Efdemin, Chicago

Photo by Nicolas Alan Cope


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When questioned about the mildly provocative title of his sophomore album as Efdemin in a recent interview, Philip Sollman deadpanned that he had merely chosen it as bait for journalists. It certainly generated a good deal of hot air on the Resident Advisor message boards, but Sollman went on to explain that while this was far from a Jack Trax tribute record: he has been inspired at various points by a number of musicians from Chicago, ranging from Harry Partch to R.Kelly. Certainly Chicago is a much more diverse record than Efdemin’s self-titled debut, and only one track (“Night Train”) approaches that collection’s lush neo-Detroitisms. Indeed, it reminds of Jan Jelinek’s approach in the early 2000s; folding in disparate influences to produce a cohesive, syncretic whole. The microhouse comparisons extend further to the dry percussiveness of some tracks; similar to what Efdemin has been playing in recent DJ sets, but also very reminiscent of LoSoul, for example.

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“Cowbell” opens the album, and indeed sounds like an alternate take on Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records, wayward organ stabs keeping the listener guessing. “Shoeshine” follows less politely, with juddering bass and a firm slap of a beat, again similar to the style of another vaguely unfashionable microhouse veteran, the Wighnomy Brothers. “Oh My God,” and it’s later reprise, are probably the furthest developed pieces, a collaboration with Nina Kraviz which elegantly evolves into a swinging jazzy jam, complete with Art Ensemble of Chicago-esque horns. “There Will Be Singing” is similarly sophisticated, a warped vocal phrase intoning the title before furious high hats take over. The later “Nothing Is Everything” is especially glitchy, chopping up a voice until it’s unrecognisable, transmogrifying instruments until they’re unrecognisable. “Round Here” and “Wonderland” take the playful, brittle funk route plotted by early Perlon, complete with comedy vocal snippets.

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Chicago is certainly excellently produced, full of filigree touches and details; very accomplished, but I can’t decide whether it’s actually any good. The first time I listened to the record, I thought it was horrible, an overstuffed and overcooked mess. The second time I listened to it, I thought it was brilliant; Efdemin’s own Alcachofa, confounding and challenging the listener at every turn. Now, I feel somewhere in the middle. It still sounds a little unresolved, an artist attempting to find his way after perhaps having been pushed into a creative cul-de-sac by the unexpected success of his first record. It’s classic second album syndrome in many ways, and while I’ve found Chicago easy to admire but difficult to love, it continues to leave me intrigued which musical cities Sollman will be traveling to next.

Carsten  on August 25, 2010 at 10:25 AM

»Alcachofa« is by Ricardo Villalobos, not Efdemin. Completely agree with your review of »Chicago«, though.

littlewhiteearbuds  on August 25, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Peder is saying that Chicago is like Efdemin’s own version (of sorts) of Alcachofa, not that he made Alcachofa.

derek  on August 25, 2010 at 1:12 PM

the lesson here is to avoid making comparisons to alcachofa, especially with a meh record like this one

stephen kerr  on August 25, 2010 at 3:47 PM

“night train” is really beautiful, i play it all the time.

Pinker than thou  on August 25, 2010 at 4:43 PM

I don’t like everything on Dial, but I quite liked the first Efdemin album. Like this one a lot more. Seems to hang together nicely as an album, while still having some great dance floor moments.

Pete Srdic  on August 25, 2010 at 5:39 PM

I would say it’s a bit of a sleeper. I ordered this plus his first / self titled album from 2007 and they arrived together. Initially I preferred his first release but now after repeated plays, Chicago is starting to sneak up on me. It has some moments of excellence, but will it list highly in my top purchases of the year ? Nah, I don’t think so.
(Besides, it would be a hell of a feat to best Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts / Can’t Have Everything and Thomas Fehlmann’s Gute Luft).

James  on August 26, 2010 at 1:13 AM

Couldn’t agree more with the review. One of those albums where you think it will grow on you and you keep listening to it but it is so difficult to love. The production is fantastic but something just seems to missing and my attention keeps wandering. Which is such a shame as I really liked the first album and his 12″s on Dial. I still play Bergwein and get excited during the breakdown – that bass!

Joe  on August 26, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Yep I’ve listened to this enough times now that I can safely assume I’ll never remember a single detail of it, no matter how many more times I try it. Entirely unmemorable and lacking any of the effortless(-sounding) melodic flare that set the first album apart.

It’s doubly disappointing given how singular (camp through to stern and back again) his Carry On mix was…somehow this CD has virtually no personality.

Mike  on January 19, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Yeah, I feel the same as a lot of you- I really tried to like his first album as I really like most of the Dial artists (particularly Lawrence and Pantha). It had its moments but left me kind of cold. The new one seems to be the same way from what I’ve heard…

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