To many who know him, Steve Bug is the brainchild behind the revered Berlin based minimal-techno label Poker Flat Recordings. Its first release, 'Double Action (Everything Is At Stake)' yielded the memorable tracks 'Loverboy', 'Play My Game' and the deep Rhodes laden, and almost jazzual 'Without Words', all signature trademarks of his chuggy groovy take on minimal that had endeared him to his fan base to begin with.
But for Steve, whose real name is Stefan Brügesch, the journey to glory really started from 1991 and with his first release 'Tritop' with Pahx on German underground techno label Superstition in 1994. His Sophomore EP release 'Bug For Everyone' on UK label Rising High Records the following year; yielding the tracks 'For Men (And Women)', 'Sensitive', 'Intensive and Sport', somewhat signaled his minimal arrival to some extent as the EP made the charts and sets of everyone from Jeff Mills to the United Kingdom's 'Baron of Techno' Dave Clarke. Starting his first label Raw Elements in that same year, Raw Elements saw the release of 'H0' and 'Wiking' (the latter, a rare 7 inch if any of you 'buggers' out there care to track it down), and a slew of other releases on Superstition in 1995 alone. Between 1996 to 1998, Stefan released another 5 EP's on Thee Black label, his own Raw Elements and Axodya, including his first two albums on Raw Elements entitled 'Released Tracks' and 'Volksworld' respectively.
And that's just a small bon mot to the early salad days of Mr Steve Bug as he is sometimes known. Or his many aliases like The Chi Chi Squad, The, Flashy Fragrant, S.B. Entertainment, Superlova and Traffic Signs... just to name a few.
Three more albums later over the years on Poker Flat, and we cut to 2012 and the release of his newest outing, Noir, which for the man we know as Steve Bug, is a special one. Special in the sense that he has crafted this on a theme, and quite an interesting one at that. It dotes on the immense influence of Film Noir of the early 1940s to the late 1950s, associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that had roots in German Expressionist cinema. Although Mr Brügesch did initially set out to make a concept album, he eventually found the whole concept of it to be too rigid.
"I play all over the world on a constant basis, and always come back with different impressions", says Steve. "Accordingly, this changes the music that I produce. I’ve had the idea to make a concept album for some time, but on the other hand, that’s not the way I work. My music expresses my moods, and of course, they are always changing."
The material for Noir, which was created and crafted over a period of three years, reflects how Bug's sound has matured over the years and although he denies that it to be a 'concept' album, the attributes and direct references to Film Noir are quite obvious. From its cover alone, which highlights the filmic aesthetics of light and shadow, so does the album's opener as well.
The dark and sinister 'Tell Me Why' invites you to this world that Mr Bug has created, one of shady deals and secret illicit rendezvous in depths of the underground's seediest, darkest dirty back rooms. Those 'direct' references I've just mentioned earlier, air apparent in at least three of the tracks that follow: 'The Spiral Staircase', 'The Seventh Victim' (don't you just sense a little Hitchcock-esque tale telling going on here?) and the obscure and mysterious, 'Somewhere In The Night'. Even the dark and moody overtones of 'Poison of Choice', the album's second track, evokes a certain ratio of imagery and cinematic anticipation. Almost as if our hero, or heroine, in this scene, on his or her way to a meeting, set up at some far-flung and wayward destination, could well be walking into a trap.
And as you read this, and if you have formed the impression that this is more a listening album, you're not entirely wrong there. Says Mr Bug himself, "If I had worked longer on the album, I probably would have replaced even more of the dance tracks with listening tracks". He further goes on to emphasise, "I think a lot of albums in dance music are not convincing as albums - more a collection of tracks, than a coherent whole."
But, as much as this is a dark soundtrack to the next yet-to-be-produced-mpdern-day-film-noir classic, there are essential 'buggy' moments that his fans have come to know and love, and they come in the dynamic form of 'Serve Your Mistress', 'No Adjustments' (with the amazing Foremost Poets adding a little spoken symmetry to that repetitive groove that builds and winds into frenzied dance-floor hands in the air bliss), the classic 90s sounding 'Those Grooves'; and watch out for that unexpected tempo drop in the middle, not quite as sexually explicit as Li'l Louis 'French Kiss', but nonetheless, rather atmospherically sensual to some extent (if you're watching a woman who knows how to move with it, that is... add smiley face here). And of course, the slightly broken, jazzy and soulful 'Moment of Ease', featuring French poet and songstress Emilie Chick, being the only other vocal outing and one of my many high points of this album. Apparently, on her MySpace page, it says she also does Chinese Pop too. Hmmmm, in Yoda-speak, rather interesting I find it.
I remember watching Steve Bug DJ in New York City in mid 2009 in one of the smaller rooms in a midtown Club called Rebel and also vaguely remember, after walking through numerous corridors and staircases, how long I took to find that room too. There were just about 200 people in there and it was literally rammed to the teeth. But he held them in awe with every track; not one single individual whipping out a mobile phone to reply any text messages that they may have received either. Well, none that I'd noticed at least. One thing I've always loved about this man as a DJ is the way he holds your interest with simplicity and variety. And as a producer, he's also delivered just as boldly as he's played, as the connoisseur that he is. I'd dare go out on a limb to say that it's probably the most mature album he's made by far, and easily one of his best. Not much of a concept album eh? Yeah, RIGHT!!!
*Should we just get Anton Corbijn to start making that film now?