Christopher Rau, Two

[Smallville Records]

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In 2010, Hamburg producer Christopher Rau delivered a confident, charmingly slight debut album in the form of Asper Clouds. Like many of the releases on Smallville, its label, Asper Clouds conveyed a homey, intimate take on house, drawing the listener in on the virtue of what it wasn’t. Rau has put his name to a series of 12″s in a similar style since, but Two, again released via Smallville, is that record’s proper follow-up. It follows its predecessor in breeziness, but with markedly less success.

In its unassuming nature, Asper Clouds set the bar for a second album at a strange level. Nothing in Rau’s catalogue suggests that record was a low-key prelude, and even the producer’s recent flurry of 12″ activity, ostensibly more aimed at the dance floor, has been a far cry from epic. Still, he might be expected to deliver a statement with a bit of heft, especially given the refined contours of releases like Marbled World, a recent EP that stands as some of his best work. Instead, Two feels every bit as nondescript as its title, more a collection of disparate tracks than a fully-formed album.

On opener, “Apple Snapple Tracking,” Rau deploys looping strings no doubt sampled from a soul or exotica record, which immediately lend it a pleasant, if saccharine, wooze. Underlining it with a steppy rhythm and twitchy accouterments, the producer pushes the track in a garage direction. It comes across clumsily, however, as the sounds are less interwoven than stacked on top of one another. “Swag Lude,” meanwhile, is more sparing in its use of sampled strings, but falls victim to the same problem, as it’s pervaded by ugly cut-ups and random splices of plucked strings. One gets an acute feeling that many of the tracks here were rushed, or perhaps even left unfinished. Rau certainly seems of the tier of producers who could record an album in a matter of days, but much of his appeal comes from how his tracks sound so intensively stripped to their essentials.

There are a few bright spots. “Weird Alps,” for example, recalls Tevo Howard or Omar-S in its slightly ominous, economical arrangement, with sputtering hi-hats meeting a syncopated monotone synth while a whistle percolates in the background. Certain tracks like, “Ciao,” the finale, or the lightly fluttering “Girl,” have a gentle beauty, but don’t lead anywhere in particular, while “High” finds Rau attempting to work his trademark airiness into a more rigid electro format with meager results. Granted, Rau’s throwaways — assuming these are throwaways — still best albums by a number of producers. There’s a slyness to Two that suggests the artist is simply enjoying himself in the studio, and such a casual approach is always welcome. But one would be advised to stick to his recent 12″s to hear what he is truly capable of.

Nick Connellan  on November 15, 2012 at 6:21 AM

I would have liked a sample of one of the weaker tracks here, as well as one of the good ones. To see if I agree or not, y’know?

Comrad  on November 19, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Its a real grower. A first I was like, what the fuck. But i’ve been listening to it constantly so he’s done something right. But yes it’s not even kinda close to Asper Clouds.

Joe Babylon  on November 20, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Yeah in terms of what he’s truly capable of as you mentioned, I’d have to say that his track “Like Yesterday” is probably my favorite and makes me wish he would explore that sound a bit more.

As far as this album, “Unlimited Dancemoves” and “Girl” are my picks.

Smallville never disappoints. Great shop and label!


Christopher Rau, In the Water | Little White Earbuds  on January 31, 2013 at 10:18 AM

[…] 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 […]

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