Album: Timo Maas

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The Independent Culture

For his first album proper, after the compilations Music for the Maases and Connected, the German techno stylist Timo Maas offers an interesting set of variations on what he calls his "wet'n'hard" sound – everything from hustling Eighties stompers such as "Old Skool Vibes" to sunset chill-outs such as the closing "Bad Days". Tracks tend to loom into view via shuddering waves of resonant noise, then head straight for the dancefloor, where intriguing shapes are thrown by the treated samples and synth-lines that provide most of Maas's hooks, such as the liquid swirl of reversed guitar at the heart of "Hash Driven" and the bass vocoder belch that drives "Hard Life". Occasionally, he takes the opposite course, as when the rootsy jungle-conga groove of "Like Love" is overtaken by a sprawl of electronic noise and synth pulses. Most familiar is last year's Top 40 hit "Ubik", a slice of crisp breakbeat techno featuring Martin Bettinghaus declaiming mysteriously about being "on a vicious dream into the time-slide", whatever that means. Lyrics have always been a problem for DJ/producers, which is why the more high-profile draft in the likes of Richard Ashcroft to lend a little song-craft to their creations. Here, the best-known collaborators are Kelis, singing about her destiny over the spooky theremin whine of "Help Me", and Finley Quaye, with his semi-improvised ramblings on "Caravan". Less effective is Phil Barnes's dumb cliché lyric on the current single, "To Get Down", the polar opposite of Billy Bragg's verbosity, but none the better for it.

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