"Baustoff (Popmusik für Rohrleger)" (Album, 2009)
Known hitherto for their brilliant electronic soundscape, predominantly instrumental, albums whose remarkable rewards are matched only by the band's quirky approach to presentation (their manifesto is to produce ambient electronic music for construction crane workers!), this time out the German duo have opted instead to play with the local vernacular of electronic synthiepop, featuring a whole range of guest vocalists. This nineteen track fifth album then is more akin to countrymen And One, Wolfsheim, De/Vision et al. Those familiar with P:W who may be concerned by the sound of this slight change of direction need only direct their attention to the title, which translates into English as Building Material (Popmusic for Plumbers)! They've not lost their tongue-in-cheek, ironic world view even if this is almost alarmingly poppy at times.
Guest vocalists are André Hartung (Sero.Overdose), Nadine Stelzer, Antje Schulz (In Strict Confidence), Stefan Leukert, Julia Beyer (Chandeen/The Eternal Afflict), Antje Dieckmann, and Alexander Pitzinger (Painbastard) and Dr. Mark Benecke (President of the German Transylvanian Society of Dracula!). Which I imagine must making touring a logistical nightmare. It moves from club friendly bouncy electronic pop of Das Kraftfeld (featuring Hartung), through the super smooth Never Neverland, and onto My Mountain featuring Nadine Stelzer's wonderfully accented voice (singing in English and sounding like a beguiling blend of Claudia Brücken and Björk) occupies a space somewhere midway between the unashamedly pop and the more traditional affecting instrumentals, and convincing as it does so. Whilst Anja Schulz's charming voice with its slight fragility is lovely to hear.
Our boys in yellow hardhats retain the title track for themselves turning in a sublime democratic electronic ode to plumbers everywhere with its title vocodered into a chorus that's as thrillingly old school as it is convincing. Play it blind (to someone who doesn't know the title!) and you could easily get away with passing it off as an outtake from Kraftwerk's Electric Café/Technopop. Brief glimpses of the unadulterated beauty of the other P:W can be found on Arbeit und der Oberteitung's calming warmth of space travel, whilst single Voyage subtly blends the best of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks theme with the mellow album tracks or b-sides so favoured by Depeche Mode. It's great fun to listen to and, on its own terms, delivers the goods in a slick, quality package. It's just not what I want from my PATENBRIGADE: WOLFF. I just hope this is a playful diversion rather than a concerted change in direction. 7/10
Rob Dyer (February 2010)
"Demokratischer Sektor" (Album, 2008) !DSO Recommended!
Twenty pieces of top notch electronic atmospherics and beats from one of the best, least-known bands on the planet. Harder edged beats and synths bring this close to EBM at times.
With PATENBRIGADE: WOLFF there's always a playful intellect at work. So whilst this 'Best of' compilation delivers on a face-value level that would keep the most undemanding or undiscerning beat/noise freaks content, at the same time there's a far greater depth to everything Sven Wollf (formerly of Dust of Basement) and Lance Murdock turn their hands to. In that respect they remind me of Front 242, and for my money, P:W deserve the recognition and exposure that their Belgian counterparts have enjoyed for decades. I may have come to P:W late but I'll not let that stop me doing what I can to help raise the profile of one of the most entertainingly artistic electronic acts in existence.
Teutonic efficiency is used in the delivery as P:W rapidly find the essence and defining characteristics of a given track (whether it's ambient or dance oriented) concentrate on them, twist and turn them and frequently serve it up into less than four minutes. Vocals (sung in their native language) share the deadpan charm of Kraftwerk at their finest, only here the subject matter is often even more outré, revolving around the band's unique interest in creating an electronic soundtrack to the day-to-day goings on at construction sites. They make no secret of their obsession with heavy machinery and endless fascination with what appears to others as the monotonous daily routines, they early on became enraptured with loud and gigantic machines, the glare of orange safety vests, yellow hard hats, and striped cordoning tape. Then there are the purely instrumental soundscape compositions scattered across the total running time that provide a more atmospheric balance to the club oriented pieces.
Opening track Mauerradio (wall radio) perfectly sums up what's so special about PATENBRIGADE: WOLFF. It's dial turning picking up various radio transmissions, some news items, some pop music, before focusing on a combination of thoughtful, melodic, sometimes shadowy electronica with big beats, is simultaneously subversive and entertaining. Whilst the Old School retro Club Mix does a nice impression of DAF/early Front 242 covering a P:W original. Demokratischer Sektor is the ideal point of embarkation into the P:W canon that neatly straddles the two ends of their compositional spectrum. [At the time of writing, this and all previous PATENBRIGADE: WOLFF releases are available for free download from their official website.] 8/10
Rob Dyer (May 2010)
"Hochstapler" (Album, 2007)
Hochstapler (which loosely translates as 'imposter') sees the first album outing for the excellent single Mauerradio, here in its 'plain' form (uncommonly, I prefer the "Extended Remix" that appears on the 'Best of' album Demokratischer Sektor). Then there's also the original track entitled Demokratischer Sektor. Playing down their quirky side, this 2007 album has a more fluid feel about it than those that have followed it to date, with all twenty tracks gradually expanding what feels like a clear vision, whether they be 39 seconds (Shippe) or 8 minutes (Der Zementmischer) in duration. Indeed, some tracks just segue into each other rather than finish and begin anew. Regular collaborator Sara Noxx lends her husky speaking voice to Gefahrstoffe. A chilled bossanova style is introduced on Fassgehange and, with only a few exceptions, this leans closest to the ambient end of the P:W writing spectrum.
The minimal spray painted stencil cut style artwork depicting a forklift truck carrying the letters of the title, and tracks titles like The Cement Mixer, Dangerous Materials, Corrosion Pits, Auxiliary Function, Double Master Switch, demonstrate that P:W continue to find much inspiration is the world of construction sites and the crane operators who work on them. As long as they can continue serving up such rewarding quality I see no reason for them to change tact. 7/10
Rob Dyer (June 2010)
Future Sound of London
Official PATENBRIGADE: WOLFF website: http://www.patenbrigade.com