photo: Katja Ruge


When Areal's Bis Neunzehn mix disc dropped in early 2004, tracks by Metope, Basteroid, and Konfekt definitely impressed but it was Ada's (Michaela Dippel) contributions—in particular the lush “Blindhouse” and sensual “…And More”—that stood out as especially strong. Now armed with synths and samplers, this one-time pop vocalist has rapidly garnered attention in Cologne and throughout Europe and is now poised to make an even greater splash with the release of her Blondie full-length debut, ten sumptuous mini-symphonies of synth-pop, techno, and house.

Originally from Friedberg (near Frankfurt), Dippel played in a number of bands prior to her current incarnation. The first was a rock group, followed by a more synthesizer-based outfit that collapsed after three years when band members moved to other cities to pursue other musical directions. Sensing the promise a major change might bring, she moved to Cologne where many friends had relocated and, from there, her story develops incrementally and serendipitously. Reconvening one day with a one-time band-mate for a session at her house, she found herself less focused on singing and more drawn to the korg-sampler they were using. After discovering her friend had left the device behind, she starting working with it and eventually generated loops which she played for Areal's Michael (Metope), an old friend from the pre-Cologne days. “He was one of the first to move to the Big City,” she recalls. “Without his friendship, I never would have shown my tracks to anyone because, at that time, I didn't expect anyone to like them but me.” In fact, the folks at Areal were so impressed they pushed her to finish the tracks and, after a few intense weeks, the “Blindhouse / Luckycharm” 12-inch was completed. As for the moniker's origin, she explains, “I once had an audio-book containing a horror story about a house full of blind zombies. I found the audio-book's dark, organ-based music really inspiring and it eventually led to the “Blindhouse” 12-inch. In the story, the warden of the blindhouse who had to feed and take care of the zombies was named Ada.”

Like Areal in general, Ada's music sounds fresh and oozes a contemporary Cologne sheen but it's also warm and endearingly retro in its embrace of timeless song structures and analog tools. One of Blondie's many peaks is “Each And Everyone (Blindhouse–Mix)” which overlays the heavenly “Blindhouse” core of skipping beats and harpsichord tinkles with a crooned melody so deliciously forlorn it's simultaneously heartbreaking and transcendent. Blondie also includes an inspired rendition of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' “Maps” with an affectingly silky vocal from Ada couched in chiming synths and simple beats. From the hard careening techno of “Our Love Never Dies” to the Kompakt-styled shuffle of “The Red Shoes” to the Deep House flavorings of “Livedriver,” the album marvelously straddles techno and pop with seeming ease, never venturing too far into one without returning to the other. Certainly many of the album's tracks are rooted in techno yet, always changing, they never devolve into run-on grooves (the best example of this mercurial approach might be the opener “Eve”); in fact, her original idea of an album filled with short, three-minute songs was abandoned when Areal pushed her to develop them into longer, eight-minute tracks. “I think that most of all I was and still am influenced by pop-music of all kinds. I used to think that a song couldn't work if it was over three minutes long but I don't believe that anymore. Even so, what remains of that original idea is my need for a lot of movement, and maybe that's why they sound more like songs than tracks.”

February 2005