Munk: Cloudbuster

The head of German dance label Gomma returns with his own project, Munk -- and provides more tongue-in-cheek electrofunk with a surprising sophistication



Label: Gomma
US Release Date: 2008-07-15
UK Release Date: 2008-07-16

It's not the voice of Asia Argento that makes the first single and opening track of Munk's new album, Cloudbuster, work. Sure, she's sexy but, if you weren't told, would you care? Here's what's interesting about the track, what ends up fueling a tension that lasts through the whole album. You might be tempted to dismiss Munk as one of those jokey electro acts in the style of Fischerspooner, all overstated funk and disaffected vocals. At first glance, the album looks flimsy with three interludes whimsically called "Interludus" 1, 2 and 3; a couple of tracks with predominant vocals in a sultry Italian; and, oh, that opening track. Is the title -- "Live Fast! Die Old!" -- a reference to that Ricky Gervais line in Season 2 of The Office? Does the sneaky Christopher Walken name-drop serve any function other than to make you think, as Fatboy Slim once famously did, that this artist is completely down with irony?

Mathias Modica, the German head of the well-respected Gomma record label, is the producer behind Munk, an act whose emphasis on disco had it well ahead of the curve when their debut, Aperitivo, was released in 2005. You may have heard a couple of the standout club tracks. “Kick Out the Chairs!” (with James Murphy) and “Disco Clown” (subsequently remixed by Digitalism, among others) have both found some recognition over the last few years. So now that the rest of the electronic scene is growing tired of minimal house and looking for more exuberant, lighter fare, is there room for another flat-voiced, ironic cocaine electrofunk album? Well, Munk certainly hope so. Rather than just slot in where you expect, Modica approaches the new album with a keen sense of the tension between the urge to move psych-funk instills and the pop titillation of arch irony. And so, while tracks like "Down in L.A." attack pseudo-retro cool with a disco sparkle, all Chevrolets and "the high school hop", later in the album, we're presented with a slab of songs that are more clearly utilitarian. “The Rat Race” is still squarely pop-focused -- the prominence of vocals throughout the album means that these songs are equally successful in the car as in the club -- but also captures the danger and sleaze of new disco’s low end. Like a poppier the Knife, or -- occasionally -- a Black Spiderman version image of Jamie Liddell. Or a more visceral WhoMadeWho.

OK, so there are plenty of other artists out there who are stylistically or temperamentally similar to Munk. And it’s when the act’s most like these that it’s least successful: that jokey aspect where the lyrics undermine whatever innovative sounds are going on underneath. Nobody will remember the altered-vocal interludes or the random clips of spoken word; they set a certain tone, not much more. In a song called "No Milk", the vocalist builds up into a tantrum of dislike: "I don't want milk / I don't want lemonade … I just hade bikes … Fuck milk, and fuck lemonade". As the vocals become more intoxicated, it’s easy to miss that the music is building complexity; it's actually what gives the song its strung-along quality.

And the most satisfying parts of the album are when Munk drop this façade of cool and show off their considerable talents in the craft of songwriting. Whether it’s rattling '80s guitars, steely funk, or even an unexpected flute drone, Modica demonstrates he’s easily capable of marrying Italian passion with Teutonic idealism to create a subtle, rewarding version of an essentially familiar genre. In his future work, there’s no doubt that these tensions and complexities will continue to evolve, and that Munk may well grow larger and more influential. Hopefully, they’ll remain as fun and cool as they are today.





Learning to Take a Picture: An Interview With Inara George

Inara George is unafraid to explore life's more difficult and tender moments. Discussion of her latest music, The Youth of Angst, leads to stories of working with Van Dyke Parks and getting David Lee Roth's musical approval.


GOD's 'God IV - Revelation' Is a Towering Feat of Theologically-Tinged Prog Metal (album stream)

GOD's God IV - Revelation is beautiful and brutal in equal measure. It's a masterful series of compositions. Hear it in full today before tomorrow's release.


Country Westerns Bask in an Unparalleled Sound and Energy on Their Debut

Country Westerns are intent on rejecting assumptions about a band from Nashville while basking in an unparalleled sound and energy.

Featured: Top of Home Page

Rediscovering Japanese Director Tomu Uchida

A world-class filmmaker of diverse styles, we take a look at Tomu Uchida's very different Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji and The Mad Fox.


The Charlatans' 'Between 10th and 11th' Gets a Deluxe Edition

Not even a "deluxe" version of Between 10th and 11th from the Charlatans can quite set the record straight about the maligned-but-brilliant 1992 sophomore album.


'High Cotton' Is Culturally Astute and Progressive

Kristie Robin Johnson's collection of essays in High Cotton dismantle linear thinking with shrewdness and empathy.


Lianne La Havas Is Reborn After a Long Layoff

British soul artist Lianne La Havas rediscovers herself on her self-titled new album. It's a mesmerizing mix of spirituality and sensuality.


PC Nackt Deconstructs the Classics with 'Plunderphonia'

PC Nackt kicks off a unique series of recordings dedicated to creating new music by "plundering" unexpected historical sources such as classical piano pieces or chamber orchestra music.


Counterbalance 24: The Doors - 'The Doors'

Before you slip into unconsciousness, Counterbalance has put together a few thoughts on the Doors' 1967 debut album. It's number 24 on the Big List.

Reading Pandemics

Parable Pandemics: Octavia E. Butler and Racialized Labor

Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, informed by a deep understanding of the intersectionality of dying ecologies, disease, and structural racism, exposes the ways capitalism's insatiable hunger for profit eclipses humanitarian responses to pandemics.


'Tiger King' and the Post-Truth Culture War

Tiger King -- released during and dominating the streaming-in-lockdown era -- exemplifies in real-time the feedback loop between entertainment and ideology.


Ivy Mix's 'Spirits of Latin America' Evokes the Ancestors

A common thread unites Ivy Mix's engaging Spirits of Latin America; "the chaotic intermixture between indigenous and European traditions" is still an inextricable facet of life for everyone who inhabits the "New World".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.