Stimming: Reflections

Though the tracks Martin Stimming features on his seventy-four-minute debut album could be classified as minimal, the Hamburg-based producer also has an artful talent for dressing up his stylish tracks with all manner of aural colour: a percussive rattle and synthesizer splatter here, a zither strum and off-beat snare crack there. “One Weekend,” for example, manages to squeeze in dramatic strings, a field recording (rainfall), stabbing micro-synth melodies, claps, and a softly lurching pulse into six action-packed minutes. Rather than emphasizing a heavy bottom end, the typical Stimming track is rhythmically stripped-down, a bit dubby in production style, and anchored by a nimble-footed, mid-tempo strut over which tiny melodies sing and textural accents mingle. Many tracks hew to an even-keeled mood, the obvious exceptions “Sunday Morning,” which gradually builds to a dramatic orchestral crescendo before slipping back into lulling mode, and “Fruits of Life,” whose woozy motifs and clackety-clack rhythms alternately rise and fall in intensity.

“Song for Isabelle” nicely slathers its breezy house pulse with an off-kilter dub sensibility but Reflections' most memorable track is arguably the snappy strutter “After Eight,” whose major hook is a foreign-sounding voice sample (something like “waddy goo kaka”) that adds just the right touch to the tune's jacking pulse. Also strong, the sleek house ravers “The Beauty” and “The Kiss” burn with a Detroit-styled urgency that's largely downplayed elsewhere. Clearly the anomaly of the album's eleven tracks, “The Loneliness” adds Stimming's soulful drawl and a wailing harmonica to the song's string-heavy mix. Though initially a tad disconcerting, the track's appeal grows with each listen, and his impassioned vocal delivery gives the album an emotional boost that's kept under tight control elsewhere. Reflections' high-quality material makes good on the promise of earlier Stimming releases on Freerange, Buzzin' Fly, and Liebe*Detail.

April 2009