Fritz Kalkbrenner

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

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It's probably little surprise that Fritz Kalkbrenner's debut album feels like a refracted '70s release for 2010: think of double albums like Songs in the Key of Life (or even Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall, given his warm, full-bodied voice) and you'll get a sense of his partial inspiration. Despite appearances, however, the instrumental track "Wichita Lineman" is an original rather than a Jimmy Webb cover, so Donna Summer doing "Macarthur Park" is perhaps a more oblique reference point. Joining such German or Germany-based performers like Chelonis R. Jones and Barbara Morgenstern in the search for techno as a soundbed for the art of the song, Kalkbrenner is compelling with his vocals as well as his music, though the latter is more prominent throughout the album, as the shuddering, high speed "Kings in Exile" makes clear from the start. Songs like "Collage" split the difference between maintaining mood and varying it; there's just enough happening from track to track that the album doesn't fully blend into itself, and keeps a quick, polite take on classic techno at the fore. "Right in the Dark" brings in both his voice and some acoustic guitar, further showing how the acoustic/electronic fusions of the 21st century almost work better when starting with the latter element rather than the former. The slick, echoed beats and four-to-the-floor beats always feel like the predominant point, especially on songs like "Was Right Been Wrong," but his vocals always add just the right feel and hook, and feel like his own accomplished guest performers. On "Facing the Sun," everything from the echoed beat and a full acoustic guitar part during the break to the easygoing swing of the main arrangement shows an artist in focused, careful control.

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