Beyond the Valley: Anja Schneider's debut album.

Words by: Cila Warncke
Posted: 19/5/08 12:43

Anja Schneider's Mobilee imprint boasts the sort of ruthless reliability usually associated with Energiser batteries, Model Ts and German engineering. It also has one of the most distinctive aesthetics of any of the (many) fine Deutsch labels - a trademark blurring of the crisp edges of minimal techno. Her debut artist album, Beyond The Valley, makes it imminently clear the label's sound is an extension of her artistic impulses.

Mobilee's hallmarks are all here: languid beats, subtle interplays of sound and an almost complete absence of vocals. It's hard to decide, actually, whether to be pleased or disappointed there aren't more twists in store.

Previous singles Belize and Mole crisply cast the dye for the recurring organic-techno imagery of the album. In a sense it is admirable (though not really surprising) that Schneider is assured enough to simply keep doing what she's been doing, very well, for a long time. However, after the third or fourth track of perfectly engineered, nicely modulated instrumental deep/tech/house/whatever you half hope for an extended lute solo or, at least, a random guest vocal.

But Beyond The Valley is not designed to shock. What it does is develop, sometimes beautifully, an earthy reinvention of the concept of techno. From the spider-y cover art through to tracks like Gimlet and Cascabel Schneider explicitly brings techno back from outer space and tries to give it roots. Like Gabriel Ananda and Dominik Eulberg she creates pastoral musical fantasies out of pure technology. One of the best, most vibrant tracks is Little Red Riding Hood, a lively exploration of nature and artifice. Another standout is Maki - a shimmering, sparkling instrumental - oozing bewitchment.

Still, the album never feels like it goes far enough. Schneider says the name references a space that is, "dangerous and anarchic. All the creatures that have been chased out of the village have gone there to hide." Which is a nice conceit but - as fairy tales go - this is more Walt Disney and Brothers Grimm.


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