Answer Code Request: Code
Ostgut Ton

Code, the debut Answer Code Request album from Berlin producer Patrick Gräser, impresses as something more than a functional collection of dancefloor tracks, even if much of it thoroughly satisfies on a purely physical level, too. There's much to like about the Answer Code Request sound, its elusiveness in particular. Not quite techno, not quite house, and not quite garage either, Gräser's project inhabits a sonic realm that sets it apart from the work of other producers that by comparison is easier to classify.

At its core, Answer Code Request's sound isn't overly complicated, as many of the album's twelve tracks can be reduced to two key components: hard-hitting drum grooves and simple yet shadowy synth motifs (see “Relay Access” as one example). There's also a misty quality to the typical production that gives the material an ethereal character not generally encountered in the industrial techno sound associated with Berghain and Ostgut Ton. But the fact that a formula of sorts can be identified doesn't make the album any the less pleasing on listening grounds.

The album's first foray into club-styled material, “Blue Russian,” strikes a well-considered middle ground between sculpted atmospherics and rhythmic drive in its melding of insistent percussive thrust and dubby textural swirl. Clubbier still is “Field Depth,” which splatters its aggressively churning drum pulse with a forcefield of strangulated synth accents and chilly choir-like touches, while “Status” thumps with serious intent, its throbbing bass pulse a diametric complement to the metronomic hi-hat pattern and spectral textural elements that flutter above. A nostalgic echo surfaces during “By the Bay” in its pounding, breakbeat-styled groove, though the tune's as striking for its panning synth textures as much as anything else. An additional left turn arrives when British singer Elizabeth Bernholz drapes her delicate vocal whispers across the plaintive atmospherics of “Axif.”

Consistent with the artist album template, Gräser threads an occasional beatless reverie, such as the spacey vignette “Spin Off,” into the album's fifty-minute running time. The aptly named “Odyssey Sequence,” for instance, beams a peaceful ambient-synth message from a distant galaxy before the tempo again picks up in “Zenith,” one of the album's most memorable cuts for its quietly querulous melodic hook and heavy-hitting drum groove. Here and elsewhere, Code both adheres to the Ostgut Ton template and distances itself from it in presenting a highly individualized sound.

July 2014