Matthias Grübel: The Longest Year In History
Audiobulb Records

During the past decade, Matthias Grübel established a strong presence within the electronic community by issuing a number of releases under the Phon°noir and Telekaster names. Feeling the need to move on, the Berlin-based musician and producer (who also lends his composing talents to theatre productions, radio plays, and audio-installations) now re-emerges with The Longest Year In History, notable for being the first release issued under his birth name as well as his first release on Audiobulb. Available as both a CD EP and extended digital download including remixes, the release features material that's punchier and more club-inflected than the Audiobulb norm. It's a refreshing reboot for Grübel, and its incorporation of beats—not something one would have encountered in the Telekaster world—proves invigorating.

The sound design of “Into Clouds,” the first of four originals, suggests that Grübel's been keeping his ear to the ground and soaking up club music in all of its bass-heavy forms. And while his gifts as an arranger of beats, samples, and found sounds are on full display, the most memorable thing about “Into Clouds” isn't its arresting weave of vocal accents but the rhythmic drive of its funk-techno groove. Though a title like “Sing” might lead one to anticipate an exercise in gleeful abandon, Grübel changes things up in overlaying a charging, string-laden house pulse with a morose, low-pitched vocal (“Hear me sing”), while in a better world, the rollicking “Close” would find its trippy blend of tribal groove and fragmented vocal melodies sitting atop the singles chart.

Supplementing the twenty-five minutes of new material are four remixes more characteristic of Audiobulb's established style. Calika and Zachov contribute separate versions of “Sing,” Calika's a breezy take that lightens the original's mood without sacrificing its essence and Zachov's a downtempo, quasi-ambient overhaul that intensifies the cryptic quality of the Grübel cut. In similar manner, Autistici and Ed Phase give “I Felt Weird' individuating makeovers, with Autistici's an audacious fusion of funky dance rhythms and electroacoustic scene-painting and Ed Phase's a ousing microhouse treatment aimed straight for the dancefloor. The remixes are certainly credible enough re-imaginings of the EP tracks, but it's Grübel's originals that are this release's primary drawing card.

December 2014