Douglas Greed: KRL
Freude am Tanzen Recordings

Spreading a dozen tracks across a fifty-two-minute playing field, Douglas Greed's (real name Mario Willms) debut album covers a broad stylistic range, with the songs equally centered on melody and rhythm in a way that calls to mind the work of Dominik Eulberg and Jesse Somfay, the difference being that Willms features a number of vocalists on his album. KRL gets off to a pretty good start with the emotive electronic sway of “Pain.” Both the vocal by Mooryc (Maurycy Zimmermann) and the song's winsome melodies are decent enough, though the song's most distinguishing characteristic is its arrangement, as Greed complements the delicate vocal with a quietly radiant backing filled with near-subliminal colour—willowy synth washes and thrumming percussive accents, in particular.

A few other tracks also stand out. Pascal Bideau adds an appealing vocal to the lustrous ballad “Down Here,” while Delhia de France (Franziska Grohmann) deepens the underground club vibe of “Back Room Deal” with her breathy rasp. The latter song in particular makes a strong impression in both the air of desperation it generates and in its mix of haunted background vocals and driving, percussion-enhanced beats. A few songs later, the swampy “Waiting In Line,” featuring a vocal turn by Ian Simmonds, generally succeeds at replicating the dark edge of “Back Room Deal,” and “Morning Gloria,” again featuring Mooryc, offers a modestly successful detour into macabre, ‘80s-styled synth-pop.

As is often the case, an album split between vocal and instrumental pieces requires the latter to work harder to match the level of engagement achieved by the former. Consequently, Willms goes out of his way to ensure that clubby instrumentals like “Down There” register as something more than mere atmospheric space-fillers in between the vocal cuts, and he does this—or at least gamely attempts to do so—by amplifying the track's sonic allure with subtle enhancements. That being said, finely crafted pieces such as “Die Schwarze Witwe Liebe,” “Unbemannt,” and “Hold It Together Till Our Friends Are Gone” don't linger long in memory.

He tackles dubstep in “Bridges Over Babylon” in fairly convincing manner, though the mild-mannered treatment possesses little of the lethal ferocity of cutting-edge dubstep, and the lyrics uttered by Kemo (Jimmy Blitz) (“They say that it's not contagious / They say that it's just the flu / So it can't be so dangerous / But then why'd they close the zoo?”) are hardly what one might call threatening. KRL succeeds well enough on arrangement and sound design terms, there's a good amount of variety on offer, and no track is an outright disaster. But there's room for growth in the songwriting department, and one comes away from the recording feeling like the depths to which Greed goes in the songs could have been taken further.

November 2011