Alex Niggemann: Paranoid Funk
Poker Flat Recordings

Issued on Steve Bug's Poker Flat Recordings, Paranoid Funk presents sixty-seven minutes of soulful house music by Berlin-based producer and classically trained pianist Alex Niggemann. His debut album is unquestionably polished on execution grounds if not always as distinguished in the quality of its compositional material. It's an affable, eleven-track set that's grounded in chunky bass lines and tight 4/4 grooves and often elevated by the inclusion of guest vocalists.

“Don't Wait” opens the album on a strong note, the song's soulful pulse and claps augmented by a reverb-heavy vocal and radiant synths and the groove sweetened with an insistent rising hook. The track also effectively spotlights Niggemann's expert handling of mood and pacing in its mid-song breakdown and recovery. The subsequent “The Sweetest Thing” is comparatively rather more of a mood piece, though it's hard to deny the impact of its funky house vibe, especially when it overlays its lush percolations with a female vocalist's deep house croon. Up next is “Curious,” which tries to compensate for the absence of vocals in featuring a strong central bass melody and a powerful rhythm attack; on production grounds, the track is faultless, but it's ultimately less memorable than the opening pair. Buoyed by a stomping 4/4 groove, “Easy Love” (featuring Wareika member Florian Schirmacher) returns us to the quality level of “The Sweetest Thing” if in a slightly darker and even more club-ready form.

Niggemann wisely throws in a few curve balls along the way. Starlight flourishes, for example, lend “Parentless Child” a somewhat Italo flavour, a move that in turn adds to the track's already widescreen presentation. He's resourceful, too, as shown by the sampled vocal snippets borrowed (I believe) from Smokey Robinson's “Being With You” and threaded into the driving tech-house banger “I Don't Care.” Even something as stripped-down as “That Is...!?” proves satisfying in its detailed mix of bass rumble, hi-hat slink, and jacking pulse. What at first glance appears slight ends up in this case being a seductive exercise in spacey modern house. By contrast, the field recordings-heavy (people talking and traffic noise) “Street Therapy” is a long-form jam that's too melodically lean to justify a nearly ten-minute duration, even if it does rise to a nice build-up at the seven-minute mark. Paranoid Funk is an album, then, of mostly hits and a few misses—no game changer but still a generally satisfying collection of well-produced electronic house music.

June 2012