If anyone ever needed a really good example for just how much the remix culture is able to influence and even create new musical niches and styles, the case of Kruder & Dorfmeister is probably the best you can get. And it might also provide an ideal case study on how much the perception of artists and their work among their listeners can be fascinatingly twisted.
For starters, this four track EP is actually the closest thing to an album that Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister ever published as recording artists (not counting last year’s sort of retrospective “1995”). Yes, there’s more, but most of the original material you will find are contributions to compilations. Which is sad, simply because this EP doesn’t just look good, it contains some really fine music as well.
At the height of the downbeat craze lots of folks who liked this style of music actually thought that the DJ Kicks and K&D Sessions albums contained music created by Kruder and Dorfmeister. Well, there was one piece, as it always is on DJ Kicks mixes (plus one track that was featured on this EP). But everything else is – of course – music by other people and K&D remixes. As much as this may seem like a no-brainer now – back in those days people usually pointed towards the (re)mixes when they were praising the music of these two gentlemen, and most of them didn’t even know this EP.
The K&D partnership might also be romanticized to a certain extent. At least it seems a little odd that their discography is very short and that it didn’t take long until they both started separate projects as Tosca and Peace Orchestra. Looking at the productivity of these two projects the impressive catalogue of remixes doesn’t really count as an explanation either.
As a matter of fact, Richard Dorfmeister got together with Rupert Huber to start the Tosca project in 1994, just one year after the release of this EP. Their first album “Opera” was released in 1997, Kruder’s Peace Orchestra followed in 1999.
But let’s look back to 1993 when the two gentlemen were still happily working together creating music, dragging Trip Hop out of its dark and brooding corner and giving it the little twist it needed to be salon compatible, singlehandedly defining what downtempo is supposed to sound like and inspiring a big wave of musicians and producers from Vienna to follow their example. For a while the majority of downtempo sounds in your favorite record shop came from there – and while many point at the DJ Kicks album as the genre-defining moment, but in reality it’s this four track EP.
Needless to say that Kruder & Dorfmeister always stayed way ahead of everything else that was created in Vienna during those years, easily and quickly rising to global fame. Apart from their superior abilities as producers and remixers they had the style and the marketing talents it took. The cover of this EP is a great example, masterfully imitating Simon & Garfunkel’s famous “Bookends” cover.
They were way up there from the very beginning. “G-Stoned” was published years before other big Downtempo greats like the Thievery Corporation or Kid Loco emerged. They were as creative and innovative as any Mo Wax artist, substituting the up in smoke attitude with slick and stylish elegance. They were as independent and as removed from the mainstream as Ninja Tune were (who occasionally featured them on compilations), minus the Hip Hop flavor and plus a healthy tendency to not be too serious about anything, including themselves.
The result is something that can easily be labeled as hedonistic and a little decadent, not really reflecting on anything, creating languorous moments filled with something that can only be described as the conscious and sensible absence of content, a masterfully crafted soundtrack for an evening that is spent with very little motion and a lot of style. This may sound like a contemptuous verdict – but it absolutely isn’t. After a decade of raves and perpetual motion in overdrive this was the perfect alternative for those who chose to just hang out at the bar and chill for a change.
It really doesn’t get much more laid back than what you get on these four tracks. The mix of instruments on “Definition” says most of what you need to know – xylophone, flute and piano do their thing on a lazy beat and a warm bass in the background. Is this Jazz? Probably not, but the guys are definitely not shying away from it. Whoever worked on the flute does a good enough job jamming along on top of the lush loungy sound carpet to not let this even come close to being repetitive or boring. A perfect opener.
Very quickly it becomes evident that the EP is an EP because these are the absolute gems in the oeuvre of Kruder & Dorfmeister. Any additional track probably would have lowered the overall quality of “G-Stoned”. Just listen to the infinite cool of “Deep Shit, Pt. 1 & 2”. The deep and heavy organ theme, the tribal chants, the superb drum track, the synth bass and the airy keys – this is probably the track that best defines the K&D remix magic that would let their phone ring for years to come.
For at least two years, “Deep Shit, Pt. 1 & 2” would be featured on just about every Downbeat compilation, most of the time outshining the rest of the selection. They were just far more elegant than the other guys – and their stuff always sounded excellent. The third piece “High Noon” is further proof, light and jazzy drums, laid back organ chords and a faintly dubby deep bass are already enough to set the scene for some vocal samples, a dose of guitar and even a harmonica – whatever these guys were using, it just worked magnificently. I mean, really. Harmonica. Under any other circumstance this would have been embarrassing.
It’s super hard to pick a favorite among the four tracks. But for me it’s “Original Bedroom Rockers”, the other track that would be featured on a truckload of compilations. It’s just a little more subversive, a little more seductive, it has this super catchy guitar sample and the simple, even slightly corny vocal samples, the warm and elegant organ chords and the high organ notes that slightly echo Bob James’ “Nautilus” – to sum it all up, it’s fair to quote K&D here: “Yeah, Baby”.
Four tracks – and every single one of them is a definition of what the Downbeat genre would be able to deliver in its best moments. These are the guys that started what would eventually make bar and cafe owners set up DJ booths and let their guests sip their drinks to something better than the random collection of crappy mix cds that were crammed under the counter. This is the stuff that would let us settle down in the plushy sofas that would suddenly be placed everywhere to better fit with the extended and upgraded drinks menu.
This may not be a musical revolution. There’s no real message here and no one plays mind-blowing solos. It may even just be a fairly new combination of well-known elements. But if you ask someone for a definition of innovation, that’s exactly what they will say. Take known stuff and combine it for something new. That’s really what it is. A very cool and elegant form of innovation.
Release for review:
KRUDER & DORFMEISTER – G-STONED – G-STONE 001