I am writing this review as I sit here, basking in the splendor and beauty of this isolated island resort in the Maldives, one of 1,200 known islands in the double chain of twenty-six atolls here. Released last month, the album Tender Leaf is the second from the Bonn-based Erdbeerschnitzel, the brain-child of stylistically diverse producer Tim Keiling. He put out his full-length debut, Pathetik Party, digitally through his own Blockstoff imprint back in 2009, and rapidly made himself a name with first-class single releases in the following years on 3rd Strike Records and 4 Lux. This one comes on the heels of two previous singles on Tensnake's Hamburg-based Mirau label, 'To An End' from 2010 and the recently released 'Through The Night' single, whose title track also features on this album.
Made up mostly of instrumentals there are the bit vocal cuts on it as well, however above all else, it does extremely well in showcasing Keiling's flair for sample-heavy sound design and his deft ability to weave simple subtle melodies and unexpected tempo changes within the tracks without losing a click on the overall atmospherics and simplicity.
Opening with 'Hello' rather aptly and politely, Keiling delivers an trippy atmospheric onslaught in two minutes, punctuated by sporadic drum rolls and the warmest of string arrangements darkened only slightly by a haunting melodic cello that mingles initially but subtly seizes the attention eventually.
'Let Go' grooves along as perfectly as a second album track should, starting the album's journey on a warm, enticing path; the kind of track that makes a bright sunny day seem even brighter. Again, the arrangements on this are superb and as the track chugs along, and as the melodies meander about and take their course, you stop, wonder and marvel at the peace and tranquility around you and feel a renewed sense of hope. I'm saying this, not only just because I'm staring out at this deep endless blue that stretches out almost endlessly into the horizon; of course it helps to have this as a soundtrack to it, but pretty much because it is the feeling that 'Let Go' invokes, and the title itself suggests that life in general, should be, just a big 'Let Go'. Superb stuff thus far.
Anyway, onward. 'Semantics', which I've already been playing a lot of here in the Maldives, is another bright and bouncy little tune. And again, it highlights Keiling's amazing ability to make simplicity sound so magnificent. I had five people asking me about it when I played this on the beach last Saturday and I must confess, on hearing it for the first time on a big system, I was already sold. I've even done a little edit of this which is the one that I've been playing out. Give it a listen or let yourself get lost in it when you hear it. If your head doesn't start bobbing or you don't get up and start doing a funny little dance to this, trust me, seek immediate medical attention.
'The Mattress Excursions', one of the two vocal cuts on the album, crooned soulfully and lovingly by Berlin-based artist The Drifter; who recently appeared on Jacob Korn's You & Me album and had a stellar release about a month ago on Munich-based label Permanent Vacation with 'Day and Night', is far from anything too dreamy, as the title suggests. Well, it starts off that way, but progresses into one of the album's fastest tracks, tempo-wise. As for it's lyrical content, that is, by and large, rather self explanatory, but it's ever so sophisticatedly sweet.
'Through The Night', the only track off the album previously released as a single, is another soulful, classy slice and another one that I've been playing out quite a fair bit.
'Tetra' and 'Wait' that's up next, takes it back into somewhat broken, jazzy territory, much along the lines of 'Let Go', keeping warm and bouncy and never loosing an inch of soul, with the latter, 'Wait', being so reminiscent of the early 2000 collaborations between Jazzanova and Amp Fiddler, or even that as we remember from early Jamie Lidell. Pure quality here.
The tracks 'Arbitrary Act', 'Ebus Rude' and 'Separate Spaces' scale tempos up a tad and really showcase Keiling's versatility to flit effortlessly between the lighter and darker caverns of his musical mind. Again, he keeps it amazing warm and soulful, somehow. I suppose to some, this would be the point when deep house and techno merge and make it almost impossible to pigeonhole this into something manageable or comprehensive (Let's just leave that to the folks at Beatport shall we).
'Poem' is thirty-seven second interlude that somewhat echoes the Erdbeerschnitzel philosophic view on life and music and preludes the album's closer 'Tender Leaves', which, thankfully doesn't end this album on a slow and sombre note. Instead, it maintains the bounce that's been so self-evident in this entire album and celebrates life and joy and all the magic that it can bring, if only one allows the mind to believe.
Overall, and again I stress, despite writing this review immersed in the beauty of the Maldives, this is a great album. I did delay the course of writing this review, but I see now, that i made the right choice to do so. Every track in this album has seemed to make that which surrounds me ever so much more beautiful (try playing 'Let Go' on a beach in this gorgeous Maldivian sun and you'll get it). It is vivacious, exulting, humorous at times, and on the whole, aesthetically clever, and each elaborate audio-bouquet is full of spirit, full of life.
I mentioned earlier, something to the effect of pigeon-holing and trying to genre define or manage this music into something more comprehensible. To do that with Keiling's work, would be a big mistake and a sad injustice in every sense. Just call it great music, soul food or mind fluid if you must. But it's something anyone who looks for beauty in life or in music should own. Pluck it off the shelves as soon as you can. It's even released on vinyl too.
Hot Toddy - Won't Let Go feat. Danielle Moore (Erdbeerschnitzel Remix) [Free Download]
02. Let Go
04. The Mattress feat. The Drifter
05. Through The Night
08. Arbitrary Act
09. Ebdus Rude
10. Separate Spaces
12. Tender Leaves