[13 October 2006]
Dance is almost unmatched in its ability to bring people together. In a busy club, dance can break down personal barriers and unite crowd members in a pulsing mass of life. On a broader scale, it can also transcend national limits and speak to a global community. Latin rhythms might propel European electronica, for instance, or American swing music may infiltrate an Asian club hit. Few people are as aware of the interpersonal and international quality of dance music as Freddie Cruger. When creating his debut album, Soul Search, he deliberately exploited these qualities, and the result is a smooth sonic blend that draws from some of the world’s best dance music.
Freddie Cruger, a.k.a. Red Astaire, is a producer/DJ from Sweden. Over the past few years, he has released 16 tracks and remixes. In addition to being his first full-length album, Soul Search is also one of the first Freddie Cruger releases to appear on a medium other than vinyl. Cruger’s music is marked by eclecticism, and his sound has earned him the approval of several notable crate diggers, including Jazzy Jeff, Bobbito, and Quantic.
Soul Search truly spans the globe in its musical scope. The opener, “Over the Ocean”, the melody of which sounds remarkably like the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love”, conjures the sounds of Jamaica with its reggae influence. “What’chu See Iz What’Chu Get” is a more straightforward track rooted in old-school American hip-hop. “Pretty Little Thing” is a sexy soul track featuring the seductive vocal contributions of Swedish singer Linn. And these three tracks only scratch the surface of an album that also includes elements of funk, jazz, blues, Latin music and disco.
The thirteen tracks on the album all display a high degree of songcraft. Although so-called “electronic” artists are often more driven by textures and soundscapes than traditional songs, Cruger is an exception to this trend. In fact, his songs could probably be radio hits if he could find an effective way to market himself. As it stands, he will probably have to be content writing the type of music the Black Eyed Peas might write if they could no longer rely on the “humps” of their female member and actually had to hone their musical talent.
The production style on Soul Search is understated. Though Cruger deals in a wide range of styles, he combines all the sonic elements smoothly. Consequently, Soul Search is consistently listenable, but it never demands attention. This feature is both good and bad. On a positive note, it blends easily into the background and would be a perfect soundtrack for a dance party. The negative side is that it doesn’t quite satisfy as a listening experience in its own right. The album is enjoyable while it is playing, but it won’t leave listeners with much to take away from their experience.
Cruger has already gained attention from a number of important listeners, and his reputation should only grow with the release of Soul Search. Although his music does not display the deep grooves or the striking creativity of someone like the aforementioned Quantic, it is nonetheless worthwhile. By working in a wide range of styles and doing so in such a tasteful, capable way, Cruger has created an album that should appeal to fans of many genres and repel no one.