Timo Maas Pictures

The accolades that made Maas into a name-brand DJ can do nothing to help him as a producer. Pictures, Maas’ second original album with producer Martin Buttrich, is average and an unchallenging listen based in the watered-down branches of techno — although he does make efforts to draw on watered-down rock, watered-down ragga, and watered-down disco. Unfortunately for the German DJ/ producer, Maas seems stuck in 2001. The song structures are remarkably simple with predictable breaks and easily discernable layers, making for a disappointingly linear listen. The sonic effects are dated, making him sound behind rather than ahead of his time. If the accolades can’t help him, maybe some constructive criticism can: this album shows promise in its cleanliness of tone, but he needs to find a way to make the clean work for him, not against. The highlights are the guest vocalists: Brian Molko of Placebo uses his disaffected and sexually taught voice to deliver the erotic narrative of "Pictures,” and also shows up singing the weak lyrics of "Like Siamese”; Kelis is an enjoyable tease on "4 UR Ears” and Neneh Cherry sounds like a snake charmer on "High Drama.” It comes across as a project, not an album, with too little soul and too much conceptualising. (Ultra)