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Justus Köhncke - Doppelleben

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Artist: Justus Köhncke

Album: Doppelleben

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Jun. 8, 2005

Kompakt has spent the past few years re-embracing pop music, from Superpitcher’s hazy late-night anthems to the helium-high waves of Michael Mayer’s “Falling Hands,” and Jurgen Paape’s wispy, panda-eyed “So Weit Wie Noch Nie.” Justus Köhncke has always been Kompakt’s most unabashedly pop musician, and with Doppelleben he embraces pop at its most saccharine and rapturous, sliding between German schlager, American AM radio and glitter-ball sound like so many garments strewn across the fitting room floor.

Understatement of 2005: Köhncke is not a particularly strong singer. This sometimes works to his advantage, as a vocalist of sturdier constitution would have swamped “Wo Bist Du”’s weird ‘happy melancholy.’ Elsewhere Köhncke sounds unprepared, making a bit of a hash of “The Answer is Yes” and “Weiche Zäune.” “Schwabylon” hides Köhncke’s thin register behind a vocoder, sighing ”I’ll do it as long as I can dance to it” to gilded, glitzy disco. You sometimes wish that he had taken his lyrics at face value, as Doppelleben is best when “Elan” and “Timecode” spray silver-surfer foam over the dancefloor, both textbook examples of build-to-peak disco architecture. This is Köhncke-on-Kompakt, mind, so the peak isn’t exactly arms-aloft - though I’d be inclined were I to hear “Elan” out, probably at the exact point where the aerated, quivering faux-strings rush into the song‘s bloodstream like serotonin charging through your brain. The disco connection is quite apposite: Doppelleben recalls records like Donna Summer’s I Remember Yesterday, where Mororder dropped eroto-disco classic “I Feel Love” between syrupy ballads. There is a similar balance at play on Köhncke’s odd little curate’s egg of an album.

By Jon Dale

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