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The Modernist - Kangmei

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Artist: The Modernist

Album: Kangmei

Label: Wonder

Review date: Jul. 29, 2003

Supporting the Musical Infrastructure Since 1989

This is a funny business, this business of music. A precarious business. To describe it as dependable would tip the scale past naivety and stop somewhere closer to ignorance. At a glimpse, the industry resembles an ancient coliseum – crumbling and full of cracks – supported only by the few remaining pillars that can bear the weight of the whole construct. The hope, promise, and worth of the entire entity – in life or metaphor – lies in the ability of these few dependable elements to hold strong while various ephemeral reinforcements come and go.

So when a reevaluation reveals that one of these dependable strongholds is still in tact, it comes as a relief. It’s not all going to come crashing down just yet. Not if Jörg Burger has anything to say about it, anyway.

Cologne, Germany’s Jörg Burger and his many alter-egos have been delivering consistently innovative electronic music since the early ’80s. As Bionaut , Burger/Ink (with Wolfgang Voight), Trinkwasser, Geometric Farms or PopUp (with Antonelli Electr.), Burger has secured renown in the German techno scene – and the extended ‘techno’ scene worldwide for that matter. The same holds true for Burger’s current solo moniker – The Modernist.

After listening to Kangmei, Burger’s third album as The Modernist, it becomes increasingly evident that this is a perfectly suited identity for him. Kangmei is what the future sounded like a decade ago. Here it is – right on time. Not to imply that this music sounds dated, or at least not in a negative context. Only to say that it makes so much sense why we were all so excited back then. In retrospect, it was because the sounds that we were so fixated on were slated to become timeless, and Jörg Burger – whatever name you give him – was and is at the center of it all.

Kangmei (Chinese translation: Resist America!) presents itself, dressed to kill, as a DJ’s dream come true. Infallible, these tracks boast a confidence that is neither pretentious nor unjustified. All executed in a way that says, “I don’t give a shit.” Dance, don’t dance – it doesn’t matter. If the word ‘groove’ ever had a perfect opportunity to insert itself somewhere – this is it. Combining synth-pop sensibilities with bouncing house beats to arrive at a bubbling concoction of electro-funk ‘grooves’ that are both danceable and chill-able, The Modernist proves a jack-of-all-trades.

If it sounds as though Kangmei might be the perfect choice as the soundtrack for next flight to Ibiza, think again. There is an unmistakable intelligence present that sets this record apart from the majority of tech-house endeavors, much like Burger’s other projects. The use of guitar harmonics and reverb together with meticulously placed vocals create an atmosphere resembling a subverted reality in which everything in it occupies a space that is perfectly and uniquely its own. (I find myself stopping more than once to say to myself, “Of course!”) Much of Kangmei is like this – obvious without sounding patronizing. During the impossibly catchy “Kangmei Pt. 1 & 2”, the manipulated breathy vocals repeatedly declare: “Love makes a difference, between you and me…” – a beautiful example of the dichotomy between what is obvious and what is negligible. It is this dichotomy that becomes the focus of Kangmei – a focus that is not ill-addressed.

A solid bet for the ‘Best of 2003’ lists, I>Kangmei succeeds at fulfilling expectations, validating The Modernist as one of the capable pillars of this prefabrication. There is the possibility that, as the title might suggest, Kangmei represents a political philosophy of sorts; a belief that it’s conceivable to embrace the state of the world (or the music industry, or a relationship…), and – without neglecting its existence – still feel alive. Still dance. Still love. Still hope.

By Nicole Mandala

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