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M.A.N.D.Y. / Booka Shade - Get Physical Vol. II / Movements

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Artist: M.A.N.D.Y. / Booka Shade

Album: Get Physical Vol. II / Movements

Label: Get Physical

Review date: Jun. 14, 2006

Celebrating its fourth and arguably most lauded year in operation, Germany’s Get Physical imprint offers a pair of discs that both demonstrate where the label surpasses its peers and where it still lags behind. Trying to supplant invention with energy, it can be argued that Get Physical, at their worst, streamlines the DFA model of disco-informed electro abandon and sanitizes it by buffing down any sharp corners, shearing fuzzy textures and steam-cleaning the grime off. The result can be a dull thump, readymade for vitamin water adverts in a marketplace where a vibrant spectrum of metallic slink, crystalline bump and neon-streaked chug is already available to discriminating listeners. At their best, Get Physical pumps out lean, rubbery dancefloor creations with compact, nearly pop structures.

Assembled and beat-matched by the duo M.A.N.D.Y. – who, alongside Booka Shade and DJ T. founded the label – Get Physical Vol. II speeds through a hefty selection of the company’s catalogue (23 tracks to be precise). Envisioned as a small continent, or highway-sliced expanse, it contains both sad patches scarred by deforestation and stretches of succulent efflorescence. Of the latter, the most striking may be newcomer Jona, whose “Yellowstone” mutates Isolée guitar-addled chop-skip with shiny pedal-steel zips. He reappears later on with the markedly different “Learning From Making Mistakes,” a simmer of clicks, twiddly goo, and cubed synth. Elsewhere, there’s startling moments like the three-song segue of DJ T.’s robotized Tom Moulton reduction “Funk On You/Dub” into M.A.N.D.Y.’s delirious, searchlight-riddled “Jah/Francisco Rmx” and DJ T. again, a little more stealth, on the slightly spacey “Time Out.” It plays like an anti-extended mix, all clipped instead of entrancingly vast. One wonders what lies beyond the frames of each of these cropped and slightly magnified details – how they fit into the whole, original canvas – but as they are here strung together, a rather alluring fourth, collaged picture is produced.

Extraction and concentration is endemic to most mixed CD compilations and (as in the example just mentioned) often yields positive results. What may be most striking is how M.A.N.D.Y. applies it to Get Physical’s best know material – what could arguably be called its hits. Ostensibly delivering the best bits of their Booka Shade collaboration “Body Language” and the latter’s “Mandarine Girl,” M.A.N.D.Y. seem to be economizing the limited space available on a single disc so that the handful of crowd-pleasers are delivered with maximum efficiency – concentrated flashes of the familiar to sustain the listener through a traversal across the lesser known.

In fact, if M.A.N.D.Y. are the tour guides for this Get Physical excursion, one can look to Booka Shade as its landscapers. The duo of Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier hold production credits for over half of the disc’s tracks. They are the binding that knits Get Physical Vol. II’s divergent threads together. Their signature is not their sound but their technique. Relying on a clutter-repellant gathering of recurring elements, they compose almost like a rock band with distinct “instruments” consistent throughout: looping bass melodies accented by lightly morphed timbres and imported exotic sounds backed by steady percussion. Its no wonder their sophomore full-length Movements boasts both the bikini-clad Get Physical logo girl and Native Instruments’ insignia.

Whilst Get Physical Vol. II is marked by snatches of wilderness amid its brickwork, Movements is manicured almost to a fault. That said, the album is partly rather great. The pantheon-passport moments are fewest – the theremin implorations of “Shimmer,” the gothy rush of “Darko,” the ether-laced “In White Rooms” and, of course, the dusty woodwind whatsit that “Mandarine Girl” hinges on. But they’re filled out by idling, fuel burn-offs – the twin, sinister vocoder forays “Take a Ride” and “Wasting Time,” the ecstatic simplicity of “Pong Pang,” disco-heeled opener “Night Falls” – or strained attempts at new forms by way of scavenging. Add to this some seriously misguided slips into misplaced, grave piano rhapsodizing (“At the Window”), reheated trip-hop (“Hallelujah USA”) and a self-consciously, seemingly tacked-on end-credits closer (“Lost High”) and Movements becomes a cliché: the excellent EP fattened into a flabby LP.

Without the brazen Get Physical roster to rub against, Booka Shade is almost entirely devoid of frisson. Drifting close to and often giving in entirely to techno complacency, they squander the genre’s inherent psychedelic potential in finding the intersection of carnal pleasure and altered perception – the sweaty body and the bent ear - in favor of toe-tapping interchangeability.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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