Extrawelt: Schöne Neue Extrawelt

Labeling Extrawelt's Schöne Neue Extrawelt minimal, electro-based tech-house isn't necessarily incorrect but it does do the release a slight disservice. That's because Hamburg duo Arne Schaffhausen and Wayan Raabe are aiming for something higher with the release and, in certain respects, they reach their intended goals. In the album's dozen (all previously unreleased) tracks, the pair aspire to create a contemporary music that draws upon the emotional dimension of early-‘90s electronic music without sounding nostalgic, ironic, or retro. Begun two years ago, Schaffhausen and Raabe set out intending to create an album that would cover all styles of electronic music, everything from ambient and trance to techno and electro. But after completing twenty-five tracks, they decided that their original idea wasn't working to their satisfaction and so revised their approach, resulting in a still stylistically-varying album that works as a club disc and a home listening experience. Consequently, skeletal beats and 4/4 tempos do appear in all but one track (the interlude “Kurt Curtain”) but the album's hardly one peak-time anthem after another. Whatever momentum the beats bring to the tracks doesn't negate the fundamental melancholy and nostalgia ambiance of Extrawelt's sound (the album's Aldous Huxley-inspired title is no accident).

An air of spectral mystery pervades the ambient intro of “One Tree Hill,” a mood that remains in place even when the thumping beats and rubbery bass lines kick in. Tinkling chimes pour down upon the groove like rain showers, and sounds fluidly morph and arc like shape-shifting organisms in a spectacular, eight-minute set-piece that's considerably more than straight-up groove music. The seductive melody that unfurls through the bluesy schaffel of “Darkside Of My Room” could be the handiwork of no less an act than Booka Shade (a similar BS-like melody also surfaces amidst the ringing cymbals and hi-hat flourishes of “Wolkenbruch”) while the careening backbeat swizzle of “Daten Raten” suggests some foundsound-Spectral Sound hybrid. In addition, hammering electro workouts (the marauding “Must Attack” and high-velocity “Trümmerfeld”) sit side-by-side with pulsating techno-funk throwdowns (“Added Planet” and “Lost In Willaura”). Though the album's overlong (seventy-eight minutes, with seven cuts exceeding the seven-minute mark), there's no denying the high quality level Schaffhausen and Raabe hold to throughout.

January 2009