Those expecting a worthy if belated sequel to 2006’s Movements will be disappointed.
Chris Power 2010-04-30
Era-defining records, especially in terms of the hyper-accelerated eras of dance music, can often become an albatross around their creators' necks: last season's essential tune is today's sonic throwback. But completely changing tack between albums can be treacherous, too, as Booka Shade discovered when they followed up their acclaimed second album Movements (2006) with The Sun & the Neon Light (2008). Where Movements sprang agilely between electro-house, minimal, Metro Area-style disco and the Cologne label Kompakt's branded fusion of techno and pop – and included, in Body Language, Mandarine Girl and In White Rooms, three of the most ubiquitous club tracks of 05/06 – the latter album was a leaden plod into more brooding territory, awash with live orchestration and 'proper' songs, that didn't seem to play to Arno Kammermeier and Walter Merziger's undoubted talents.
Perhaps pointedly, the duo has been careful to stress that, despite its poor critical reception, The Sun... went on to outsell Movements; but it's difficult not to see More! as tacit acceptance of the fact that Booka Shade's primary focus should be the dancefloor. Those expecting a worthy if belated sequel to Movements, however, will be disappointed: even at its best, More! rarely exceeds inoffensiveness.
Opener Havanna (sic) Sex Dwarf sets the tone, its cheesy descending chromatics establishing a pattern of dodgy production decisions that fatally undermines the album: the tropical birdcalls on Regenerate that are more Rainforest Cafe than Pacific State; the Chelonis R Jones vocal on Bad Love, which marries bad hair-rock with uninspired minimal; the bizarrely bad Jeff Wayne-style sci-fi recitative of Divine, which surely represents a low point in the illustrious career of Yello's Deiter Meier.
There are moments when the poised Booka Shade of old can be glimpsed. The Door, which cribs its compressed bass chassis from Azzido da Bass's Doom's Night, develops into a tightly sprung house groove which in turn gives way to a simple retro electro synth pattern. Teenage Spaceman is the classic Booka Shade template – essentially a muted take on Germanic trance – at its most familiar, but abetted here by a melancholic synthesised brass riff. Such moments are rare, however, and merely competent when measured alongside the purposefulness of Movements. When Booka Shade are this off the mark, More! is undoubtedly less.