[2 January 2011]
Jazz flourishes and a dose of unconventional samples spice up Asper Clouds. Germany’s Christopher Rau uses sirens, cinema dialogue and more to fill out the deep house sounds of his debut full-length. Aside from a couple of dazzling efforts, though, the album is repetitive, with little in the way of tangible development.
Slotted midway through Asper Clouds, “The Cool World” is one of the stronger pieces in the set. At first it’s mildly propulsive, building for a bit before Rau swaps the kicks and hi hats out for a crusty film-sourced pep talk. Far-off saxophone winds slowly around looped organ chords, and the track’s progression, as well as its chilling sense of removal, attest to Rau’s deft arrangement of these adjacent samples (the background noise, the curious placement of the film dialogue—the producer’s history in hip hop production doesn’t hurt). The center of “The Cool World”, its micro-sized carousel music samples, is hardly enough to anchor it, so Rau’s nuances again carry the load. “Capri”, too, boasts only a repetitive couple of musical ideas, but the events that materialize around them are few and far between.
When you least expect it, Asper Clouds spreads out in a manner that embodies its serene cover art, an understated watercolor work from Hamburg-based artist Stefan Marx. Just as Rau’s humdrum “Do Little” does, well, little, the producer’s sunny synth swells brighten “The Needs” immensely, never marring an appeal that’s as subtle and stirring as anything on John Roberts’ Glass Eights. Countering the less exciting bumps along the way, Rau’s restrained extras add finesse but the tracks largely fall short of leaving a memorable impression.