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CD Feature/ Stardelay: "A New High-Fidelity Tripout"

img  Tobias

You don’t get something for nothing. The earliest recordings of this album date back to 1998, when Carsten Mentzel started preparing basic tracks for his debut album. Using ancient computer technology and a “cheapo soundcard”, these sessions marked his first, tentative steps as a producer and revealed creative cleverness and a knack for an organic flow. Judging by the feathery weightlessness of some of the grooves on “A New High-Fidelity Tripout” as well as the effortless ease in fusing Soul, Jazz and Lounge into a creamy cocktail, one would have expected him to maybe take one or two years to come full circle with the project. Instead, it has taken him a complete decade.

No wonder then, that Mentzel thanks “Dagobert Böhm and everyone at Ozella (the label responsible for releasing „A New High-Fidelity Tripout“) for keeping me focussed”. With a total of fourteen tracks comfortably spread out over 53 minutes and comprising of vocal pieces and instrumental compositions, electronic arrangements and acoustic elements, state-of-the-art technology and the nostalgic pang of classic equipment like Fender Rhodes and a Gibson Les Paul, the album always risks exploding for the sheer scope of its ambitions and the richness of its arrangements. In a nice anecdote worth mentioning in this respect, the German multi-instrumentalist was stunned to discover that he contributed to almost every single song on the Ozella label sampler “The Sound Vol. 3” without anyone noticing lest they checked the booklet for songwriting credits.

It would be wrong to conclude, however, that “A New High-Fidelity Tripout” wants to impress its audience with confounding diversity. Simply, it is the result of spending a lot of nocturnal hours alone in the studio and of making use of every tool at Menzel's disposal: On “Thoughts & Words”, he adds his own, warm-vibratoed vocals to the mix, enriching one minute miniature “Zeta 4000-31” with resonant Sitar motives and “Something Else” with crystaline Flute samples. “Still Humming”, with its spooky Theremine hummings, is as close as Smooth Jazz will ever get to being labelled “cosmic” and “Untitled Symphony” juxtaposes Ambient pads with Blues licks without sounding construed. Obviously, this is one of those albums whose long creation process must be regarded as a deliberate effort of arriving at the bare essence and of errasing all unnecessary complexity. 

As a natural consequence, Mentzel’s arrangements are open to the point of being minimal, breathing naturally and freely. Ocasionally, the unobtrusive, funky drum computer beats will polyrhythmically sidestep their relaxed trajectory with a kinky knod to breakbeats and drum n bass, but overall, “A New High-Fidelity Tripout” makes a pleasant point of not unpleasantly trying to make a point all the time. When Mentzel takes on Portishead’s “It Could be Sweet” with a ranchy falsetto and a newly-found urgency, he transforms an intimate fantasy into a self-acusatory attack which nonetheless remains unperturbed and calm on the surface. It may take ten years to arrive at this kind of craftmanship, but then again, you don’t get something for nothing in music - or in anything else for that matter.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Stardelay
Homepage: Ozella Records

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