A dream team doesn't get much dreamier than this. Juan Atkins and Moritz Von Oswald are two artists who define the Berlin-Detroit axis at its best. The pair has collaborated before, but Borderland is their first proper album together. Recorded in Berlin earlier this year, it largely strays from techno in favour of the kind of warm, jammy style of the Moritz Von Oswald Trio. Combining the fluid serenity of jazz with the deep resonance of dub, Borderland is a relaxed affair that tries to coax the listener into a deep trance with massaging basslines and smoky atmospheres.
Unfortunately Borderland seems to lull itself into that same sleepy state. There's nary a jolt, a left turn or a bump in the road. The record is uniformly sequenced, riffing on the same idea with identical sounds through simmering, 12-minute grooves. It's like a pool of still water with only the occasional ripple daring to disturb the surface. The first time you hear the opener "Electric Garden (Deep Jazz In The Garden Mix)," the clear tones and smooth low-frequencies are nothing short of stunning—but wading in the same shallow pond feels stagnant after a while. About 30 minutes in, with the "Original Mix" of "Electric Garden," the leitmotif begins to wear, and a persistent cricket-like sound makes the whole thing feel like a campfire version of Voices From The Lake.
Things pick up with "Treehouse," where a deflated hoover-like synth and some keyboard noodling circles around a house beat. Borderland doesn't really hit its stride until the second-to-last track, "Digital Forest," which sounds exactly as the collaboration does on paper: the deepest of dub techno marked by Atkins' signature melodic touch. But then the album's over—an hour of agonizingly slow build without much payoff. And though the hypnotic basslines excellent as usual from Von Oswald, they aren't enough to save the record. Borderland is the sound of two accomplished artists deep in their comfort zone, and while it might be fun for them, it doesn't do a whole lot to engage the listener.
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