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Robag Wruhme: Wuppdeckmischmampflow

img  Tobias Fischer

Let's face it: Mix-CDs are no longer going to change the wold. While, in the 90s, they were widely considered seminal artistic statements, the new millennium has marked their rapid decline into pleasant side-thoughts at best, degenerating into the kind of releases that will quickly end up in the sales-bins of supermarkets. This is not to say that mixes as such are considered useless by the public at large. In fact, with the voices of literally millions of producers trying to somehow make themselves heard, their curational functionality has, if anything, become even more indispensable. The real issue is that their main precondition – virtuosity in blending seemingly unconnected pieces into seamless new entities – has by now gone from a talent formerly reserved for a handful of gifted musicians to a common commodity. In 2004, Jeff Mills still stunned the world with The Exhibitionist, an all but scientific dissection of his turntable skills. A mere six years later, the tools for achieving far more complex constructs than displayed on Mills's DVD have become readily available, resulting in a tsunami of podcasts and playlists. And yet, to Gabor Schalinski aka Robag Wruhme, this development has never posed a serious threat. On the contrary, it has actually served to render the differences between the masses and his personal approach all the more transparent.

Which is why it would be slightly misleading to characterise Wuppdeckmischmampflow as an all but incidental effort created in between tending to his duties as a part-time farmer. Of course, everything here points at a pronouncedly casual production process, with the entire LP being recorded on a single day and by simply blending together a couple of his favourites without having to heed the demands of a club. Schalinski is clearly out to satisfy no one but himself here, mostly ignoring canonical classics, paying little to no attention to current trends and only, towards the end, throwing in a short unreleased piece of his own, which is unlikely to coax even die-hard Wruhme fans into opening their wallets. The result consequentially sounds sensual rather than sweeping, sultry rather than outright sexy and dreamy rather than danceable. And this has a lot less to do with the material at hanbd – which almost always retains enough of a physically stimulating pulse as to remain danceable and ranges from Ricardo Villalobos's incisively drifting „Dexter“ to Moderat's „Rusty Nails“ and from Tiefschwarz's clickhouse-minimalism to Kollektiv Turmstraße's blend of Ambient-bliss and hypnotic percussion – but rather with its preference of a steady, immersive flow over a more suspenseful, undulating tension arch.

In itself, there is nothing particularly spectacular about the way Schalinski sets about achieving his aims. The foundation for the dense, continuous mood of the set is laid in its early stages, when snippets of tracks are allowed to continue running for extended periods, passing from one section to the next like Chinese whispers. And so the pumping percussion and bass line of „Dexter“, a piece of gentle psychedelia unfolding a both playful and mysterious pull, remain intact as the main groove-foundation ten minutes after it has ended and even though its long, looped and heavily delayed bell-melody has long disappeared from sight. Similarly, the crisp micronoises of „Trust“ continue to infiltrate the mix, even when they have been relegated to barely audible background clicks. There is rarely a moment that no more than a single piece is playing, with Schalinski piling up to three tunes on top of each other, moulding them into dense, equally propulsive and atmospheric textures. This, just as much as the transitions from one track to the next by means of simple fading operations, is of course textbook-DJing. But the organic feeling of Wuppdeckmischmampflow is entirely the result of Schalinski performing these actions in a highly musical way, creating fluent, constantly fluctuating structures of billowing and deflating pads as well as growing and decomposing rhythms.

One of the most prominent features in this regard consists in the fact that an unreleased Robag Wruhme contribution by the improbable title of „Smapelschatull“ is listed in the booklet as playing on a full nine of the fourteen tracks contained here. Even after various listening sessions, it is impossible to tell how much of it has been used, even less what it actually sounds like at all. With all likelihood, therefore, „Smapelschatull“ is not so much a composition in the traditional sense of the word but a part of the sound design of the record, a production element which may seem irrelevant to outsiders but is of seminal importance to its creator. And it is making all the difference: The intoxicating effect of Wuppdeckmischmampflow is entirely down to its deep, hazy production, which places the music behind an opaque cloud of sweet smoke and binding together works which would otherwise seem slightly out of place next to each other. One could certainly claim this being the product of Schalinski's eclectic taste, and of the record simply representing his personal vision of what a Mix-CD in a time when borders between genres seem silly rather than sensible, can and should sound like. Another interpretation, meanwhile, seems even more convincing: That Schalinski has long left the notion of a Mix-CD as a mere collage of different records behind him and come to regard it as a sub-form of a format that has intriguingly continued to inspire despite its outwardly backdated appearance: The album.

It has often been said that, at his peak, a DJ is capable of truly making a track his own. Here, however, he is turning the entire set into a personal statement. Virtuosity has nothing whatsoever to do with this: The division between merely spinning some vinyl and the act of composing is lifted on the strength of pure imagination. Schalinski may not change the world with this Mix-CD. But as long as he is channeling his talents into self-expression rather than a technical tour de force, records like Wuppdeckmischmampflow will retain their relevance.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Kompakt Records

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