Berlin has always been home to many multi-talented producers. Although in recent years international attention has focused on its thriving techno scene, there's always existed a solid collection of enthused jazz, funk and hip-hop artists, ploughing their trade. In recent years Max Graef has played a pivotal role in this scene. His enthusiasm for vinyl and solid, eclectic releases on Tartelet, Money $ex Records and his own Box Aus Holz (that's wooden box in English) have secured him an agreeable role in the underground scene.
In recent interviews with Graef, he expressed a need to move away from sampling towards using more real sounds in his work. Well he's certainly done that with the Max Graef Band, whose debut album, 'Dog', is about as live as you can get whilst retaining the driving artificial funk of his solo productions. Graef leads on bass, whilst long time associate Ludwig Labuzinski, who featured on his debut album 'Rivers of the Red Planet', is on hand to add some percussive sampling. He serves Graef's penchant for those crisp, offbeat claps, which have always been present in his work (and which appear in number on 'Dog'). Drums, electric piano, synth and guitar complete the textured setup.
In the past, Graef's respectful, inventive take on classic G-funk and house gained him a legion of fans, but often his cuts felt like extended jams, straying from the realms of improvisation into noodling territory. 'Rivers Of The Red Planet' certainly contained some top-notch tracks but at times Graef's jazz-like curiosity with song structure appeared to inhibit his compositions rather than help them to excel.
This is exactly why 'Dog' is such an enjoyable listen. The record is devoid of any vocals, at least in the traditional sense – the band's studio chat patters away between tracks, which gives the album the air of a live session in flow. The tracks are tight, as is the band's interplay and extended passages of guitar work avoid self-indulgent riffing. The Max Graef Band has created an atmospheric LP that will most likely satisfy new and old fans alike. 'Dog' may not invite repeat listens in the average listener, but it will give an accurate portrait of a group of involved and talented musicians in full artistic flow.
Words: Alex Green
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