Melchior Productions: The Meaning

Thomas Melchior weighs in with eleven swinging microhouse cuts on The Meaning, his first solo album for the German label Playhouse. There's an unhurried and mellow vibe to the set, and, while a track's opening minute appears to signal where it's headed the rest of the way, closer listening reveals Melchior's artfully applied modulations, such as hi-hat patterns that subtly change from clipped to open. His style leans towards understatement; “Zukunft In English,” for example, interweaves a mere four elements—a skipping beat, syncopated bass lines, a “future” vocal tic, and steely, dubbed-out keyboards—and yet maintains interest in spite of such minimalism. The album opens with the rather low-key simmer of “Que Pasa,” its smooth beats riding on a soft droning wave and sweetened by vibes shimmer and vocal hiccups. “Got Me” impresses more, as Melchior carefully layers the titular vocal fragment with jazz piano accents and a slinky, flute-like melody, and even finds room for an acoustic bass spotlight. The peak comes midway through, though, with the dreamy “Over The Rise” which funkily rolls along on a floating cloud of sheathed hi-hats, glistening electronics, and an irresistible “Oh yeah” hook. The sunny vibe intensifies further with “Everyone's A Winner” whose supple uplift is vaguely reminiscent of Luomo. Still, The Meaning is weakened by its length; at almost eighty minutes, shortening tracks like “Deep Steps” and the nine minute closer “It's Coming” would have made the album feel more cohesive. That's a relatively small complaint, however, that's quickly forgotten when the swaggering hi-hats and thumping bass drum in “…Love Was” kick in to generate an hypnotic house groove that slowly intensifies before ultimately dissolving in a cloudburst.

October 2004