Booka Shade – Movements: Decent Dark Ambient

I don’t know much about Booka Shade, other than that the duo hails from Frankfurt and that they create electronic music. But I do know that their electronic music is pretty good electronic music. I’m going to be honest though and say that while, overall, it’s good, it just can’t quite hit the spot.

Movements, the group’s second full-length album, was generally well received in electronic circles in 2006, appearing on a number of top lists. It’s easy to see why. The electro-meets-dark-ambient-beats here is cleanly produced and presented well, with a knack for precision and detail. I’m reminded a lot of Esem’s grinding gloominess, but less sinister and more relaxing. However, after listening to the record a handful of times, I just can’t get satisfied. I can’t help but feel there’s something missing.

The main point of contention I have is that it tries to walk a line between stripped-down minimalism and foot-tapping house beats. While Movements walks that line with reasonable success, the music feels like its trying to pull itself in opposite directions, toward more abstractness or more danceability. The effect is to leave a gaping hole in the center that makes you wish would Booka Shade to fill it with something, anything.

Movements does succeed on a handful of tracks where one end of the dichotomy is clearly favored. In White Rooms is almost typical club music, but with the volume turned down. The song possesses a subtle forcefulness and scale that would have been nice to hear on more of the album. By contrast, the closer, Lost High, is almost depressing in its sparseness.

All in all an enjoyable record that reaches toward greatness, but just doesn’t pull it off.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆
7.25 / 10 Stars

Further Reading:
The Music Re-View

Didot 3 – At long last, I’ve found it!

lithops didot

There's a particular electronic song that’s so invigorating that it just keeps popping into my head every so often, at random, without warning or prompting. The problem is that I’ve never quite been able remember what song it is, or who performed it. I can hear it note for note, but every time I think i've come close to identifying it, it slips away. I've long suspected that it was e*vax or esem, but a exhaustive searching of the library failed to reveal it.

But, this morning, out of nowhere, voila! comes that same pulsing, driving beat, over-lapped with the dirtiest grinding wahwah flange that I’ve been search for. Suddenly pounding my ears was Didot 3, the third song on the album Didot, by Lithops, aka Jan Werner who is one half of the one of the few bands whose t-shirt I’m still willing to wear Mouse on Mars.

At last, this particular tunequest is over!

Didot is a very good example of what I call is “listenable experimental electronic music”. A lot of “experimental” music shies away from traditional songcraft and musical appeal. Didot, on the other hand, uses fairly straight-forward arrangements, which despite being composed of harsh electronic sounds, makes it fairly enjoyable to listen to and keeps it from falling into the realm of “difficult but rewarding.”

Give Didot 3 a listen:

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This album is very hard to come by. So if you find it, get it.