There’s something about deep, bass-heavy, musical thwack. It doesn’t matter how much one knows about house and all its micro-shoots, or whether they can speak to 1990s-era hip-hop producers such as Pete Rock or Easy Mo- Bee, sample-based geniuses who wallowed in mid-tempo boom-bap and a basic allegiance to snare-drum-heavy, head-nodding funk. Once this stuff hits, your body reacts. Shoulders sway, the neck becomes untethered, the lower back and hips get involved no matter how hard you might try to control them. Music that aims itself at the body, be it French-Algerian funked-up Staifi, Eritrean Tigrigna clomp, or DC Go-Go pocket-driven monotony, is tough to deny.
Detlef Weinrich’s work under the Tolouse Low Trax moniker is covered in such infectious, dank, thudding grooves that force the body to deal with them. And nowhere in his catalogue is this more apparent than Jumping Dead Leafs? This is a record that drips with liquid bass, slow tempos, and only incidental involvement by sounds other than the very bottom of the groove itself. Perhaps the attention to space as much as to rhythmic insistence is due to the recent connection to Bureau B, a label that pits him with restless travelers such as Die Wilde Jagd or Harmonious Thelonious but also to the rhythm-free drones of Baal & Mortimer. Bureau B then is a label as aligned to open expanse as it is to dance. It’s fitting that Weinrich’s least-busy release to date would appear on the label.
Weinrich’s drumming with the long-running post-Krautrock/electronic ensemble Kriedler, as well as his involvement with Dusseldorf’s experimental dance scene at the Salon des Amateurs, plays in a role in his attention to a kind of surrender to the bottom end as well. A club space whose DJs are just as likely to pull in psychedelia, no wave, electronic, noise, as more typical club-centric pulses, the Salon has shaped his lack of concern for the trappings of fickle micro-genre dance classification. Instead, his attention to rhythm’s timelessness makes his best work effortlessly universal.
“The Incomprehensible Image” swats a syrupy groove around, but as it moves towards its final minute or two, it has slowly morphed, its early hand-clap-fortified center is pushed to the background as the sound of someone talking, a keyboard twitter and twangs that might be mistaken for an Afghan Rabab move into the foreground. By its end, it sounds like plops of wet tar against a cinder block wall. The title track uses reverb-drenched whistling, synth-farts, and what sounds like a robot laughing as melody. With a few repeated vocals here and there, this slow-tugging track feels like repeated splashes of cold water.
Weinrich’s appreciation of the cosmic allows “Milk in Water” to focus on an echo-y keyboard pulse as manipulated percussion samples try to find their way through a dark cave. Somewhere deep in this track is a nod to Lee “Scratch” Perry’s most whacked Black Ark impulses. Yet it’s “Sales Pitch”, the album’s closer, that’s likely the hardest-hitting representation of Weinrich’s MPC beat-and-sampler combo minimalism. It rides on a distorted pulse so thick it sounds like a boxer playing a punching bag, while here and there, low, whining sound-clips comment on the groove.
Weinrich’s recordings and DJing go back a quarter-century, allowing him certain sonic wisdom. He sees trance and loosely-defined psychedelia as crucial components of everything he does. As a result, he creates sounds largely devoid of period effects and nearly impossible not to get with. Because he honors limited gadgetry, not relying too much on the problematically coined “ethno-samples” or the frustratingly ubiquitous 808, his albums and DJ sets have an openness. As Weinrich himself explained in an extensive interview, “it’s a Japanese principle. The beauty only develops if something is missing.”