Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Ninja Tune
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Left-Field House
For over 25 years, Coldcut’s Ninja Tune has been fearlessly predicting cutting edge electronic music with almost scientific zeal, minting the future while never losing sight of beat-driven music’s illustrious past, irreverent punk attitude or audacious experimentation. This mischievous ethos has rarely been better displayed than on this often uneasy listening set from Berlin-based, old-school activist DJs Graef and Astro who, after name-making solo careers, came together last year to form their Money $ex imprint as a platform for their woozy marriages of obscure vinyl sensibility and startling aural foraging. Tracks such as samba-boosted first single Magic Johnson, banger Where The Fuck Are My Hard Boiled Eggs?! and Flat Peter blurrily mangle jazz-funk, minimal techno and early house into disorientating dreamscapes where nothing is how it seems.
Max Graef from Berlin, and Glenn Astro from Essen, are individually associated with Copenhagen’s Tartelet records, and together run their own Money $ex imprint – but it’s Ninja Tune that’s snapped them up for their first album together. And it’s a trippy little cracker of a thing. There’s a lot of early-2000s Herbert here – the unerring and uncanny melding of jazz instrumentation with micro-detailed electronics and house shuffle – but with a more rugged, hip hop cut-and-shunt feel, all turntablist licks and sampler-bashing spontaneity, and a very narcotic sense of sounds warping and melting into each other.
Essen’s Glenn Astro and Berlin’s Max Graef are dedicated vinyl buffs. Cold, mechanical dance tracks don’t get them hot under the collar. For the most part they favour deeply dug nuggets of jazz, disco and rare groove. Where once that manifested in their music as sample chunks layered in crackly breakbeats and dusted 4/4, now they’ve abandoned samples in favour of live instruments and played in riffs, chopped up and thrown into spicy, flavoursome stews of modern beat science.
The first collaborative full-length by Berlin-based producers Max Graef and Glenn Astro is a strange trip that gleefully dismantles house music conventions. It offers a different take on the tape-damaged lo-fi house sound of labels like L.I.E.S. and The Trilogy Tapes, one that's more informed by London's broken beat scene and golden age hip-hop production.
After teasing us with two EPs and other brief collaborations, Max Graef and Glenn Astro now deliver The Yard Work Simulator, their first album as a team. While it doesn't offer up anything too unexpected, it does make good on the promise the duo's work up to now has shown. Fans of left-field house, funk, hip-hop and jazz will all find something to their liking on this set of extra gritty and kinetic instrumentals.Graef and Astro stay committed to a few essential building blocks throughout Yard Work.
Max Graef and Glenn Astro seem like a natural fit. On their few productions together, as well as their label Money $ex Records, their individual styles have instinctively mirrored and complemented each other. This is at least partially due to a shared digger's mentality: Graef and Astro's solo tracks pull sounds from jazz, hip-hop, funk, disco and soul.