Niels Luinenberg (aka Delta Funktionen) once said: "My DJing is all about serious fun... Depending on the night it might be more serious, or more fun."
Before you press the play button, I think I'd better give you a kind of 'heads-up'. If you're looking for an album full of funky, slick and friendly, dancefloor grooves, you're not going to find a lot of that here. What you will find, as the album's cover art suggests, is a future classic - experimental, twisted and torn, emotional, broken electro beats and intricate sequence structures that meet classic synth lines and ferocious drums kind of record - just like the random pieces of wood strewn about on the album the cover, it's really an accurate reflection of what you can expect from Niels Luinenburg on Traces.
Probably one of the few really good and positive things coming out of Dutch electronica over recent years, Niels Luinenberg has already released a string of acclaimed EPs from 2008 to present day on labels like Delsin, Ann Aimee, Modal Analysis and Field Records. He has also, showcased his impressive DJing skills through gigs around Europe; the Dutchman has spun sets of a genre-defiant blend of Detroit techno, Chicago-licked house, crafty old school electro and sparkling Italo disco at clubs like Fabric, Trouw, The Bunker and Berghain/Panorama Bar, just to name a few. Coupled with a series of excellent online mixes, as well as this year’s Interia compilation. Till now, most of his creative output has been more dancefloor oriented. This technically is his first artist album, released on Delsin, the Dutch techno institution who have released nearly all of Luinenburg's records.
Now truth be told, for a techno artist, approaching the entire concept of producing an LP is never an easy task. It's more than throwing a whole bunch of samples and strange noises together and layering and sequencing them rhythmically to make some sonic sense. If anything, this is one area that's highlighted the shortcomings of many and showcased the talent of few. I figure that he must really be a wizard at jig-saw puzzles to some greater extent (or at least a fan of them). But, Niels key approach to making Traces was, according to him, 'research'. I didn't quite understand what that meant initially, but after listening to the album a few times over, I get that point now.
The initially contemplative 'Frozen Land' kicks the album off. Layer upon layer of austere synths cascade over broken shuffling drum patterns. bordering on the dark, haunting and yet subtly melodic. This reminds me a lot of the early 90's techno that I used to buy on labels like Warp and ART - a touch of Hawtin meets Kraftwerk, meets Degiorgio. This broken electro formula follows through somewhat on 'Enter', except for the fact that it' takes a twisted turn now into darker acid bass-trumental territory with a matrix of synth and acid lines thrown at you, some even in slow-motion, it almost seems.
'Utopia' keeps the atmospherics tight and dreamy, and yes, there's that acid line again. Watch out for a bass and melodic twist three quarter's of the way through this one. Very very slick, and clever too. The album takes a turn now, from esoteric to visceral as the beats get chunkier, claps get heavier and the acid lines get rougher. 'Redemption' and 'Target' take up the tempo a tad as the slow paced Chicago-esque 'And If You Know' takes it a notch down before the real experimental fun starts.
The final three tracks sees Luinenberg indulging his Detroit fetish as he so eloquently did at the start, back to those deeper, haunting darker melodic tones, almost sounding like a cyber-sonic mutation of Juan Atkins' Cybotron, Derrick May's Mayday, Kraftwerk, Georgio Moroder, Yello and The Yellow Magic Orchestra, smack dab in the middle of an already crowded stage locked together in a freestyle jam session at of one of Richie Hawtins infamous illegal far flung abandoned air-craft hanger do's in the early 90's. (...only read about them, wish I'd been to one of them !)
'Challenger', 'Onkalo', and the album's final track, 'On a Distant Journey' will probably stand out as my favourites, 'Onkalo', having the slight edge over the rest.
In Luinenburg’s own admission, Traces collects tracks recorded over a long period of time, with no particular thread linking them in any particular way. It would seem that those randomly strewn hacked up pieces of, what probably used to be someone's furniture, that glazes the cover of Traces, are significant and probably, also the solution to jig-saw puzzle within the album. The sum of all parts add together to reveal an interesting collection of classic meets future classic, and if you haven't quite figured out the key to solving that puzzle yet, add this album to your life's equation - it might not be Pythagoras' theorem but, in some strange twisted way, you'll find that it all adds up to something special.