Studio Pankow: Linienbusse
City Centre Offices

Though the gentlemen comprising Studio Pankow—Jamie Hodge, Kai Kroker, and David Moufang (Move D)—have issued material on labels like Warp, Plus 8, and Plug Research, Linienbusse's sound is most heavily indebted to Moufang's Source Records imprint. Rooted in studio improvisations, the album's eleven tracks find his sleek stylings merged with Hodge's organic techno in three sessions recorded between 1999 and 2004 at Kroker's Berlin studio, the setting which inspired the group's name.

It's a long trip at seventy-seven minutes, but a gloriously scenic one with the trio's initial stop an overture of classic Source Records funk stylings at “Heidelberger Platz.” Immediately establishing the pristine clarity of the album's deeply textured sound, the piece is smooth and machine-like, with a laconic groove accompanied by keyboard burble and overlaid by waves of electronic smears and showers. “Siemensdamm” follows, reminiscent of Monolake in its sleek sheen and focus on rich, supple detailing. The album shifts stylistically when a bubbly bass line snakes its way through a maze of handclaps, echoing chimes, and fat synth burble in the superb cyborg-funk of “Jungfernheide,” but then enters a broiling dub-scape of metallic smears, galloping pulses, and rippling textures in the stunning “Zoologischer Garten” that recalls Chain Reaction in all its cold glory. Even more epic, the seventeen-minute “Ruhleben” cruises through the nether regions of some remote galaxy, though Rawell's exotic thai flute adds a more earth-bound touch to its distant meanderings. Elsewhere, a jazzier side comes forth on the effervescent if fleeting “Zitadelle” while “Pank Strasse” pushes the group's funk into deeper tribal zones. The album ends with Moufang adding minimal piano accents to a swirling undertow in “Linienbusse” (previously heard on the Source Records opensource.code compilation).

Tracks like “Siemensdamm” and “Ruhleben” sound much like Monolake's material—one could easily imagine the steely showers percolating throughout “Jessner Strasse” being credited to Robert Henke in a Blindfold Test, for example—though that doesn't greatly surprise given the musicians' shared obsession with music software and dub-techno styles. In fact, it's not a promising sign when Studio Pankow dedicates an album to “the mighty Nord Modular” and follows song titles with software details (Cubase, Logic Audio) but you'd be remiss in dismissing Linienbusse as a collection of mere technology fetishism. While it's obviously state-of-the-art in production quality and execution, it's the material that comes first, with technology serving the album's strong compositional ends.

May 2005