Rivers Of The Red Planet (Tartelet)
Max Graef probably hates people talking about his age. And comparing him to Motor City Drum Ensemble: he was 19 when first picked up by Melbourne Deepcast a little under a year ago, is German, and makes samply, dusty deep house and hip-hop. The release notes for his debut album ask the listener to enjoy with a ‘good bottle of red’. Frankly, it’s all a bit Oye Records, we know. But on the basis of this album, Graef does seem like someone who’d be able to recommend a good bottle of red, give a brief history of its origins and casually drop in the fact he’s been a vintner since he was six.
Born and raised in Prenzlauer Berg, Graef has carved out a space for himself in the MCDE/Andre Lodemann spectrum of critic-friendly deep house. But on Rivers of the Red Planet, label Tartelet have given him space. While we already knew about his prodigious talent for house music production, so self-evident on his releases for self-run Box aus Holz, here Graef has been allowed to experiment and create contemporary house/hip-hop montages based on some seriously esoteric jazz and early electronic music. (Good luck sample spotting.)
Rivers… is structured in a comfortingly familiar way – ease-in, peak around the middle, gentle ease-off towards the end – but feels well-tailored to a home listen. The intro is an exposition in Graef’s production style: dusty samples, analogue synths, all manner of 60s era sci-fi bleeps. We’re then straight into Itzehoe, which maintains some of the sci-fi snippets of the intro, but slaps up a driving 4/4 beat. Superswiss is the first of several hip-hop interludes, and while pleasant enough, adds relatively little to the album as a whole. Running demonstrates Graef’s aptitude for woozy slo jams with shades of Eglo Records, and Vino Rosetto is a track that uniquely combines the bleepy-ness of Mort Ganson with the rhythms of DJ Koze.
This is an extremely impressive debut from a young artist who’s clearly listened to a hell of a lot of music. The shorter hip-hop interludes are fairly skippable after a few listens, but these misgivings aside, Graef looks set for a promising career in entertaining audiences both in Oye and out.
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Words: Robert Bates