REVIEW Various Artists ‘Doppelgänger EP’ [Keinemusik]

The Berlin-based collective of like-minded free-spirits, and part-time crusaders for self-expression, Keinemusik, are not ones to try and fit into a mold. With diverse musical influences and a complacent presence in the electronic music community, quite influential especially in their home-base, Berlin; the ‘crue’s’ producers/DJs thrive on their DIY approach and nonconformist attitude, both in their musical and life styles. Through the boys’ freestyle sets (and for those with hair, hairstyles), unique (sometimes bizarre) collaborations and B2Bs (and again, for those with hair, hairstyles), go-with-the-flow productions, (and again, for those with hair, hairstyles), down to their hand-made album arts by resident designer and crue-member Monja, Keinemusik breeds individualism. Notice that even their label logo is handwritten; and no repeated letter are exactly alike.

And in essence, this is what we are dealing with here, the 3-track EP, ‘Doppelgänger’, titled after the German word/English loanword, from two substantives ‘doppel’ and ‘gänger’, literally translated as ‘double-goer’, but by definition a look-alike who physically (or less frequently, behaviorally) poses close, almost identical semblance to an already existing being. After 37 releases since its inception in 2009, Keinemusik conspires with three artists from unparallel sects of the electronic music genre, to rework/reinterpret their previously released tracks; but in true Keinemusik fashion, intrinsically just provide platforms for congenerous but entirely new entities.

On their 27th release, Keinemusik introduced an unconventional Adam Port in ‘I Never Wear Black’, unconventional in terms of Port’s style, but also in a sense of pulling of a rhapsodic, somewhat bouncy, a tad bohemian chic (no pun intended) out of the traditionally melancholic A minor key. On the A-Side of Doppelgänger, the Moscow born-and-bred duo, Simple Symmetry warms up the EP by aptly applying the golden (in chromesthetic studies) ‘key of glory’ to Port’s track. Offering the most drastic key note change of the compilation, the duo asserts its singularity from the original right at the get go. They identified Port’s steady bassline as the focal point of symmetry in this remix, and from there they went off tangent, and quite to the extreme.

The original’s tribal elements, driven by an organic guitar sound are drowned by synthetic treatment in this melodramatic celestial journey. An aggressive electrical onset propels the track rapidly in its forward-moving escape. A seductive chant, coupled with an ascending snare drum roll and brash shocks of electric guitar, builds up a strong climax, until the gates of what could be heaven or perhaps just a change in pigmentation, are reached. A more realistic groove subsists, a grounding rhythm reinvigorates the track, the tangible can again be touched.

The melancholic, self-questioning byproduct of &ME’s experimental man-handle and the hypnotic sinister vocals of English singer/songwriter Fink, finds its mystical ‘doppelganger’ a year, and four releases later. Youngest of the three originals reinterpreted in this EP, One-on-One, undergoes quite a cabalistic transformation in the hands of the New York based, widely-traveled duo, Bedouin. Rami Abousabe and Tamer Malki who may be literally or just figuratively “Bedouins”, unveil their Middle Eastern roots and its influence on their artistry through a meditative, whimsical approach to the original track, by incorporating organic sound elements that resonate with the melodic nature of Middle Eastern music.

In Bedouin culture, more particularly, oral poetry takes ascendancy – secondary to herding of camels, perhaps – and it is no surprise that Abousabe and Malki, out of 37 options, selected to deconstruct and reconstruct KM’s 34th installation. Fink’s stentorian croon sets proper fuselage for necromantic penetration into our auricular kinesthesia, and Bedouin’s smooth and artfully-fragmented infusion of percussion and string complements and supplements it at appropriate proportions. It is mainly Fink at the crux of the two tracks’ semblance, Bedouin did not hesitate to deviate far off from the Keinemusik producer extraordinaire’s avant-garde style. Attune to the essence of the fast-emerging spirituality-driven, co-individuality-seeking, world music culture, Bedouin’s remix of ‘One on One’ was set to stand on its own identity, and on that pursuit, mastered some kind of ritualistic petrifaction that forgets the beautiful underchassis of &ME’s original track. This is a wise and confident new character, a ‘doppelgänger’ against its will.

After surviving Simple Symmetry’s intergalactic voyage into chromatic subdimensions and Bedouin’s nomadic pilgrimage into the mystical realms of pure rhythmic submission, Doppelganger wraps up in an introspective expedition with Redshape’s remix of Rampa’s ‘Newborn Soul’, leaving it to the man behind the red mask and an unnamed vocalist to address identity crises at hand.

The re(d)shape deviates from the tribal, housey. earth-driven original on its onstart, adding a relatively strong bassline with a kick-drum punch absent from its predecessor; and a shorter, much less organic but somewhat less tense build up to the first climax, through the prophetic lyric: ‘I feel like a Newborn Soul.’ While the original draws on Afro deep house tribal elements to lend a bluesy, melancholic feel to the vocal, Redshape summons on his signature dark, electro-techno style and familiarity with Detroit techno, to deliver an effective new wave feel, and with firm thuds, a complex layering of reverb, synth, clean vocals, and a steady rhythmic bassline, achieve the criteria for Electronic Body Music which effortlessly puts bodies inside beats, and it may be no surprise, can encourage undressing masks – in literal or in terms of pretenses or reservations – across dancefloors. The vocal is same; BPM, key notes is same; afro roots, albeit through different channels (deep Afro house vs. Afro-jazz by means of Detroit) but this EP closer is not a reborn ‘Newborn Soul’, it is a Doppelgänger, reformed in its own way.

Simple Symmetry, Bedouin and Redshape succeeded in connecting their styles with an element of Keinemusik culture in which they found resonance and chemistry with their own. In a world ridden with identity crises and tortured egos, ‘Doppelgänger(s)’ can be an intimidating phenomena, even characterized as evil and paranormal in some cultures and traditions. However, as all five artists had demonstrated in this EP, having left the Keinemusik crue and their artistry unharmed and untainted through this rather far-traveled expedition, it is quite delightful to come to terms with our similarities and differences, and within them, is art.

‘Doppelgänger EP’ was released September 11th, 2017 on Keinemusik. (Marie J Floro)