Fetisch Bergmann made the Terranova projects into one of the greatest examples of leftfield, downtempo electronic in the mid-90s. Those were the days when trip-hop was arousing admiration, and it wasn’t music for furniture shops or organic cafes; it was a golden age for that sedated breakbeat with pinches of hip hop, jazz and soul that sounds like nails on a chalkboard to us these days. Terranova had a position of honour on that game board. I remember the portentous “DJ Kicks” released in 1997 perfectly, which was received by the people like tinned vagina in a maximum-security lock-up. But time goes by, people come and go, and our taste buds can’t stay stuck on the same flavours forever. This is why over the years Fetisch has changed the members of the combo, also adapting his productions to more up-to-date frequencies, intended for the dance floor. The turning point might have been in 2007, when he joined forces with his current collaborator &ME (one of the founders of Keinemusik) and signed on with Kompakt. After two maxis applauded vigorously by the Masonic lodge of the most select deep house, “So Strong” and “I Want To Go Out,” the duo is finally taking the definitive leap with the LP format. “Hotel Amour” is a highly elegant treatise in dance music for adults: no rushing, some pauses, and more guest vocalists than a gypsy karaoke.
The collaborative philosophy of Terranova, then, has not been lost. Nicolette Krebitz, Tomas Hoffding, Khan, Snax, Billie Ray Martin, and even German cult actor Udo Kier accommodate their vocal chords to the sponginess of a house that is meant to be savoured without rushing, and which evokes the very best of the deep school of Chicago. Three-dimensional low notes and very deep rhythms flow through the tracklist, fitting the Berlin shapes also included in Fetisch’s style book like a new pair of hose. The blend makes for a danceable sound sporting contained bpm’s, the occasional analogue resource, claps with infinite echoes, ethereal synthesizer padding, and springing drums that sound like basketballs inflated with helium. And all of that wrapped up not only in the almost melancholy, far-off voices of the participants—falsettos with reverb reign supreme—but also with a thick layer of pop romanticism perfectly suitable for the Kompakt style manual.
This isn’t an innovative formula, of course, but at times craftsmanship matters more than crazy ideas, and there is a ton of that—you can tell from the first few notes of the album. The minimalist elegance and sparks of deep melancholy of “By My Side” (on edge, no, ‘cause that’s the next song); the gliding electrohouse of “I Want To Go Out”; the smooth bursts of summery jazz and the disco chords of “Hotel Amour”; the danceable soul for rainy or frosty days of the magnificent “Make Me Feel”; the funk drama with acid splashes of “Paris Is For Lovers,” with Tomas Hoffding and his cosmic falsetto borrowing the lyrics and melody of “My Love” (Justin Timberlake). There isn’t a single creative slip, a single extra note; it’s a hell of an exercise in style, elegance at its purest, dance music that survives the dance floor and slides its way into your room. Call me an old grouch, but they don’t make deep house like this anymore.