The summer is gone, partners. This is it, as Jacko would say. It’s time to waste the whole day at the office, your eyes drifting constantly towards whatever it is your co-workers are doing, your hand doodling on the post-it pad, and your mind on the weekend. This is the moment for summer nostalgia. And for this period of impasse where we still catch an imaginary whiff of Ambre Solaire sunscreen, echoes of house diluted in our memory, and drug-induced shivers, there is nothing better as a tranquiliser than this album for closing your eyes, lighting a spliff, and recalling the misdeeds and dirty tricks that we so enjoyed on the beaches and in the bordellos of Majorca.
We could doubtless talk about chill-out music, but the term has been so damaged that it is better to avoid it as much as possible, so as not to call to mind images of 50-something DJs with necklaces and haggard hippies sweating botox in the Café del Mar. What’s true is that Uwe Walkner and Karl Moestl are seeking the same Zen effect, but be very careful with them, because the means that they use to achieve it are at the other end of the spectrum from the stereotypes that the Ibiza summer has branded into the collective electronic imagination in recent years. Ten years have passed since the Austrian duo put out “Heaven & Hell,” their previous work. Time enough for both of them to have danced to the tune of evolution, and to have understood that soothing rhythms also mutate and need to refresh their flow with fresh water.
Located in the same line of departure as Tosca (they did remixes for them) or Kruder & Dorfmeister (they used to record for G-Stone), Walkner and Moestl have known how to be fast, and reinterpret a genre by applying what is commonly known as common sense. The idea is very simple: it’s enough to update post-party sounds by sprinkling the productions with a little bit of cutting-edge electronics. Without complicating your life, without spiritual pretensions, without the least desire to transcend. The secret is to take the cavernous ambientisation of dubstep, the rhythmic step of softer garage, the depth of deep house, the artificial silkiness of cybersoul, the powerful basses of dub, and to combine all of these variables under the pretext of sinking listeners into a sweet lethargy that is only comparable to the hibernation of bears, but with crepuscular partygoers instead of polar bears. That is to say, that instead of clinging to the electronic that we all know—the thing with narcotic beats with layers and layers, and more layers of sound stinks, and that’s all there is to it—they bet on a ragingly current futuristic minimalism, not at all at odds with the basic precepts of the chill-out credo. And they do it with an amazing elegance, without mussing their hair, with just the right measure of ingredients and spices.
Accompanied by a large fleet of guest voices—none of them get tiresome—the Austrian duo dips into lagoons of slowed-down garage-pop (in “Promise”), visiting paradisiacal coves of broken beat for high androids (in “Broken World”), and cyberdelic swamps with waves of ambient (in “Saturn”). Everything is designed with exquisite manners: the R&B and epic techno-pop of “Presence”, the funkoid wonky of “Dragoneye,” the Massive Attack moment with Balearic pianos of “Ascend,” and the dreamy dub of “Fragments”. And the more “danceable” songs don’t stick it to your nervous system right in your face, but rather they are designed to cloud the mind, to enrapture and calm the beast. The truth is that you can’t help thinking of Scuba and other bass paladins when Walkner.Moestl turns the wheel more vigorously. “Head Down” appears to us like a technoid breeze with aromas of dubstep and echoes of Detroit; “Bullets” sounds like an electro-funk mojito that could fit in perfectly well with Oriol’s latest album; “Faces” sounds like a futurist soundtrack recorded in the alien stables of hidden London. Space synthesisers, syncopated rhythms, nu-soul voices, and futuristic sounds collide in slow motion in a proposal that works and brings the prestige back to the so poorly-treated electronic music for hammocks. Chill-out, more “in” than ever.