REVIEW Âme ‘Dream House’ [Innervisions]

Kristian Beyer and Frank Wiedemann alias Âme are probably Germany’s most profitable export when it comes to contemporary electronic music. Starting off with releases on Jazzanova’s Sonar Kollektiv in 2003, the duo founded their own label, Innervisions, with like-minded artist Dixon only two years later. With their EP, ‘Rej’, which marked the second release on the label, the duo created one of House music’s essential records of the noughties. But instead of resting on their laurels or following a more commercially successful path in the first place Kristian and Frank remained true to their musical credo ‘good things take their time’ and took one step after another not emphasizing on time-wise matters. Their unagitated approach to both, music and its handling, has paved the duo’s way to become one of the scene’s most in-demand artists duos in recent years. Now after 18 years of their ongoing artistic career as a production duo, Kristian and Frank have finally finalized their first LP, ‘Dream House’, which features eleven genre-overlapping tracks and depicts their various musical influences that vary between Krautrock, NDW (Neue Deutsche Welle), Techno, and a gentle breeze of minimalistic and tribalistic features, which in combination all form Âme’s trademark sound.

‘Dream House’ starts with the beatless but still tension-inducing and curiosity-arousing ‘The Line’, featuring vocals by the duo’s longtime friend Matthew Herbert, and deals in a metaphorical sense with the artists’ thirst for newness and the courage to overcome musical boundaries when producing an album, their album. The verse ‘bring it on, it’s time to start’, repeated all through the track, depicts Âme’s spirit of optimism in order to create the aformentioned newness by resorting to something already existing. Nevertheless by reducing the track to melody-supporting sounds and vocals, as well as skipping a bassline, the duo prepares its listeners for the impending musical experience that stretches long and wide.

The 11-track voyage continues with the melodical and techy influenced cut ‘Queen Of Toys’, a whirlwind of eclectic electronic soundscapes evocative of a whimsical and equally hypnotic cyber fantasia. In contrast to ‘The Line’, the proceeding track comes along with a stomping bassline that bursts the calmness of the opening number, but still connects to it on a harmonic level. The interspersed vocal snippets careens listeners to the NDW-influenced third track of the album, ‘Gerne’, featuring Gudrun Gut. The 60-year old singer, who has been involved with Berlin’s alternative music and art scene since the mid-seventies, makes a major contribution to Âme‘s lately, newly and again emerging love for ‘Neue Deutsche Welle’. The track portrays an ambiguity in many ways: as the 80s stand for a decade of rebellion, a rejection from various standards and values expressed through music and fashion, the lyrical I in ‘Gerne’ is torn between following a rebellious approach or moving on to another chapter.

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Picture by Katja Ruge

In Âme’s case the duo accepted ambivalence and steered a middle way. ‘Deadlocked’ takes listeners back to the LP’s initial calmness, however and in contrast to ‘The Line’ two major differences exist. Firstly the aforedescribed ease is created by a bassline that clings to the guitar riffs and secondly it gives way to an emerging Krautrock influence and presence when drums set in and highlight the melody in a different and more genre-fusing manner.

Frank and Kristian then guide their listeners fully sighted through ‘Blind Eye’, a track that has to be examined carefully as it covers a vast number of meeting extremes. The track is Âme’s most pop-rock-ish, most melodical and most controversial piece of music on the album. Featuring singer Planningtorock, whose voice is transformed and modulated and hence cannot be classified as male or female. ‘Blind Eye’ lyrically deals with an inner strife as listeners find themselves confronted with the catchiness of the melody. All elements combined exponentially, emphasize the album’s topic of ambiguity.

‘Positivland’ gives the lost and torn souls a well-deserved rest focusing on the duo’s preference for Krautrock-influenced music. The frequently repeated loop combing guitar riffs and piano chords continues where ‘Deadlocked’ stopped and has the listener overcome ambiguity, or not. Hence it is to say that ambiguity is created with every other track and schematically grounded in the album. Even when the topic is not particularly brought up in one of the tracks, it is omnipresent.

‘Positivland’ smoothly bridges over to ‘Helicona’, a melodic techno track, whose synths twirl and curl in the background of the primary melody before stepping out of its shadow to remind the headphone-listener as well as the clubber of another musical chapter in Kristian and Frank’s tremendous musical career. ‘Helicona’ somehow seems to be the missing link to take Âme’s ‘Dream House’-approach and musical depiction to the next level and turn over a new leaf.

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Picture by Katja Ruge

As mentioned in the beginning the Innervisions label-honchos link their musical past with present and further ideas of futuristic sounding elements in their music. ‘Futuro Antico’, meaning ‘ancient future’, therefore is not to be perceived as antithetical, even though the title is, but rather as a process that has its starting point in the past and influences present and future artistical approaches. ‘Futuro Antico’ is the ongoing development of Âme’s soundscapes that is both: musically grounded in their past and their album. With the track coming along like a modern symphony representing hope and nostalgia, it smoothly paves the way for the album’s peak track ‘No War’.

Choral singing paired with tribalistic elements create an almost holy and clerical atmosphere in which one finds salvation. In addition, the slapping yet muted bassline makes one want to surrender to the beauty of the conflict between the pureness of the chant and the pain of the hitting bass. ‘No War’ depicts the opposite scenario as the title suggests. Overcoming your inner warrior as part of an intrinsically motivated fight might see one battle the ghosts that one called upon.

Horns mark the start of the second last track ‘Give Me Your Ghost’. Sword-alike sounds march through them as a synth-sequence sets in and is accompanied by Jens Kuross’ voice. The lyrical I prompts to give him/her ‘your ghost’. The track then seizes on the aspect of an inner conflict that is not apparent from an outer perspective and stresses a feeling of ambiguity once more, before Âme release its listeners with almost bird-like sounding chimes to the final chapter of their intimate and personal trip through their souls.

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Picture by Katja Ruge

‘Olderado’, a neogolism, goes back to Âme’s krauty musical roots or inspirations, but in the context of the album the track’s meaning is slightly different than ‘Deadlocked’ or ‘Positivland’. ‘Olderado’ can be interpreted as the departure to ‘old Eldorado’, with ‘Eldorado’ being the mystified gold digger town in South America from former times or in the present it means: you have to dig deep into your past to overcome your inner struggles. If that is ever possible and desirable is questionable as those circumstances brought us an album that was inspired by this very ambiguity.

‘Dream House’ is one of the most intimate musical pieces Âme have compiled and produced throughout their career, taking its listener not solely through the duo’s eclectic musical influences but rather on a ‘road trip’ of ambiguity and finding your inner peace. The latter seems to be the most appropriate approach to interpret and understand the album in its entirety, while each track or rather the combination of sound-units represent a stage in both, Frank and Kristian’s personal as well musical relationship and being. ‘Dream House’ perfectly arranges soundscapes in contrast to the broached interpersonal and musical episodes and create a perfect imperfection that is reflected in every tone, in every sequence, but leaves its listener with one little taint: as ‘Oldorado’ closes the 62 minute long LP with its dreamy and propitiate atmosphere it evokes the impression as if the duration of this peaceful moment goes short and leaves the listener with the fear of having to wait another 18 years for it to continue.

Âme’s album ‘Dream House’ will be released June 1st, 2018 on Innervisions. (Holger)