Fremdkunst – Fremdkunst: B-Beats & Soundscapes [Fremdtunes, 2010]

Fremdkunst - Fremdkunst: B-Beats & Soundscapes Sometimes things don’t happen in a linear way. Usually there has been a demo that caught the attention of a label before a record is produced, or the artists found their own label and self-produce demos, records or any other way of music sharing they see fit.

With Fremdkunst is the other way around. B-beats & soundscapes appeared in 2007 as a demo-version, it inspired the creation of the label Fremdtunes and becomes, three years later, a full-length album and the first physical release of the company at the same time.

Dj Mace and Dj Optimus are the founders of Fremdtunes and are naturally also behind Fremdkunst, the first as producer and the second as guest. Together with guitarist Shycop and Dj Vindictive they also are the core live formation of the group, accompanied by guest vocalists. On this record we find collaborations with saxophonists Erwin Vann and Mete Erker and singer Lieve van Tujil.

Mace (Rogier van Hout) and Optimus (Neels Smeekens) have a long experience in the hip-hop and jazzscene and it’s immediately evident. The philosophy of their music label is perfectly exemplified in this album. The first listen of B-beats & Soundscapes is exciting and surprising with hiphop beats, jazz, rock, scratching, old-school dance, samples and so much more in short, perfectly assembled tracks. All parts fit in seamlessly, one song rippling into the next fluidly. And the use of film dialogues here and there reinforces the soundtrack-feel of some tunes.

The mix of surf and breakbeat makes Sidewalk Surfers And Eccentric Dancers instantly contagious and jazz, in several incarnations, infuses most of the songs. Maître des Disques, not too far from Dimitri from Paris; Sophie Lascombe (onetwo), which could have been a less commercial tune for Caro Emerald; Böse and Nostos & Algos, which are jazz-funk in opposite ways, slow and dense against light and nostalgic; finally, B-boy Mardi Grass, with its roaring Twenties trumpet, the sing-along assured.

If the aim was to create catchy songs for a vast crossover dance audience, Fremdkunst has certainly succeeded. The body will automatically follow rhythms and beats, a positive upbeat mood coming from almost every track. Everything works as clockwork, every mix of turntablism, two step, sampling and various music styles impeccably done. There’s a lot of remix material. But after several listens, it all seems to get blurry. There isn’t really anything unheard of in this record and accents that stood out at first, end up being repetitive and predictable after a while. There is a general atmosphere close to the early Mo’Wax productions.

Each number could be taken out and it wouldn’t change the overall sound, which really makes B-beats & Soundscapes more a collection of tunes than anything else. It stops grabbing your attention after a while, with the result of becoming more entertaining ambient than a groovy release, more lounge than truly electro-jazz. The easy catchiness of every piece becomes the easiness with which you forget them.

One wonders what happened to the soundscapes. There are only two pieces that truly deserve such definition: the opening track Nah Eindlich (When The Beats) and the long Tapeking/Membus/Proslogion, both of them misleading in a way. Nah Eindlich has just the right combination of glitch, mystery and tropical rhythms whilst during the almost fifteen minutes of the other we are taken from old style action-telefilm soundtrack to dark ambient, scary voice samplings, Aphex Twin distortion, noise, trip-hop beats, peaceful piano break, ticking. All in all, an unsettling but working combination.

This shows that Fremdkunst is well capable of producing more than just mood vignettes or dance shooters, if they really wanted to dive into another direction. Jazz has become the jolly of every musical contamination and although it is properly used here, alone it is not enough to make this album truly unique. There isn’t anything that can be described as only and typical Fremdkunst, despite how good and swinging it sounds.

Sara Spanu

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