It’s been too long since we’ve heard anything from Tobias Freund. Those who have followed his career - up to this formidable debut - know that the German’s vintage precocity is a rare and extremely valuable gem within the current dance music scene. Both his collaborations (with Max Loderbauer in nsi. and with Ricardo Villalobos in Odd Machine) and his solo adventures were too good to not see the brilliance of this one coming. Finally, Ostgut Ton - the label he released an EP on a few years back alongside Shed - has convinced him to release the debut album he’s been promising. All the groundwork is in place. Freund is a resident DJ at PanoramaBar / Berghain: in this game, we all know the importance of a field to play in.
“Leaning Over Backwards” brings us back to the electronic concoctions of the old school. Recorded in analogue (with the Roland TR 808 and the Korg Mini Pops as the main tools), the German’s first album rejects the digital cadences of the latest generation and focuses on the search for a timeless sound - classic, purist, whatever you want to call it. Nineties flashbacks are inevitable. Freund has been in the industry for over twenty years; he is a child of the golden years of early artificial intelligence, he has their antibodies flowing through his veins. When computer sequences are rejected by your immune system, you work things out the traditional way: without special effects, without tricks, without messing around - with your naked hands.
Juicy, cosmic, beautiful and slightly introspective - the album oscillates between different frequencies. The ambient watercolours are exciting: far echoes in a sea of analogue sounds (“Now I Know”), music for Carl Sagan documentaries (“Observing The Hypocrtis”), fantasies halfway between Boards Of Canada and Autechre (“Voices Told Me To Do That”), tenebrous tension with rough edges (“Zero Tolerance”). But there are also some brilliant dance floor explorations. “Party Town” is disco-house at 200 meters below the surface (the muffled basslines are insane); “The Key” launches a stream of cosmic electro into deep space from a 1997 mini disc; “Free no.1” is an update of the Kraftwerk legacy - with extremely deep electronica and artificial melodies. No filler, no repeats, no fear of vindicating the past and no concessions to present trends. I don’t know about you, but I for one needed a record like this.