Steffi: Yours & Mine
Ostgut Ton

What a splendid offering this is from Steffi Doms and the Ostgut Ton stable. Stylistically speaking, Steffi's debut artist album, Yours & Mine, sounds like the work of someone who initially apprenticed with Lawrence before striking out on her own into clubland and then checked into the studio to lay down the road-tested material. Both producers favour elegance and serenity in their tracks, with one key difference the clubbier edge Steffi brings to her tracks in contrast to the pastoral splendour of Lawrence's. Doms is no neophyte, as material by her appeared on Ostgut Ton prior to the new album, including “24 Hours” (featured on Tama Sumo's Panorama Bar mix) and “My Room” (included on the Fünf compilation). Her first full album it may well be, but it's nevertheless fully-formed.

The music's deep house strain is intimated by the dreamy opening track, “Lilo,” though subtly, with the focus equally split between rhythmic propulsion and synthetic colour. The cut captures beautifully the euphonious and mellifluous qualities of Steffi's sound, especially when a soaring synth melody drapes itself across the tune's locomotive pitter-patter. The more club-ready “Piem” hits harder with a heavy, bass-throbbing pulse and house swing that goes ever more deep as the cut develops. Handclaps, hi-hats, and synth stabs add to the feverish flow in a luscious dancefloor cut that's equally earthy and classy.

That deep house dimension is suggested by the instrumental tracks but comes fully to the fore during the two vocal cuts, in part because of Virginia Högl's vocal presence. Her delivery is in keeping with Steffi's: classy and anything but over-the-top, and Högl proves to be the perfect addition to Steffi's mix (the two collaborated previously on the Reasons EP for Underground Quality, and Högl also has worked with figures such as Steve Bug and Abe Duque). On “Yours,” Högl's sexy vocal complements deliciously the song's funky swing and chunky synth chords, resulting in one of the album's most alluring tracks. Her hushed vocal later nudges “You Own My Mind” into a soulful zone that Steffi's more than happy to follow with her own subdued array of sounds.

Every one of the nine pieces oozes craft and polish, whether it be an earthy club workout (“Manic Moods”), string-drenched house cut (“Arms”), or electro-fied tech-house jam (“Mine”). The retro-futurism of “Mine” is revisited in “Nightspacer” when a muscular groove pushes indomitably forward, and the tune's impact is forcibly enhanced when a breakdown reduces the cut to its bass line and synth stabs before building it up again. The presence of a simple keyboard melody and congas in “Moving Lips” collapses even more the distance separating Steffi and Lawrence, so much so that the track conceivably could be identified as a Lawrence production. Harmonious and buffed, Steffi's music sparkles seductively and entrances the listener with its warmth and controlled exuberance, and there is a level of finesse about Yours & Mine that elevates it above the norm.

March 2011