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Wolfram

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Album Review

Majestically maned Austrian producer/gadabout Wolfram Eckert has been a key player in the zealous resurgence of Euro-disco since at least 2005, when he launched his Diskokaine imprint, first issuing his own productions and collaborations (under the sneakily reversible marfloW moniker) and soon introducing the world to the immaculate Italo disco simulacra of Sweden's Sally Shapiro. But anyone still dubious of his Euro-dance bona fides need only glance at the guest list for his fantastic first artist full-length, which plays less like a debut album than a star-studded coming-out party. The parade of vocalists and co-writers includes not only a veritable who's who of contemporary disco torchbearers — Hercules and Love Affair, Holy Ghost!, Legowelt, and Shapiro (plus her producer, Johan Agebjörn) — but also a couple of Hi-NRG OGs: Paul Parker, who scored a number one dance hit in 1982 (the year before Eckert was born) with the Patrick Cowley-penned "Right on Target," and early-'90s sensation Haddaway, who posed the immortal musical question, "What Is Love?" With friends like that, you know Eckert's gotta be doing something right, but then it takes more than a loaded Rolodex to make a memorable album. Credit all of the aforementioned for bringing their A games in their vocal performances; credit Wolfram for crafting a seamless but restlessly diverse and wildly entertaining batch of tracks, suiting each one to the particular style and sensibility of each guest, and honoring the fun-loving spirit of 1970s and '80s electronic disco, neither coming off as overly reverent or self-serious nor crossing the boundary into excessive campiness or pastiche. Highlights include Parker's adrenalized turn on "Out of Control," whose undeniable Van Halen vibes are tied with the epically emo electro-rock of "Norway" (sung by Heartbreak's equally throaty Sebastian Muravchik) for the album's glammiest moment; the soulfully subdued "Thing Called Love," which pits Haddaway's smooth-as-ever croon against a brilliantly cheap-sounding casio riff; and the taut, tidy synth pop of "Hold My Breath," which appears three times — bookending the album as the loosest, most playful Holy Ghost! cut yet and as a suitably sparkly Shapiro feature, then again in an extended two-part bonus instrumental — but never wears out its welcome. The ten-minute "Teamgeist," a funky midtempo acid house workout with countryman Patrick Pulsinger, demonstrates that Wolfram can be just as colorful and charismatic working wordless (and long-form), and the stately, soaring, mildly melancholy instrumental "Roshi" shows that he can also do it all on his own. Then again, why opt for solitude when you can throw a party like this? ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

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