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Supermayer - Save the World

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Artist: Supermayer

Album: Save the World

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Sep. 26, 2007

“The Art of Letting Go” is Save The World’s second track and first real song. Equal parts goofy energy and stoic reserve, it’s as good a summary of this collaboration between Michael Mayer and Superpitcher as one could hope for. Mayer and Superpitcher (Christian name Aksel Schaufler) have been a major force in shaping contemporary house and techno music through the conduit of the Cologne-based Kompakt label, which Mayer runs. Music fans with only a passing knowledge of or interest in electronic music are likely familiar with the label via its consistent design philosophy: its penchant for retro-futurist, largely non-representational artwork gives the impression of a unitary brand, one whose signees aren’t so much artists as an expedience for transmitting ideas lodged in the label itself. So when, after the squelchy, illegible intro of “Hey!,” a “Billie Jean” aping beat announces the real start of the album, the collaboration might pass, albeit momentarily, for something like Map of Africa.

It’s not a huge surprise, even for a label staked on a deep, implied groove rather than the familiar catharsis of rock; still, it’s a calibration, and a deliberate and openly strategic one at that. The idea of Kompakt as a overcoding entity is pretty far from the truth, but does go a certain distance in explaining why it took half a decade for the label, or the glitch-scarred and consistently innovative form of techno that it has become synonymous with, to gain the pitch of critical admiration and subsequent backlash that, for the past decade or so, has been pretty much de rigueur for anything that feels new. The song’s bass, in the context of the label’s oeuvre, can only be described as “intensely fretted,” its unsynth bleed emphasized by an epic hammer-on bridge. This is to say nothing of the lyrics, which tell the kind of story that can only be rendered in two lines: “Let’s get to it, alright, let me go,” goes the smarmy first half, echoed in the second by a ghostly, desperate incantation of the song’s title. The attention that the voice commands is deployed deliberately here as on the album’s only other narrative, vocal track, the woozy, mythlike “The Lonesome King.” The same formal, architectural impulse inhabits these compositions as well as the more gradual construction and subtraction of tracks like the casually gorgeous “Please Sunrise.” Still essentially narrative, the structure is the story: it’s Neu!’s “Leb’wohl” melted down and smuggled into Ibiza. “The Lonesome King” is likewise bathed in corrupted, nostalgic light. But while the pleasure of “Please Sunrise” is the unaccounted-for remainder of the track’s transitions between compositional elements, “The Lonesome King” is a productive attempt to cram as much unexpected instrumentation (saxophone, trumpet, flute, and melodica, to begin with) into a song form that, unlike much Kompakt material, doesn’t make up its own rules as it goes along.

The album, taken as a whole, is less of a departure than it may lead us to believe. The deflated faces that adorn the superheroes’ chests are as good an indicator as the music – SuperMayer’s not just puncturing the idea of supergroup or of Kompakt-as-brand; they’re very openly draining out self-seriousness in a tongue-in-cheek attempt to court and bait an audience that’s beginning to take a more specific interest in them, an audience whose first musical language is indie. It’s also a critical feint that’s designed, at least in part, to underline the fact that Kompakt and its artists straddle several big musical fault lines. By the time you reach the end of the album, though, you’ll be convinced you were overthinking it: “Cocktails for Two” screams class like red wine, Steely Dan, and early ’90s R&B. A heavy red velvet curtain cast down, the duo slip out the back door of their own scenario relatively unnoticed.

By Brandon Bussolini

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