It’s pretty rare for a musician to use their seventh album for something of a complete re-boot. Let’s face it, most don’t even make it to album 7 (and if they do, the mellow-coloured button they end up pressing is usually marked “business as usual”).But for Paul Kalkbrenner this willingness to hit the reset-button, is also all about taking his career to the next, worldwide level.„7“ is a brisk and pacy effort; you can almost hear how thankful the artist himself has been finally returning to the studio and working on music. Optimism is everywhere and the audience is made to feel right at home from the get-go. With exception of the darkly explosive „Mothertrucker“ and the deep subterranean bass lines of „Align The Engine“, which goes a bit escapist sci-fi on us, most of the songs on „7“ snuggle up close with their catchy melodies and dabs of likeable trance.There’s a fluency to proceedings, and the album feels like it was produced with live-sets in mind. Also Kalkbrenner cleverly re-uses and quotes from elements of certain songs in others, subtly building the mood (it’s a trick that’s worked a treat ever since Johann Sebastian Bach first nailed it).
But if he makes it sound easy, in reality it will likely be a huge challenge to bring “7”’s complex arrangements to the stage – Kalkbrenner jokes that he needs the 8 arms of Shiva to pull it off. The feeling that this is ready for live though is also present in the crackling and rustling crudeness of the album’s sounds – Kalkbrenner likes to create a little bit of uncertainty in the mix, keeping us listeners on our toes.He might be a pre-eminent techno master, but these surprises often take organic forms, like whistling. Oh yes, you read that right, Kalkbrenner likes to whistle the melodies of his demos – and in the second song of the album, „Cylence 412“ he brings the original whistle back in - it’s the soul of the idea, so why not?But this is just a brief pause before „Cloud Rider“, the most stark track on the album, a sad-but-soulful anthem, which reveals his ambitions for „7“. The song is constructed on a sample of D-Train ?s song „You Are The One For Me“ and from here he builds a carousel of feelings.
Keeping with the broken beats, but again hoping to surprise his crowd he goes into a slight reverse direction for „Feed Your Head“, which samples the Jefferson Airplane hit „White Rabbit“. Kalkbrenner reckons it his best production, and this is fly-into-a- rage techno, the sub bass and the kick drum you’ll feel hit your body right.
On „A Million Years“, he’s taken a Luther Vandross vocal line from „Never Too Much“, and mixes everything into a slick question: how far can you combine pathos and goose bumps atop a 4/4 beat? Quite far, it turns out.As you can tell, the idiosyncratic choice of voices from rock, pop and soul history is part of Kalkbrenner’s new master plan, to set with „7“ an electronic antipole to the omnipresent EDM. This album is a counterblast to monotony, a clarion call for variation and colour. Whether it’s a shuffle-beat („Shuffleface“), a blues motif („Tone & Timber“) or a slow-mo dance („Papercut Pilot“), there’s a sustained tingling happiness that runs through the whole record, drawing all the strands together.When you ask him about his influences, Paul Kalkbrenner is also surprising, avoiding the usual DJ clichés. He salutes the soundtrack maestro Ennio Morricone, the Japanese synthesizer king Isao Tomita, (who re-imagined Mussorgsky’s „Bilder einer Ausstellung“ – a childhood Kalkbrenner family favourite), and finally the music of Mike Oldfield. As a nine year old Kalkbrenner cherished Oldfield’s work and was fascinated by the sleeve notes where he read that Oldfield played and recorded every instrument’s part, line by line, all by himself. It seems that this childhood inspiration, to bring everything you can imagine, beautifully together, is still doing him right.