Release Date: Nov 12, 2013
Record label: Kompakt
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Electronica, Techno, Club/Dance
Although he had been busy with some high profile 12"s and projects -- up to and including Fainting by Numbers, his duo with Hot Chip member Alexis Taylor -- Justus Köhncke spent five years away from the album format when this 2013 release landed, cheeky cover and all. Don't get it twisted because Köhncke is still a German techno producer worthy of being on the lofty roster of Kompakt. He's also one of the label's most fun and lighthearted artists, charming listeners with the busy and cute bleeps that bubble throughout the late album highlight "Nucleus Accumbens," or borrowing the sunshine vibe of Nile Rodgers and Chic with happy disco rollers like "A New Direction.
Perennial Kompakt Records producer Justus Köhncke's first album in five years has been described as his poppiest collection of songs to date, but to call anything on Justus Köhncke & the Wonderful Frequency Band pop-oriented may come off as a stretch to anyone not familiar with the Cologne-based technoist. Still kilometres away from anything resembling UK, French or Chicago house, much of the material on Köhncke's fifth LP actually follows the similar paths of his early works. Layering clean piano accents with popping beats and earworm samples, it's Köhncke's production and structure that gives songs like "Tell Me" and "Nucleus Accumbens" their gooey textures.
As Cologne’s Kompakt ran out the final length of its yearlong 20th anniversary victory lap in 2013, it did so with the faint whiff of a label whose later output has been rendered slightly stale by repetition. This is a familiar paradox for lots of iconic imprints in their golden years, especially those whose worldview is more constitutional than searching: the more blueprinted and carefully curated an aesthetic, the more difficult it is to evolve. Over the last 20 years, Kompakt’s make a mark on dance music, honed its neatly-defined output down to pure science and put a tidy frame around it’s history.
Justus Köhncke is the kind of free spirit who frustrates even his own fans. The Kompakt mainstay has consistently split opinion with his vocal style, his feather-light disco tracks and the mischievous nature of his left-field house. Justus Köhncke & The Wonderful Frequency Band, his first album in five years, will likely be just as divisive. Köhncke is a serious musician, but he has little time for accepted notions of good taste.
Rumour has it that Justus Köhncke, Eric D. Clark and Hans Nieswandt are planning on reviving Whirlpool Productions. The trio scored a big hit with 'From: Disco to: Disco' in the 90s, reaching a number one position in Italy in the summer of 1997. Not a bad idea, considering the current disco revival.
If the title wasn’t clue enough, the opening field recording of Köhncke’s new album – a walk through the rain to the sound of r’n’b harmonica blues and ‘Rock Around The Clock’ – gives an idea of the veteran producer’s intentions for his new album. Mixing DIY disco, ’90s sensibilities, ‘00s Euro dance and, in one case, a country ballad, the result is a kind of maximal schlager (to this non-German, at any rate). References abound to the house, techno and disco that Köhncke is known for, but all are quickly assimilated as the base for indie band boogie and Kompakt vocal pop songs.