LP Movements such an enduring classic. While the 11 tracks here still retain the pop song running time (most clock in comfortably under five minutes), there’s never a sense that they’ve been hurried or under-developed.
Album opener Havanna Sex Dwarf is an uncertain start, eschewing subtlety for a squelchy electro bassline and a digitised voice insisting we go “higher”. Thankfully, not all of More! is made from this mould. A ‘reinterpretation’ of the M.A.N.D.Y. vs Booka Shade cut Donut follows, introducing the melodic high-end and deep drums that Get Physical has made its trademark. However it’s the brooding bass and skittering melody of Regenerate that proves the duo really are on confident ground; striking the perfect balance between emotion and dancefloor ingenuity.
As it unfurls, More! only grows in confidence and character. The Door sounds like a pair of producers having fun and loosening up, with a low-slung kick that could happily find a home on Claude VonStroke’s dirtybird label. After that foray into quirky house, Teenage Spaceman comes on strong like a missing number from Movements. Its billowing atmospherics, gripping synth line and crisp electronic drums ensure it’ll be a triumphant peak of the live set.
More! also sees Booka Shade collaborating with vocalists for the first time, a move that adds texture to the template. The sonorous tones of Yello’s Dieter Meier match the weight of the production on Divine, while regular Get Physical collaborator Chelonis R. Jones flexes his grimy R&B croon on lead single Bad Love.
The album highlights, though, are those tracks that see Booka Shade revelling in what makes Booka Shade great. There’s an obvious pride in the layered production of Scaramanga and L.A. tely – both are energetic and ecstatic, but not at the expense of mood. More! closes on a more contemplative note than how it began, with the gentle comedown of This Is Not The Time representing what Kammermeier calls in the press notes “the sunny morning of a new day”.
While some will see this album as re-treading tested ground (and with no obvious challenger to In White Rooms or Body Language), Booka Shade is clearly at ease with its best assets. Crucially, too, this one leaves you eager for more.
More! is out now on Get Physical and Co-Op through Bandroom Records.