In Surrounded by Weather's all-too-brief 45 minutes, Jens-Uwe Beyers' envelops listeners in backlit cloudscapes of warm pads, soaks them in silvery piano showers and drops them from great atmospheric heights, only to catch them again in a safety net of bouncing bungee bass. The album is cohesive without being same-y, and successive listens reward different tracks for different reasons. If there is a complaint, it's simply that the album lacks the meticulousness in percussion sequencing wielded by some of Popnoname's Kompakt/Italic labelmates. But aside from the vaguely irritating loop on "Crack," there's not a serious dud in the pack, and how often does that happen?
Techno, like the technology that gives birth to it, is often a tension between innovation and perfection. Meyers is breaking no new ground here—he's sculpted a Japanese sound garden out of what was already there. It's derivative, but understatedly devastating. Standout tracks—if they must be singled out at all—are opener "2012," which might as well be called Diet Beaucoup Fish, aching pop-house opus "The Movement" and the closer "Storm," a mellow/soaring trip to "Tokyo Glitterati" territory.
Perhaps the finality of this record signals that really is time to move on to something new. It's fitting that the single "Touch" was remixed earlier this year by The Field's Axel Willner, whose 2007 From Here We Go Sublime put the capstone on the dance-shoegaze hybrid movement. Willner takes Meyers' original, a conventionally structured talk-sung pop track and spins it into a barely recognizable gauze wad. (It is The Field, after all.) But Willner misses the point: By dropping Beyer's voice, the music becomes lush but utterly forgettable.
If Surrounded by Weather isn't the final defining statement in emotive vocal house, it comes damn close. Whether from here we go to further plateaus of sublimity or return to harder house, this disc will likely stand as a high-water mark, where the waves of sound crashed and rolled back, revealing familiar but altered topography.