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Was ist Musik

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Album Review

Having taken part in Whirlpool Productions, Subtle Tease, and a solo album of covers that hit upon the songbooks of Janis Ian, Marvin Hamlisch, and John Cale, Cologne's Justus Köhncke lands on Kompakt for the label's most unabashedly pop record to date. Disco, house, and new wave are juggled throughout Köhncke's second album, yet it never sounds at any point as if the scope is too broad. This probably has more than a little to do with Köhncke's approach toward creating his songs and, more importantly, his priorities. The unforced range of Was Ist Musik makes it apparent that he never sets out to specifically write a sleek disco track, a moody synth pop song, or a giddy house stomper. Instead, he seemingly comes up with a hook or a melody, finds the best way to accentuate it, and ends up with something that just happens to fit a particular stylistic pigeonhole. The opening "Lucienne" is an instrumental disco-house hybrid with light flicks of guitar that takes a page from Nile Rodgers' playbook. A trio of vocal pop songs follows, drifting steadily from upbeat dance-pop ("Was Ist Musik") to downcast ambient pop (a cover of Barbara Morgenstern's "Der Augenblick"). "Jet" is a properly titled, charging tech-house track with burbling effects stolen from Giorgio Moroder. The remainder follows suit, with more charming synth licks and another pair of covers; a take on Münchner Freiheit's "Du Bist Nicht Allein" throws in some funny synth squiggles, one of which resembles George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." And a version of Jurgen Paape's "So Weit Wie Noch Nie" brings the weightlessness of the original back down to the ground while retaining its elegance. Overall, this is a fun, light record that doesn't take itself too seriously.


Born: 1966 in Giessen, Germany

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Extending his voracious musical appetite for all things avant-garde, pop, and dance into his own output, German producer Justus Köhncke has flirted with the charts (as one third of Whirlpool Productions, who had a hit in their homeland with "From Disco to Disco"), covered Janis Ian and Marvin Hamlisch, and has released material on the Kompakt label. Köhncke began releasing solo material in 1999 with Spiralen der Erinnerung (Spirals of Memory), an album that consisted solely of covers. Two years later,...
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Was ist Musik, Justus Köhncke
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