Berlin duo The/Das are to release their sophomore album, Exit Strategies, on Life And Death in September 2017, with a first EP from it, ›Drug Dilling‹, coming in July. The absorbing 12-tracker is the result of a period of searching that finds the new line-up of Fabian Fenk and Philipp Koller combine multiple ideas, layers, fragments and sounds and refine their distinct idea of techno tenderness. It makes for a soothing and escapist 60 minute listen that works as well at home, on headphones, as it does loud in the club.
The new album is a perfect blend of the pair’s Berlin techno roots with a devotion to organic sounds and cinematic details that makes it a real trip for the head, heart and heel from start to finish. More house influenced than their previous works on labels like Sinnbus, Krakatau and DJ Tennis’s Life And Death, their artistic vision ties it all together as the duo continues to push each other, bounce ideas back and forth and eventually distill them into something fresh and new.
The album itself was an unhurried affair made from various sketched starting points collected over three years of research. Influenced from their travels, a decade of DJ gigs and shared musical experiences, they then headed into the studio for three intense months to arrange, rework, jam out new material, edit and collate all their sounds and ideas. Finally, they spent three weeks behind the mixing desk, shaping the whole lot into one complete form. Made using an array of drum machines and with a new focus on sampling, the album has experimental loops, sounds and rhythms imbued within, and lyrics that act as textural and emotive interventions, adding to the overall flow.
All this plays out from the start. Most important to the process was making the whole album feel like one continuous piece with nuances that take you up and down and really move the listener from start to finish. There is a distinction between electronic songwriting, tracks for the dance floor, bridging tunes and hybrids of all of the above. Importantly, when these are all stitched together the seams are invisible, the overall narrative shines through and the poise of their succulent grooves, the mindfulness of their atmospheres and the richness of their sonic palette really resonates.
›Put Castle‹ opens things with a sumptuous six minutes piece that blends breathy vocals and granular voices, interwoven synth sequences and tender jazz lines into a compelling bit of downtempo electronica. After an experimental interlude of bird calls and more great synth craft , ›Loveboat‹ is a breezy 90's deep house roller, then darker synth tracks like the eerie ›Moon‹ and late night vibes of ›Ischias‹ show off the band’s knack for making emotive, heartfelt sounds and grooves that are both floaty and full of feeling.
Proper organic synth riffs characterise the melancholic awakening of deeper than deep and romantic cut ›Fool You‹ and then drums barely feature at all on the suspensory ›Brace For Landing‹ which is all about mysterious synths and the hypnotic evolution of modular percussions. The skittish ›Dogsled‹ is both physical and punchy yet emotionally resonant thanks to the aloof vocals and lingering keys. Then another interlude of blissful harmonies and dreamy ambience resets the mood for the elastic and soft edge house bubbler ›Nano Spinacio‹, before things regroup on a meditative plateau ultimately followed by the dark and spooky ›Drug Dilling‹ that is fat with bulbous synths and shuffling minimal grooves.
As a complete musical structure Exit Strategies is ready at any one point to unfold into a multitude of sonic, rhythmic, textural and contextual layers. In a time when artists are in limbo; constantly oscillating between the now and then, between an actual position and the most distant location, The/Das share their reflections on the pivotal issue of exit strategies. Are we departing or arriving? Are we on the lookout for a better alternative or are we embracing the moments of ambivalence?