Whether or not you enjoyed Christopher Rau’s sophomore album, Two, it’s hard to argue with Steve Kerr’s idea that his true ability is best displayed on 12″. Whereas the German’s albums can sometimes seem monolithic and serious, his singles lean more towards lightheartedness and adventure. In other words, the ride may be shorter, but it’s much wilder. Staying fairly true to this pattern, Rau’s final 12″ for 2012 shows off some of his less common facets. Filled with PA and passenger chatter, “O’hare,” a tribute to Chicago’s largest airport, is the most obvious of these. My computer tells me it’s a speedy 137 beats per minute — hardly the standard for contemporary house, regardless of who’s making it. That seems too fast to be plausible, in fact, but it isn’t too far off. At a much slower pace, gnarled synth and sugary flute glide over the track’s surface, creating a bit of balance. Ultimately, however, they seem a little too detached.
The rest of the cuts fare better. The clubby “Fuck the projection” is similarly drum-led, matching heavy kicks with cheery piano and rusty-sounding hats. Here, Rau squeezes a lot from the equation, resulting in a serious sense of attitude (if the song’s name didn’t already spell it out). “In the water” demands much more patience, but its pay-off is arguably better. The first four minutes are composed of nothing more than swaggering jazz drums, but soon after, gorgeous sheets of cascading piano take the field, getting steadily more raucous and interesting as they lead towards home. Closing things out beautifully, “Love is what I realy want” [sic] takes a dreamy, nostalgic stance, while carrying over the title track’s propulsive drums. Apart from the small hiccup with “O’hare” — which will still find favor with many people and prove a useful and unusual addition to DJ sets — In the Water shows why respected labels like Mule, Pampa, and Smallville continue to sign Rau — or more pertinently, why 12″s are the best introduction to his canon.