‘Focus On’ is a mixed thirteen-track showcase of Guido Schneider’s productions – an artist album conceived as a DJ mix. The talented German has been honing away at a unique take on minimal tech house for over ten years, laying the foundations in the nineties on his own Neue Welten imprint and releasing on Poker Flat under his Glowing Glisses alias with vocalist Florian Schirmacher. Recently he’s been gaining ground as a remixer, his woozy retakes of Dub Kult’s ‘On & On’ and Brtschitsch & Galluzzi’s ‘Regenschauer’ finding particular success in the DJ sets of Hawtin, Bailey and Voorn.
Devout fans of the Poker Flat take on tech house will dig Guido's ability to specialise in a particular sound: on ‘Focus On’ he truly carves out a style of his own, no small achievement. Opener 'Moesko' sets the tone, building an air of optimism with bubbling, soft percussion that recalls F.E.O.S while 'Re-Moved' kicks the mix into second gear – with plenty of recent club play it’ll be familiar to those with an ear for edgy house.
A third of the way in and we sense the lo-fi, minimal house Schneider is shooting for: ‘Focus On’ is very much the "journey based on hypnotic grooves" that Schneider intended it to be, but the flow is broken with irritations: he’s mining pretty specialist territory and the tracks 'Too Many Voices', 'Rumours', 'Rundata' and 'Super Sander' are too much of the same colour from the paintbox. A mountain of minimal house is being produced at the moment: it’s good that it’s reaching a wide audience but the danger is there for producers who align themselves with a certain sound signature: over the 67-minute mix, Schneider’s bleak, minimal soundscape becomes somewhat repetitive.
Yet it’s not all bad news. 'In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up' pulls away from the skeletal fibres and gets funky (and progressive), Guido leading us out of the cold with a more traditional tech houser. My pick of the album is ‘As Dry As I Can’, a quirky track that really adds to the mix – think Robert Hood under general anaesthetic.
Schneider’s remix of 'Regenschauer' is a brash brew of metallic grit and eerie please-help-me moments but on ‘Focus On’ it’s a little misplaced. Constrained by limiting himself to his own tracks, Schneider negates the mood. The track was a better fit on Marco Bailey's abrasive 'Positive Disorder'.
Snappy, deft rhythms bring us back on an even keel: 'Earth Browser' is a clever house shuffler and the proper bassline of Schneider’s tasty collab with Sammy Dee 'Styleways' ups the oomph factor and saves the end of the mix from running out of steam. ‘Styleways’ was featured on Hawtin's 'DE9 Transitions' mix and here it provides sweet relief.
‘Focus On’ finishes on the twitchy scrapings of Guido's creepy remix of Daniel Stefanik's 'Move Me': a touch of The Twilight Zone that’ll leave you confused and perplexed: on the verge of confessing a deep, dark secret, Schneider shoos you away for asking too many questions.
‘Focus On’ appeals more as an artist showcase than as a mix. Schneider’s intention seems to be to make a coherent album: he’s not just mixing together his 'best of' (if he was there are obvious choices that would have been included) but as a mix his narrow focus on a specific sound is at the expense of variety – he’s burrowing deep without looking around at the landscape. It’s an unusual way to make a mix album, and for this reason alone it stands out, but forgive me for finding a slight 'yawn factor' here at times. Schneider’s twitchy, cold-edged house is cut from a fine cloth, but those not aligned to the current minimal en vogue and those seeking soul, warmth and melodic touches will be slightly disappointed.
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