Gabriel Ananda: Selected Techno Works

Certainly the unimaginative title of Gabriel Ananda's Selected Techno Works doesn't bode well, but the collection itself has much to recommend it. It's a two-disc set, first of all, that splits the German DJ and producer's tracks into an uptempo dance half followed by a chill-out second, so the release gives listeners a thorough overview of his work. Though he's been a part of the techno scene since 1995 and been releasing music since 1997 (on labels such as Trapez, Treibstoff, and others), the new release draws from mostly from work created during the past few years—twelve-inch thumpers such as “Doppelwhipper ” and “Stream of Consciousness ” along with tracks from his Bambusbeats and Tai Nasha No Karosha albums—so doesn't sound stale. In the liner notes, he mentions that the selections for the uptempo half were made based on his personal favourites as well as those he's found to be crowdpleasers.

Disc one's playful, clap-happy opener “Babypunk” hints that Ananda's not intent on re-writing the techno rulebook but more interested in establishing an upbeat mood, and the subsequent tracks confirm as much (the cover photo alone, which shows Ananda joining hands with festivalgoers, conveys a similar vibe). The good times keep on coming with “Coconut Blues,” a bumping swinger whose jubilant spirit is hard to resist, especially when strings swoop into the track alongside a driving synth line. Off-beat hi-hats and low-end bass rumble boost the tribal-funk profile of “Offbeat” and help the floor-filler stand out from the crowd. “Schaukeldrehen” also proves ear-catching in the radiant multitude of vocal fragments that swirl so insistently overtop the lightly jacking groove that pulsates below. Near the end of the opening set, “Lamakova” seems to anticipate the more soothing tone of the accompanying disc, given the song's dreamy flow of electric piano playing and string parts. The techno style showcased throughout the disc is one that's usually exuberant, occasionally a tad funky, and at times feverish (“Stream of Consciousness” as good an example as any) as it straddles populist and experimental tendencies.

Ananda created the second disc in 2005 as a come-down set for friends (and himself too) but decided it would be a waste not to publicly release it. It's admittedly more laid-back if in isolated moments livelier than one might expect, and there's a spacious quality to the material as Ananda gives the tracks' arrangements ample room to breathe. Shimmering ambient settings (“Rolshover 98,” “Flächenfunktion”) and downtempo IDM (“Last Virgin,” “Zeit für Zeit”) dominate but the set also makes room for a midtempo techno thumper (“Dicht (Chill Edit)”) that could just as easily have found its way onto the first disc. As it is, it stands out as one of the second half's strongest cuts, elevated as it is by a snappy and soulful groove and a lithe bass pulse. There're even a couple of brief field recordings pieces (the first, “Ambient,” filled with the usual rain and bird sounds) and field recordings also form bridges between some tracks. It's all pleasant enough, but as it's clearly secondary to the opening disc, the second should rightfully be regarded as a bonus.

May 2011