Booka Shade Booka ShadeMore!
GET PHYSICAL / CO-OP
To leave the underground as an absolute unknown and quickly manage to reach the heaven of mainstream is the natural process that any dance producer would like to follow—well, maybe not any, but certainly the vast majority of them. People do have to eat, don’t they? Or if they don’t want to reach the mainstream, dirtying their hands with mass popularity, they at least want to reach a comfortable position where they are not lacking for work. But all of this is a danger that Booka Shade know well: you can confuse the needs of a potential public that you have yet to reach with your own desires. The German duo’s process is simple: they arose again from the catacombs of European house in the middle of the last decade, after another decade working by commission, practicing the dark labour of black, and they captured attention with a well-drawn album, “Memento” (2004), which appeared synthetic and cold from the outside, but with an attractive deep curvature. Then came the 12” “Body Language” (2005) along with M.A.N.D.Y, and in 2006 “Movements,” an electrohouse masterpiece, the sensation of the season in Ibiza for two summers in a row – “Mandarine Girl” and “In White Rooms”opened the doors to big-league dance music for them, with radio stations, tours, and a pay rise. All thanks to their talent, on their own merit, without prostituting their sound.
But when “The Sun & The Neon Light” (2008) arrived, Booka Shade seemed to have lost their concentration. There were pieces at the height of their abilities, hypertechnically produced, hypnotic, and leaning towards progressive, like in “Karma Car,” but there was also a dispersion of ideas towards downtempo, which led to the irrelevant pack of background versions of “Cinematic Shades,” as if they wanted to offer themselves to different listeners. But it’s not the public that makes Booka Shade, even if their concerts are massive and have a quality execution seldom seen in what we could call “stadium house”—it’s the other way round. This is why “More!” is a return to the essence, even if it’s not exactly on the level of “Movements.” Eleven pieces without stuffing, without even drops in intensity in each cut; it’s a clean, well-designed record finished without rushing, knowing who they are and what they would like a Booka Shade album to be. The requirements of the market at times force people to run around like chickens with their heads cut off, and that’s the worst thing that can happen to an artist. Implicitly, they admit that “The Sun & The Neon Light” was a step backwards, a very slight blunder that slowed the rising star of the creators of Get Physical. The situation needed to be redirected somehow, and for Arno Kammermeir the solution was to reinforce. The press release about the record says that it is called “More!” because it has “a more refined production, more multi-layered atmospheres, more emotion. We wanted this album to be more energetic, with strong rhythms, and, of course, the typical Booka Shade melodies and the atmosphere that we love. The album takes you through all of the stages of going out at night: the excitement before you go out, the party, when it gets very, very late, a little paranoia… and then the sunny morning of a new day.”
Except for the paranoia, which I can’t really say that I see, the rest is perfectly reflected here, starting with the pre-club excitement – “Havanna Sex Dwarf” recreates the duo’s classic loping melody and that digital texture, not too shiny, that is also the key to “Donut (Interpretation),” the new and effective collaboration with M.A.N.D.Y. It knows how to hold that delicate balance between danceable obsession and strategic calm, like when those lovely synthetic disco chords vibrate in “Teenage Spaceman,” another peak in intensity, a thorough preparation for the real epicentre of “More!”: “Scaramanga,” a dialogue between German sobriety and New York’s classic, carnal house, a hermaphrodite of ecstatic disco and precise electrohouse. Only “Bad Love,” which is an excellent piece, mind you, seems to waver from the self-control exuded by the LP, letting its hair down with a garage song structure and a male vocalist, sort of Romanthony, fitting in logically with the whole, but contrasting too much, getting too carried away.
You can tell that it’s a careful, meditated album. “More!” is not an accumulation of music that’s been made as they went along, put together to keep up appearances. It is a trip with a beginning and an end, with a purpose, and another added merit: it isn’t a conceptual album about the night of a party and the day of the hangover, but rather a feeling that is so intense that it has to be crystallised in a concentrated manner, without distraction, which is then translated into modern house. Here, the possible digressions, the half-times of “Regenerate” and “The Door,” are really passageways to decisive moments, narrative threads that help to prepare the surprises and to make the wait as tense as possible. Overcoming the dark temptations of trance, formulaic deep house and music for Sunday-morning loafing, “This Is Not The Time” comes to an end— it’s the finishing touch, it shouldn’t be held against them. Booka Shade has recorded the type of album that really works for them. And they have done it like they should. Asking anything else of them would have been a mistake, and fortunately, they know it.