Michael Mayer Michael MayerImmer 3
Michael Mayer has said on several occasions that it is the idea of eternity that he persistently pursues in each part of the “Immer” series; in German, “Immer” means “always.” This musician from Cologne dreams of session records that, even though they have to compete with an endless abundance of free material–and excellent stuff, at that– on the internet, at the same time they are able to condense the magic of a night in a club into 70 minutes, and can aspire not to grow old or be forgotten. Mayer’s ambition is notable and not unrealistic, as the results so far have gone: the first “Immer” (Kompakt, 2002) has reached an almost legendary status since it came out, and was even chosen by the on-line magazine Resident Advisor as the best cd-mix of the last decade. For Mayer, the canned DJ album should work according to the logic of pop, before that of techno: he approaches them as a narrative, with a prologue, development, and epilogue, and he trusts that this story he tells with the help of a handful of albums will be able to emotionally affect the person on the other side of the speakers. A standard cd-mix would aspire to offer the new “in” songs, to seek to condense an emerging style, to strengthen a brand name or to promote the artist himself. But from the moment that Mayer occupies the privileged position from which he no longer needs to pursue any of those things, a mix like “Immer” can be approached according to his own rules.
For me, the idea of permanence to which Mayer aspires –eternity is perhaps a bit exaggerated for talking about an album– is summarised in the conclusion of “Immer 3.” Just at the moment when the dazzling deep house of the South African Culoe De Song is fading away– “The Bright Forest”, a wonder put out on Innervisions– you hear “New Day” performed by Kinky Justice: it’s as if time really stopped, as if all of the pleasures and days were condensed for a moment into a handful of minutes, and nothing matters except the song playing. “New Day” is a version that Justus Köhncke recorded of the original by Round Two –one of the two men from Basic Channel’s first incursions into reggae– which he transforms into a serene ballad, for a sunny morning, in which the original dub beat is replaced by ecstatic ambientals, space effects, and xylophone notes. The general feeling is that of entering a fabulous arcadia, and with that last movement, Mayer works one of the small miracles of the “Immer” series: first, to have a moment to remember –and memory is eternity as long as the memory lasts– and second, that of rescuing fragments of wonderful music that nobody had paid attention to before from the realm of the forgotten. What happens to me when “New Day” is playing is that I want the end to be delayed as long as possible –I’m depressed when it ends–and I forget everything that I’ve ever heard before.
And “Immer 3” has notable moments. The beginning, for example, also paddles in the same direction: it is Ewan Pearson’s ambiental remix for “Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up” by Cortney Tidwell –the one that only appeared on the R&S re-edition– and with it Michael Mayer establishes precise coordinates on his DJ booth GPS, locating the listener in a more pop-friendly than club-friendly context, letting us know, for example, that voices will be important and that there will be an abundance of melodies. As the album suggests, it is more the work of a selector than of a DJ: it’s the tracklist that matters, not so much the mix –although the way that the songs are linked is always correct. The track list matters because it is made up of forgotten classics, covered with dust from the passing of time– “Departures” (2002) by Closer Musik had to be recovered– as well as good productions bordering on techno, pop and house, which are clamouring for like-minded company to be able to put together a puzzle that will stimulate the senses. There might be moments when as a whole the album weakens or wears –I’m not a big fan of Tim Paris’s “Edges Of Corrosion” , it sounds worn-out to me– but on the other hand, his break in the mix towards hypnotic territory, almost italo-disco, with “Falling Stars” by Smith N Hack is brilliant, as is the start –with those depressed piano notes– of Massive Attack’s “Paradise Circus,” remixed by Gui Boratto.
It’s clear that the effect of the first “Immer” will not be repeated. That album arrived in the final phase of collective innocence, when blog fever and the free circulation of information in real time on the internet still hadn’t entirely let loose. There are no secrets anymore: potential hits are hits the day after they appear. Before, a lot of great songs were buried under the avalanche of new albums and sessions like Mayer’s served to show the abilities of people sniffing out hits, who were a step ahead of the competition. He didn’t invent anything with that session, but he debuted what would be the trendy sound for years, that intersection of house, pop and minimal techno that managed to be omnipresent, and which can still produce fabulous songs. In a way, “Immer” changed the way cd-mixes were made, and changed the course of the history of techno. I don’t think that “Immer 3” is in a position to do that again, and maybe it won’t last forever, but it has lasted for several days in my CD player and that’s good enough for me, because it always gets a smile out of me.