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Go BackThumpin' on your stereo: Johnny D's Walkman

Posted: 12/12/07 15:31

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In the world of electronic music you don't have to be very old to feel old. Which might explain my increasingly worrying long-in-the-tooth affection for all things classic, acid, et cetera. However, in my defence, I'm far from plunging into full blown nostalgia. The past is almost always overrated and what with vast improvements in technology even the best old records can sound pretty amateur. So that leaves the new stuff that evokes a certain classic vibe: like Walkman.

The handiwork of Mannheim-based Johannes Debese, aka Johnny D. The son of Eritrean refugees, his diverse musical background is apparent on his latest release. Sure, it's classic-sounding deep house, but it drips with the brooding depth of the soul he grew up on; captures the irresistible wobble of funk. Though these days he co-promotes the Mannheim Zoo Club (which hosts the likes of Steve Bug and Luciano) and gigs alongside the likes of Tobi Neumann and Richie Hawtin, Johnny D actually began his career as a breakbeat DJ, spinning as a teenager in local hip-hop clubs.

Breakbeat's loss is 4/4's gain, though, as Walkman proves. An almost gentle-sounding lope it owes something to the expansive deep house of Silicone Soul and a smidgen to the darker-hearted moments of Depeche Mode. The loping house beat propels a dusty vocal that smoulders like the dying embers of a fire beneath wide-open skies. That it would sound equally at home in a warehouse and in a coffee-house is to its credit, rather than not.

On the b-side is the similarly marvellous Déjà Vu, which flirts with an unexpected genre: jazz. Ordinarily not one of my favourite things, jazz can be magic in the right hands (just listen to anything from Henrik Schwarz) and here it is used to beautifully accent a taut, muscular old-school house tune. It has all the driving, dancefloor kick you could hope for from the outset, but the middle-section, with its (again, Silicone Soul-esque) synths and surprising bubble of jazz lifts it far above the mundane. They talk about difficult second records but this one (Johnny's first was Manipulation, released earlier this year on Oslo records) shows that doesn't always have to be the case.

Words by Cila Warncke