Paul Kalkbrenner Parts of Life
Published May 15, 2018While perhaps not as well-known in North America, Paul Kalkbrenner is something of a superstar in his native Germany — in 2014, the federal government invited him to play a massive set in front of the Brandenburg Gate as part of a 25th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall for instance (Kalkbrenner was 12 years old in 1989), and his name is linked with many seminal clubs and labels in Berlin's techno lore.
Parts of Life, his latest artist album (and eighth overall), follows hot on the heels of his Back to the Future mixtape trilogy, itself a historical project chronicling his experience in Germany's nascent techno scene as a teenager in the early '90s.
Likably, Parts Of Life is still clearly moored in those early, simpler days, when all you needed was a solid beat, some cool samples and half-a-dozen knobs to filter your melody through. There's no micro production here; nothing is pitch-bent, chopped or digitally manhandled, and there's no attempt to update things to reflect current trends.
The first five tracks are a great testament to the effectiveness of this simple recipe. Although it could be described as minimal, it's also very big sounding; Kalkbrenner's music has been referred to as "grand" before, and Parts of Life regularly fits this description — the stately and elegiac "Part Eight" easily has two decades' worth of techno's cultural pathos crammed into it, for instance.
It may sound a bit simplistic and dated at times (the Vengaboys-esque "Part One" was perhaps the wrong choice to open with), but those who cherish Kalkbrenner's distinct and classic approach will not be disappointment by Parts of Life, and newcomers who have any pretensions to understanding techno's history as it lives and breathes today should be making note of this as well. This is mature, earnest techno from an artist who came up at the centre of what would become one of the style's most important hubs. (Sony Music)