At the beginning of their career, Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer and Paul Frick carved themselves a neat little niche, and the dance music world took notice. As an ensemble of classically trained instrumentalists who decided to make techno, they were fresh and intriguing, offering a view of club music that was seldom seen. With their debut, You Make Me Real, they managed to make minimal techno from acoustic instruments, and their follow-up Mr. Machine, recorded with a ten-piece ensemble, was possibly even more impressive. 2013, however, saw them change gear with Miami, featuring vocals from the likes of Jamie Lidell and Gudrun Gut, but now they've gone even further in that direction, and unfortunately, to an absolute fault.
Joy might just be one of the most accurate examples of vocals ruining a perfectly good album. Nobody doubts the music-making skill of Brandt Brauer Frick, but they've managed to sully every interesting aspect of this record with the off-putting drone of singer-poet Beaver Sheppard. Sheppard is in the right place behind an acoustic guitar, but on Joy, he's completely out of his element, with the collaboration unfortunately benefitting neither party. With no instrumental tracks, there's also no real escape from the Pet-Shop-Boys-esque parade of pretension, either. "Blackout," "Keep Changing" and "Holy Night" all start off quite promising, but as soon as the human voice is introduced, they take an irreparable turn for the worse.
Joy is actually a great reminder of how powerful vocals can be on a record, but in entirely the wrong way. Brandt Brauer Frick are still immensely talented, and you can hear glimmers of greatness crop up in the background here, but they've sadly jumped the shark on this one. (Because)