Fritz Kalkbrenner: Suol Mates

A telling moment surfaces halfway through German producer Fritz Kalkbrenner's Suol Mates mix that inadvertently speaks volumes about its stylistic character: in any typical electronic dance mix, a track by Lawrence would sound perfectly at home and be a seamless part of the flow; in Kalkbrenner's set, however, the elegant house of “Precious Hall is the anomaly, the oddity amidst a grouping of exuberant soul, funk, hip-hop, and even disco cuts. No matter: Suol Mates is a fabulous mix for the very reason that it emphasizes the earthier side of things rather than anything micro- or minimal-related.

The mix is distinguished by a number things, its focus on tasty soul samples, pulsating funk bass lines, and deep crate digging first and foremost among them, and its consistently high quality level not far behind. Kalkbrenner also includes a couple of his own tracks and sings on both, too. That in itself isn't new—his vocal debut actually came about in 2002 when he appeared on Sascha Funke's “Now You Know”—but what is interesting is to discover just how much his singing on the bluesy “Ruby Lee” in isolated moments suggests a rather less flamboyant Elton John, of all things.

If anyone's wondering why the set opts for such an old-school, crate-digging vibe, the explanation is simple: the Suol Mates series is predicated upon the idea of delving into the musical history of the artist mixing it, and so is, in this case, primarily an hour-long ride through classic funk, soul, and hip-hop cuts. Kalkbrenner's love for the latter, for example, comes through loud and clear in the inclusion of deep cuts by Pete Rock (“Back On Da Block”) and the gone-but-never-forgotten J Dilla (the hypnotic “Won't Do”).

Many a track hits magnificently hard, including Black Milk's Dilla-esque “U's A Freak B*tch (Instrumental),” which jumpstarts the mix and primes it for Roy Ayers' old-school funk-fusion workout “Funk in the Hole,” all warm electric pianos and strings, and Plantlife's equally sunkissed “When She Smiles She Lights the Sky.” Other highlights include the melancholy funk of RJD2's “Clean Living,” the serenading splendour of Robag Wruhme's set-closer “Robellada,” and the bass-thundering slam of Memoryman's “Sleepless Disco Night,” Boo Williams' “Fruits Of The Spirit,” and Missing Linkx's “Got A Minute.” And some of the material is glorious, no matter when it was created. Issued in 2008, Owusu and Hannibal's luscious “Lonnie's Secret” will still be just as transporting twenty years from now as it is today, I expect, and Fantastic Man's euphoric “From Start To Finish” sounds equally timeless.

March 2012