Oliver Schories: Fields Without Fences

How does a house producer separate his/her artist album from the crowd? One way Hamburg's Oliver Schories accomplishes this on Fields Without Fences, his third studio album in four years and first full-length on his own SOSO imprint, is by personalizing his sound with vocals, which in this case often means a deep and unusual baritone that brands the material with a strongly distinctive character. In contrast to the downtempo vibe of his previous collection Exit, the new release centers on dancefloor cuts without compromising on the personalized sound he's established thus far in his career.

The opener “Undisguised” offers a powerful argument in support of Schories' approach. While the track's dance dimension is well-accounted for in its intricately interwoven percussive design and swinging pulse, Schories elevates the cut's club foundation with a plaintive vocal delivery as well as a marauding bass pulse and a recurring background ping. It's a remarkable production, in other words, that succeeds as both body-moving club jam and melancholy vocal song.

Even those tracks that feel primarily targeted at the dancefloor are artful: while on the one hand, “Copilot” might be described as a club banger, it impresses as something more than a typical 4/4 exercise when Schories darkens its kinetic pulse with heavily treated vocal accents that ooze a disturbing vibe (not the only time that occurs, by the way, as evidenced by “Homeboy,” among others) and a creeping bass swarm. In equally memorable manner, he powers the seductive house strut of “Brizzle” with an irresistibly funky bounce, polyphonic voice accents, and near-subliminal synth swizzle.

During “In Other Words,” an undulating bass line snakes its way through the track's undergrowth while Schories' voice surfaces in the form of a haunting “Let me know” refrain. His voice isn't the only one entering the fray, incidentally: an alien female voice, for instance, purrs across the 4/4 dramatics of “Daily Routines,” though it's entirely possible that it's the same voice that appears everywhere else but here more radically altered. The album repeatedly showcases Schories' gift for melody and hooks, and even the most stripped-down of its twelve deep house tracks is elevated by an entrancing riff or vocal treatment of one kind or another. At seventy-eight minutes, Fields Without Fences is arguably longer than it needs to be, but arguing in its favour is the fact that the quality level remains consistently high from start to finish.

May 2015