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Review : Crash Berlin

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A few tracks into Crash Berlin, the first full-length CD from breakbeats master Daniel Merlot with Funkmonsta, and you might be checking your calendar. Is it really 2005 not 1985? Crash Berlin is an exhilarating homage to the breakbeat-happy mid-80’s cleaned up with the gifts of digital technology. It would be easy for this music to descend to sounding simply like a retro retread but Merlot uses the styles of his musical mentors to create distinctive new dance tracks.

29-year-old Daniel Merlot has been a part of the southern California breakbeat scene for 10 years. Following Merlot’s success as primary dj for Lollapalooza 2003, the project Crash Berlin released a string of well-received singles in 2004. This first eponymous full-length cd by Crash Berlin rests on a base of 80’s breakbeat delivering songs in styles ranging from rap to spacey chill-out. Electronic sounds here pay tribute to 80’s synth masters from Thomas Dolby to Kurtis Mantronik. An acid squelch or two is thrown in for good measure.

Crash Berlin includes “Movin’ the Hype Track,” last summer’s European hit collaboration with old school rapper Kool Keith. Of the 2 mixes, the Aquasky vs. Crash Berlin version ramps up the dancefloor intensity to get the crowd moving. The disc is enlivened by the presence of 23 year old vocalist Shey Askins. Her warm, sensual, languid vocals float in melodic waves atop “Lady Luck” and “Take Me With You.” The talents of mixer Bassnectar are showcased when comparing the original mix of “Sisters Of Seven” and Bassnectar’s much superior hard electro rework. The instrumental track which best showcases Crash Berlin’s ability to honor the past while rocking the present is the Kraftwerk meets Art Of Noise epic “Look To the Future.” For those seeking a gentle respite from the heavy breakbeat festivities, the chill-out mood of “Reach Out To the Sun” is perfect.

The disc does feel padded a bit with some aimless electronic noodling tossing in sitar on “Assassination Raga” or playing with horror movie motifs on “Our Last Seance”, but the primary adjective that comes to mind for the music of Crash Berlin is fun. In a world facing too much tragedy and conflict that’s an attribute that should not be dismissed lightly.

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About Bill Lamb