Various Artists, And Suddenly It’s Morning

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[Smallville]


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“Smallville ist nicht Dial.” A De:Bug review of an early Smallville release (DJ Swap’s superb “The Walk”) made this clear, but until last year, many people still persisted in treating it as a mere sub-label of the more established Hamburg imprint. Of course, this is understandable, given Peter Kersten (Lawrence/Sten)’s involvement in both, not to mention the similar influences and palettes. Both have grown out of the Hamburg scene, share a reverence for Afro-American music, and have a sophisticated yet melancholy European air, but this past year has seen Smallville come gloriously out of Dial’s shadow. Where Dial releases music as much for the couch or even concert hall as the club, Smallville is more firmly dance floor-orientated. Still, as this CD compilation And Suddenly It’s Morning proves, their music is equally at home, well, at home.

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Label owner Julius Steinhoff’s “Something Like Wonderful” opens up, and fully lives up to it’s faux modest title. Urgent snares and a hearty, thumping beat are joined by warm pads for the most accomplished track of Steinhoff’s short career. The influence of Lawrence is palpable and natural considering the pair’s close working relationship, but it also provides keen competition for Detroit’s Beatdown operators as late night music par excellence. After such a high benchmark has been set, it’s a wonder that Christopher Rau’s “Childhood” isn’t a letdown. “Boards of Canada go to the club” is a phrase that springs easily to mind, but the pistoning beat and insistent, clipped keys that bleed in halfway through keep this from kids-in-the-background-and-pastel-pads pastiche. Rau shares a further track with the unknown Bon with “Cloverleaf Days,” which unwinds elegantly like a ball of wool rolled across the floor. On both occasions, Rau cements his reputation as a newcomer to watch, after his standout contribution to the first Dérive twelve earlier in the year.

Move D and Benjamin Brunn reunite for “In The Beginning,” which will come as a tart surprise to anyone expecting reprises of last year’s blissfully bucolic Songs From The Beehive. Putting the “…Was Jack” into the title of the track, crackling snares, a wonky bass line and fierce Motor City synth stabs make this the most peaktime moment either producer has achieved for a very long time. An obvious highlight, may the pair reunite for many more similar outings at the earliest opportunity. The previously released tracks by Lowtec, Dimi Angélis & Jeroen Search and Steinhoff & Hammouda should already be familiar to LWE readers, and little more needs to be said other than that they still sound as great now as when we first waxed lyrical about them. Lawrence, who can be seen as the godfather of this compilation, contributes a strong track after his below par album Until Then, Goodbye. Where that album failed in its unsuccessful forays into near beatless territories, “Don’t Forget” takes Lawrence back to his Absence Of Blight heyday. The latter record still stands as one of the finest German house albums ever committed to good ol’ polyvinyl chloride, so hopefully Lawrence will consider this a knot in his handkerchief to remind him of his subtle powers.

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Of the remaining tracks, Sven Tesnadi’s “Winter” and STL’s “Neurotransmitting Clouds On The Secret Freeway” play very much to both producers’ strengths, and while doing so, end up rather unremarkable in the company of high achievers. Tesnadi’s effort is a strong club track that kicks in all the right places, while Stephan Laubner seems a little on autopilot, reminiscent of how Floating Points might sound on downers. Perhaps the one criticism that could be leveled at And Suddenly It’s Morning is its consistency. There are no hip dubstep influences, house divas, or any other zeitgeist references. Just good music, pretty much from start to finish. For newcomers to the label and old friends alike, this is excellent fare. It’s a fine summation of Smallville’s progress to become one of Europe’s premier imprints. Let’s spell this out once more. Smallville is not Dial; for the past year at least, it has been better.

chrisdisco  on November 17, 2009 at 2:33 PM

yep, smallville overtook dial quite a while ago.

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