ublic spaces, waiting rooms—places to sit, sure, but also emptiness. An ordinary chair from a government bureau or a train station. So what? Well, maybe it’s the lighting, or the inherent pornography of all good Modernism, but there’s something deadly sexy about that chair. It beckons your eye as much as your behind. But more than the object itself and the practical elegance it radiates, the image and its methods of manufacture—the lenses, the lights, the emulsions—all contribute to making something that, like all artfully formed Modern objects, take delight in being carefully designed to be beautiful in a way that hides both the care and the delicacy with which they’re built. All we’re left with is a luminous simplicity.
It’s this kind of consideration that German producer David Moufang, Move D, projected onto Kunststoff over a decade ago: like the cover and its resonances, this is a beautiful, functional, and sturdily constructed work. Even a cursory listen to the album reveals arrangements that are obviously the result of endless hours spent practicing with and tuning in each individual machine. It’s the kind of deep knowledge that few people working with loops, plug-ins, and presets, achieve today. Like the best electronica of late, Kunststoff was built slowly, with each drum hit fashioned “by hand.” Not only that, but each of these carefully constructed sounds has a deliberate and necessary place in the finished composition—the removal of any one part would render the whole incomplete; the addition of anything else would be superfluous.
The album opens with a classic house piano line, layers of carefully tuned drums, and burping acid in the background. “Sandman” has a Kraftwerkian highway cruise feel, while “Hood” takes things to the floor, with tight 808 beats, swirling, melting synth textures, and a gliding bassline. “Beyond the Machine” shows the affinity between Move D’s work and Roman Flügel’s pop-ambient excursions as Eight Miles High. And like Flügel, that other master of European techno, Move D’s works always retain the groove as a structural referent in the design principle—each particular moment serves the overall movement. Even when the beats fall away and expose the spaces behind, you can still feel the pulse. The album’s two closers really loosen these structures: “Trist,” with its marble chasms of drums, distant piano, and lonesome organ, and finally the sublime “Xing the Jordan/Seven” which slowly falls away into deep space.
This album is the hidden connector between the Warp classics of the ’90s, the deep house and techno of the American pioneers, and contemporary meditations on these motifs by artists like Lawrence, Andy Stott, and Tobias. A sleeper classic, this timely re-release should have the effect of finding this empty chair an audience it deserves and finally see it recognised as the classic it unreservedly is. The fact that some of its tracks are now nearly fifteen years old is doubly striking. Hearing Kunststoff is a reminder, both of the timelessness of good music, and of how quickly, in a genre obsessed by the latest hype production, we forget the fundamental lessons of the old masters.
Reviewed by: Peter Chambers
Reviewed on: 2007-03-15
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