Sascha Funke: Mango
Bpitch Control

Bravo, Berlin-based producer Sascha Funke's full-length debut on Bpitch Control, made a strong impression when it appeared, so naturally the five-year gap leading to the release of its follow-up Mango brings with it high expectations. Alas, they're not fully met: Mango's fine tracks appear alongside others that are decent enough but not spectacular. Certainly it begins strongly with the title piece, a great slow-burning, trance-flavoured opener that surreptitiously sneaks into view with slowly awakening rhythms and a funk guitar part that prickles alongside surging synth swells and cymbal flourishes. The tune also illuminates one of Funke's strengths: his compositions aren't strictly club tracks but more compositions that feature a seamlessly integrated dance dimension. Also memorable is “We Are Facing the Sun” which moves us into classic Kompakt territory with plinkety piano accents surfing atop a mobile rhythm base of handclaps, ride cymbals, and a warbling Eno-like synth hook. There's also a sweet breakdown that lets the bass and drums breathe before skipping snares signal the gradual reinstatement of the other elements. Eno rears his head again on the brutally simple yet potent three-note synth theme that repeats throughout the moodscape “Feather.” The wiry club-funk track “Lotre (Mehr Fleisch)” grabs one's attention instantly with its dizzying mix of staccato snares, pumping kick drum, finger-snaps, and especially the rising stabbing rupture and distorted, marble-mouthed voice effect.

On the down side, “Double Checked” spreads a staccato, seizure-gripped bell accent and a two-toned guitar motif over a snappy micro-house groove but the effect is spoiled by the inclusion of Fritz Zander's gravelly stalker vocal. “Chemin Des Figons” (the street where Funke lived a year ago in Aix-en-Provence) is an appropriately scenic mood piece but ultimately there's not enough going on to justify its eight-minute running time, and the melancholic ambient outro “The Fortune Cookie Symphony” would sound a whole lot better sans its spoken “Dream on, dreamer” vocal part. Another knock against Funke's music is that it sometimes lapses into background music—sophisticated, slick, and impeccably well-crafted, yes, but background music nonetheless. He also has a tendency to drag the tunes out rather than reining them in to make the listener want more (only four of the nine cuts are less than seven minutes long). “Take a Chance With Me,” for example, is a delicious slice of sleek trance-techno teeming with iridescent synths and softly pulsating rhythms but it's also about two minutes longer than it needs to be. All told, it's hard to resist the conclusion that Mango might have succeeded better as a mini-album or even EP release.

April 2008