Kölsch 1989

Kölsch 1989
7
Not a man to shy from commitment to a theme, Danish producer/DJ Kölsch (Rune Reilly) has released the third album of his conceptual trilogy inspired by specifically important years of his life. Where the first was devoted to the year he was born, this third, the dusky and string-laced 1989, chronicles the artist's gloomy teens, years spent escaping familial strife via urban skateboard odysseys, headphones in.
 
As such, it's even more melancholy than 2015's 1983, which was already a fairly wistful and nostalgic affair. It also features a far more prominent role for collaborator Gregor Schwellenbach, who returns after 1983 (this time with a 24-piece orchestra), filling the album with sorrowful strings — sometimes overwhelmingly, although this could be a matter of taste. The three tracks that feature his conducting of the Heritage Orchestra are definitely the most striking on the album; their sometimes florid arrangements just don't always play to Reilly's strengths (his restraint and commitment to rhythm, for instance).
 
There's a wisp of compromise in all collaboration, however, and there's no denying the mournful strings in "Serij" or the majestic opening of "Liath." There are even brass and woodwinds to be found, instruments that often get overlooked in orchestral-electronic collaborations. The sound is often pleasantly rich on 1989.
 
Elsewhere, Reilly is in reliable (if somewhat safe) form; we've frankly heard all this from him before, but there's pleasure to be found in the familiar when it's done right. Some of the straightforward exuberance found on 1977, the first in this trilogy, could have gone a long way here, but this is still a rewarding album that fans of the first two would do well to check out. (Kompakt)