Marek Hemmann: Bittersweet
Freude am Tanzen

There's little that's conceptually mystifying about this second solo album on Freude am Tanzen by Marek Hemmann. Instead, Bittersweet suggests that the German electronic producer prefers to keep things simple and uncomplicated in presenting ten examples of polished techno and house that get straight to the point (even the one-word track titles are unfussy). On a typical Hemmann track, an airtight, high-energy groove locks firmly into position first, followed quickly by melodic elements usually of a joyous disposition. On this fifty-one-minute collection, samples are integrated so seamlessly it's next to impossible to separate them from the elements electronically generated by Hemmann.

Having inaugurated the set with the requisite luscious overture (“Xativa”), Hemmann gets down to business with “Mars,” a high-energy clubber whose jaunty strut and wisps of melody speak highly on behalf of the man's talents. The title notwithstanding, the album's no mope-fest, as most of the tunes are buoyed by a palpable spirit of uplift and controlled jubilation. A club-ready jam like “Endless,” for example, oozes joy in the swing of its locomotive bounce and bleepy synth melodies, while even the most morose human being would find it impossible to resist the sinuous melodies in “Hooray.” The album ends on a pastoral note with “Meadow,” a gentle reverie whose arrangement eschews beats for acoustic guitars, electric piano, and even sitar.

“Topper” is about as state-of-the-art an example of Hemmann's work as the album provides, even if it's tone is more brooding than others. In a complex, multi-layered arrangement, guitar riffs thread themselves into the whole so subtly they verge on subliminal, after which voice exhalations and synthesizers grow in prominence and the jacking pulse intensifies. One's appreciation for the material grows the more closely one listens, and one comes away from the piece appreciative of Hemmann's ability to sequence multiple episodes so smoothly into a six-minute running time. On the production front, Hemmann's clearly got skills aplenty, as shown by how deftly he folds vocal fragments into the propulsively grooving “Zunder,” and Bittersweet's tracks repeatedly impress as sophisticated fusions of rhythm and pop melody.

October 2013