Sascha Funke: Bravo
Bpitch Control

With Bravo, Sascha Funke, a veteran of numerous 12 inch singles and appearances on compilations like Kompakt's Total 2 and Total 3, releases his first full-length on Ellen Allien's Bpitch Control label. It's markedly different from his familiar minimal house style, as it's predominantly melodic synth-pop with vocals appearing on four of its eleven tracks; it has, in fact, as much if not more in common with the smooth electro-pop of Suction Records' releases as it does Kompakt's minimal house. Bravo is distinguished by a depth of feeling, whether that be melancholy or euphoria, which elevates it above more straightforward styles like dance-based techno. It holds together solidly in spite of the fact that, track by track, Funke explores different stylistic directions.

The opener “Now You Know” is a gorgeous concoction of melancholy melodies and crisp beats. It's got an irresistible female vocal hook, the voice phased in to make a hiccupping entrance, although the vocal spotlight shifts to Fritz Kalkbrenner's soulful cameo at track's end. Funke couples beautiful mournful melodies with a bright array of synths and the results are euphoric in spite of the melancholy mood. It's an incredible peak that the rest of the recording never quite matches although the second piece, “I Just Can't Wait To See You,” does come close, as it pairs an enticing funk beat with clattering percussive effects and interweaving string melodies. “Forms and Shapes” follows, frothy Suction-styled electro-pop that wouldn't sound out of place on the Disco Nouveau or Digital Disco comps, with Kalkbrenner's vocals lagging nicely behind the pumping beats. Funke shifts gears with “Strassentanz,” an excursion into glistening pop ambience featuring acoustic guitar and layered banks of synths. With “Bravo,” he revisits tech-house territory by dropping a massive beat that alternately pounds, grinds, and skips, and spices it up with castanet accents and showers of ringing hi-hats. Another highlight is “Soso,” electro-funk peppered by percussive handclaps, pecking and thrumming patterns, and illuminated by the most reverberant synth clusters heard in recent memory. The last track, “Hallo & Hurra,” is split into two sections, the first a nice if unspectacular foray into Kompakt minimal house and the second, appearing after a three-minute gap, a vocal-based techno coda featuring Funke's vocals (“Give me one more chance/I would like to dance/Just for you and me/No publicity”) and some memorably moody flute soloing. The degree to which Funke so convincingly masters a stylistic multitude that encompasses techno, house, pop, funk, and ambient is obviously impressive. Still, it shouldn't surprise that some tracks impress more than others, with the weaker tracks showing up in the recording's final third. Two examples are “Twingo,” which moves between trance and electro-synth episodes, and “3:1 für die Liebe,” repetitive ambience of guitar strums and billowing synths; they're fine but not stunning pieces. All things considered, Bravo is a very good but not great recording, but any set that includes “Now You Know” and “Soso” is worth recommending for these peaks alone.

January 2004