Daniel Bortz: Patchwork Memories

Daniel Bortz's Patchwork Memories is one of the most fully realized collections from Suol to date. The Augsburg, Bavaria producer fashions the album's eleven tracks with undeniable artistry, and one comes away from the album impressed with his composing and arranging skills. Bortz personalizes his sound by including vocals on many of the pieces (his own plus those of guests), which is also a wise move in that it renders the tracks more memorable in making them less straight-up club tracks and instead New Wave-pop song-dance music hybrids. It helps too that Bortz's own voice inhabits a low register in a way that calls to mind a little bit the singing style of Matthew Dear.

In keeping with the ‘artist album' concept, Patchwork Memories eases the listener in with a subdued track, in this case a downtempo, hip-hop-styled scene-setter. But Bortz might have been better to omit “Alone At Home” from the recording in order to have it open on a stronger note with “Spend the Night”; while not a weak cut necessarily, the piano-laden “Alone At Home” doesn't initiate the album with a powerful and memorable flourish. “Spend the Night,” on the other hand, is one of Patchwork Memories' punchiest cuts and one that immediately sets the bar high for what comes after. It's Bortz's handling of vocals that right away catches one's ear, with the producer first augmenting a snappy, house pulse with ‘woo-woo' background accents and then adding his distinctive bass voice to the tune's ever-surging backing. Put simply, the sound of Bortz crooning “I hope you want to spend the night” while the bass throbs in the background makes for an irresistible combination.

“Monkey Biznizz” maintains the high of that early peak by snaking a fabulous low-slung bass pulse through an equally fabulous house groove and then crowning it with another hypnotic (if slightly more robotic) vocal, after which “First Love” hands the vocal reins to Eva Gold for a sparkling tune whose twinkling keys and trance vibe soar like some breezy fusion of disco, pop, and New Wave. On a more melancholy tip is “The Misery,” which sees Nils Corßen waxing wistfully about lost love in tandem with an equally plaintive backing. As the album moves into its final quarter, Bortz delivers another memorable vocal performance in the haunting “Pictures,” which pairs cryptic confessions with a rolling array of shuffling drums, claps, and tinkling keyboard figures.

The songs' hooks prove that Bortz has a definitive gift for melody, but the tracks also impress for the strength of their arrangements. While a given track is densely packed with detail, there's clear separation between elements, and consequently the bass never sounds muddy and the beats are crisply defined, too. On this consistently satisfying album, he strikes an admirable balance in knowing precisely how much he can pack into an arrangement without overdoing it, as well as when to build a track up and scale it back.

November 2013