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Kalabrese - Rumpelzirkus

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Artist: Kalabrese

Album: Rumpelzirkus

Label: Stattmusik

Review date: Jul. 3, 2007

Rumpelzirkus, Kalabrese’s debut album after a clutch of singles for labels like the redoubtable German imprint Perlon, is evidence of the ongoing currency of 1980s disco-not-disco within dance music circles. My last encounter with Kalabrese was his singularly silly, irresistible 12" that hymned the delights of chicken fried rice over a beat as goofy as Scooby Doo in traction. Rumpelzirkus is similarly fun, throbbing with a borderline-oxymoronic kind of ‘flippant conviction,’ elastic and rhythmically perverse, one eye constantly winking.

Kalabrese slips weirdness into the mise-en-scene without having anyone reaching for the vertical and horizontal hold dials: “Aufm Klo”’s surface is all jocular blues and ridiculous lyrics ("I got pain in my ass, I got pain ‘til I die" - fair enough), but it’s unsettled by abstract creakings and ectoplasmic blurs that sneak in from the sidelines. “Deep”’s itchy, scratching acoustic guitar hugs a voice that’s churned through the light-headed slur of a Vocoder, with Kalabrese sounding like Jamie Lidell circa Super_Collider. “Hide” is Rumpelzirkus at its most pop, a gentle weave of insinuating rhythm, clusters of guitar, veiled noises slinking around in the background with handclaps vie with thunderous calamities given audio form.

Kalabrese’s productions tend to niggle away at familiar themes. There’s an abstract bluesiness to much of this album, from the goof factor of “Deep” to the dancefloor hymnal of “Heartbreak Hotel”; there’s also an awareness of performance of self in “Lose My Chair”’s "I wanna be rock’n’roll singer" lyric that extends to an overall self-referentiality (the chicken reappears, this time sans fried rice). But it’s the ghost of Arthur Russell and his peers that hangs heaviest over the best parts of Rumpelzirkus, with the sleek, playful brass arrangements on “Auf Dem Hof” recalling Russell sides like “Go Bang!” and “Cornbelt.” Much like the music of Russell’s era, Kalabrese allows for all kinds of wayward material to settle in his productions.

By Jon Dale

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