Martin Schulte: Slow Beauty

Slow Beauty is a somewhat apt title for Martin Schulte's fifth full-length: it certainly includes more than its share of beautiful moments, but it's rarely slow. That's especially significant in this case because the style of music Kazan, Russia-based Marat Shibaev produces under the Martin Schulte alias is fundamentally dub-techno, which is often characterized by a more laid-back handling of tempo and intensity. The ten tracks on the hour-long Slow Beauty, on the other hand, are often uptempo and exude more of the jubilant spirit associated with deep house. Each of the tracks evidences a marked attention to detail and hews to a general six- to seven-minute running time.

Many of the earmarks of dub-techno are firmly on place, such as aquatic chords and echo- and reverb-drenched atmosphere, but the production polish Shibaev brings to the tracks helps keep the material fresh. A model of arrangement and design, “Restoration” derives its effervescent thrust from a rolling, cymbal-accented techno pulse and the deep ambient atmosphere Shibaev builds from panning chords and synthesizer stabs. “Floating” and “Resistance” glide serenely, their swirling, Chain Reaction-styled textures amplified by house-styled grooves that “Aquarell” pushes to an even more explicit degree in its swishing hi-hats.

Percussive sounds advance and recede within a given track's deep mix, which reinforces the music's pliable quality. And when a relatively unchanging rhythm base is deployed (such as during “Horizon”), he makes sure that enough stimulation is happening on top to keep the listener engaged. Having said that, Slow Beauty also turns out to be a rather soothing listen, even when techno rhythms are factored into the equation. Alongside their musical elements, “Mental” and “Lights” include sounds that suggest water gently crashing ashore, which strengthens their already laid-back feel. At such moments, the album title does, in fact, begin to seem more than a little apt.

February 2013