Kompakt veteran Justus Köhncke has never been a man to stand still. Probably best known for his camp take on the Cologne techno sound, the last eighteen months have seen him straying away from his roots in schlager and disco towards darker territories, concluding with his recent collaboration with Dirk Leyers as Kontrast with the sweaty and brooding, bass-heavy masterpiece 'Stammtisch der Verzweiflung'. On the surface, 'Advance' appears to be a move back towards his older, lighter sound, albeit with a few nods to the influences du jour. However, a closer listen reveals layers of subversion and trickery that were absent from his earlier work.
The title track begins with a lone beat – slow, stomping and disarmingly simple. The half-speed kick and monotonous two-note bassline certainly don't demand that you dance, but luckily Justus understands that dancefloor impact is as much about tension and release as it is about the basic groove. Keeping the beat running unadorned and unembellished for so long that boredom almost begins to set in, just as attention is starting to waver, Justus pulls the rug out by dropping the bassline even deeper and ripping the track wide open with a glorious breakdown. Huge luminescent Detroit stabs descend from the heavens, casting the rhythm section in an entirely new light, and what was a lumpen irritation now becomes a welcome ground for the chords swooping above. This is not a track that obeys the normal rules – there is no build, no warning – this is rather a track of stark contrasts - the mundane and the euphoric separated by a single moment of clarity.
If 'Advance' is interesting because it gives us a peak where none was expected, then B-side 'Overhead' is engaging for entirely the opposite reason. Dangling a filtered disco hook in front of our noses, Justus fools us into expecting a standard disco-house track. In fact, this is nothing of the sort. The hook is deployed again and again, hinting at the resolution we crave but always denied at the last second. Even when he allows us some measure of release by dropping into a breakdown, true satisfaction is still denied: the beat drops back in slightly too early, running out of sync and catching dancers off-step. Mercifully, Justus then allows the rhythm to creep slowly back to where we expect it to be, providing the only small peak in a track that runs mainly on denial.
The artistry exhibited in this release is undoubtedly impressive. Justus skillfully skips along the line between frustration and enjoyment, whilst providing enough familiar elements to draw in even the most casual of dancers. However, these tracks will ultimately stand or fall based on the context in which they are used. They are perhaps too tricksy and focused on manipulation of the crowd to truly work as isolated pieces of music. Used skillfully in the mix, I think they will shine.
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