Yours & Mine is the full-length debut by Dutch deep-house producer Steffi. Already successful as a DJ and label owner — she has a residency at Berlin’s Panorama Bar and runs the Klakson and Dolly labels — she just started releasing her own productions in 2009. Two years is a quick turnaround for someone so busy, but Yours & Mine is solid. Please ignore assumptions that come from the deep-house tag: Yours & Mine isn’t pro-forma oonce oonce. Certainly, it’s sophisticated and laid-back; improbably, it has hooks. In fact, it manages to be more memorable than some of last year’s marquee releases from established producers. (I’m thinking specifically of Efdemin’s Chicago.) Yours & Mine might come off as slick to some, with its carefully constructed grooves topped with frosting-like synth patterns and a couple of on-point vocal contributions from fellow Berliner and DJ Virginia, but working with a limited palette and polishing each sound to a hard gleam is a good fit. The only problem with the album — if you’d like to call “not existing on the Internet” a problem — is that there isn’t much noise to be made about it. Yours & Mine is a reliable pleasure, and reliable pleasures don’t have much talk value.
The clear standout is “Yours,” a sex jam featuring Virginia’s plastic, measured singing. Like Hercules and Love Affair’s “You Belong,” “Yours” hangs a ludicrous amount of innuendo on generic sex talk — Steffi lingers on the refrain “Do me now and I’ll be yours, baby” — thanks to production that’s lush and manicured. I think the technical term is “banger,” but no matter how insane the shakers get, Steffi maintains chilled-out remove from dance euphoria. Naturally, “Yours” is a different beast than the poppier “You Belong,” but the differences between the Steffi and H&LA tracks offer a neat description of the listening experience Yours & Mine offers. Steffi’s workmanlike deep house doesn’t make room for the kind of pop dynamics that propelled H&LA’s crossover success, offering instead a gentle interplay between hypnotic house beats and sparing techno lines. It’s a sound not too far removed from Donnacha Costello’s. Like him, Steffi makes functional music that tells a story within genre boundaries; it seems homogeneous, but the music itself holds your attention. Having such clear intentions can be a liability, but with Yours & Mine, it’s part of the fun.
Without any real hype surrounding its release, the online response has already been surprisingly divisive: As of this writing, comments posted to Resident Advisor’s review of the album rate it either 1/5 or 5/5, but nothing in between. I’m guessing has nothing to do with perceived quality — detractors probably make the argument that it’s too polished, an empty exercise that’s contemporary but never new — and everything to do with genre-bound expectations (and the fact that people who post comments online can be dicks). Steffi isn’t a critic, the kind of artist who theorizes about her music or invents new genres to contain it. Yours & Mine is crisp, clear, and formally perfect. It has exactly zero crossover appeal for the Altered Zones set.
Genre is a red herring here: it’s up to the listener to figure out what Steffi’s up to without much “new” to hold on to. Careful listening busts this out of the genre ghetto: all of the tracks here are firmly on the 4x4 grid but go through so many lush mutations that at points I thought of Blondes’ sprawling sound. For a producer moving in the singles-oriented world of dance music, Steffi has a good grasp of how to make immersive album.