Zero Crossing: My Kinda Funk

[19 April 2006]

By John Bergstrom

PopMatters Associate Music Editor

Drum Programs: Great. Everything Else: Eh...

First, to begin with something positive: Munich’s Andreas Angerer, aka Zero Crossing, is an excellent drum programmer. His syncopated beats are punchy and concise, punctuated with hi-hats as sharp as surgical needles. Gradually, he adds layers of subtle percussion, resulting in something that paradoxically sounds complex and minimal at the same time. The man has a sense of a good rhythm and how to create it without all the fuss and bombast, doing influences like Richie Hawtin proud.

Now the not-so-good news: My Kinda Funk, Angerer’s full-length debut, is an overall mess that’s only occasionally engaging. Angerer’s intent is noble enough. He wants to give funk a contemporary, electronic, ambitiously personal makeover. But he ends up giving more nods to European electro-minimalist predecessors than to funk’s founding fathers. Imagine if DAF or Nitzer Ebb had made a hip-hop album… without any hooks, melodies, or interesting rapping. The bottom line: My Kinda Funk would make an excellent collection of sample-worthy loops. Its appeal as an album of music doesn’t go much beyond a certain niche of electronica, if even that far.

Most all of the album’s dozen full tracks share the same shortcomings. One of those tight beats gets going and is complemented with a pulsing electro- or slap-bass line. Then it pretty much marks time with near-random staccato strings, laser-gun synths, and atonal sound effects. Occasional guest vocals, like Mustafa Akbar’s soulful emoting on the elegant Talk collaboration “Touching You”, don’t stand much of a chance against such a backdrop, especially when the rhythms break down and start up again without notice. The great, ubiquitous Kool Keith nearly saves “Da Game Is On” with some trademark non-sequiturs, but, like most songs on My Kinda Funk, the track runs out of steam after a few minutes. Just about everything on the album sounds improvised—suggesting a classic case of the ol’ live-act-that-doesn’t-translate-to-the-studio syndrome. 

Track after track, Angerer gets some promising grooves going, only to let the them overstay their welcomes. However, “Rhythm of Life” does offer a complete translation of his vision, thanks to a Sly-riffic bassline and some ingenious vocal sampling.  Furthermore, “Darkness” is like an inverted Photek drum’n'bass track. With its analog surge and lumbering rhythm, it’s a deconstruction that, ironically, bears more of its author’s personal stamp than any of the funk-influenced stuff. 

Maybe the moral here is that one man’s funk is another person’s frittering.

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