A few months ago, Dr. Nachtstrom released his second album, Leidenschaft, on Mego. You need to own it. Here's why:
When I'm driving, I demand the utmost courtesy from other drivers. I have an extensive and intricate set of rules that I religiously follow and expect others to respect. For example, I never pass on the right side, I always use a turn signal (even when switching lanes on the highway with few other cars around) and if there's a faster moving car behind me I'll move over if possible. When someone does something nice (such as letting me switch lanes in heavy traffic), I always smile and wave.
About two weeks ago there was an oblivious, shirtless, head-banging young male speeding down M-14, errantly weaving between lanes without signaling and with little regard for anyone or anything else on the road. And this is why you need to own Leidenschaft: I was that guy.
Few things move me to the point of complete disregard for my own safety and morals; "Crunchy Song," one of Leidenschaft's finest moments, is one of them. When Nachtstrom opens up with "That night I went out cruisin' with my timeship/Just smoked a cigarette and I boosted to the stars" and continues to sing about his Ferrari and personal war with gold-eyed aliens who apparently burned down his house, he affirms that he is both a) German and b) totally fucking sweet. The rolling beat, brief bass line and spacey synth supplement Nachtstrom's droll delivery wonderfully, offering one of the best head-banging tracks in electronic music. Ever. Nachstrom's choice and manipulation of drums loops is exceptional throughout the album. The next track, "Staring Into Space," revolves around another gyrating loop and is rounded out by more alien synths and the huge, gothic pads that are the signature of most of his work.
Obviously Leidenschaft is not the typical Mego fare. There are no strange clicks or difficult textures. Although the label claims that "the devil is in the detail," the real devil is in the complete rocking. Nachtstrom seeks to challenge the listener's ass, not mind; Leidenschaft is a straight-up electro-pop/dance record, and a damn good one. An immediate stand-out is a cover of Soft Cells' "Youth" which stays remarkably true to the original with it's melody and drum programming, only breaking form to fix the originally weak chord progression at the start of the chorus and sonically embellish the rest. Whereas Soft Cells' version sounds sparse and awkward, Nachstrom's reworking is both full and epic. Gerhard Potuznik, who has also released on Mego, does a fine job with the vocals, matching Marc Almond in all but the squeakiest parts.
Like Nachtstrom himself (run a Google search and you're sure to find his picture superimposed over Jesus, or something similar), Leidenschaft is bursting at the seams with charisma. The vocal samples (used sparingly) are brilliant. For example, "A Song About Food" opens with a (hopefully) fake news report about cannibals ravaging a town before launching into a playful breakbeat extravaganza. Leidenschaft also manages to be pleasantly eclectic without ever feeling incoherent or breaking away from Nachtstrom's style. If you have a hankering to listen to some subdued jungle or are feeling sad and want to take the convertable for a spin in your nice-smelling linen suit, Nachstrom's got you covered with just one track, "Last Summer's Melancholy." Like metal? Check out the driving drums on "Visitör." Into pain? Try "Sehnsucht." Like the soundtrack to Run Lola Run? "L'Amour Toujour."
It's difficult to find anything glaringly wrong with Leidenschaft. It may not be groundbreaking, but this is a man who built a track around a massively reverbed fart; it's not intended to be. My only small gripe - which is odd considering all the different genres covered - is that it's sometimes too indistinguishable from itself. Nachtstrom tends to use a lot of similar elements (the pads, the synths, the drum loops) and most of the songs glide along at 120 BPM. Once the individual songs become familiar, though, this ceases to be a problem. Besides, any album that can make me drive like an asshole deserves commendation. All in all, probably my favorite release of the first half of 2002.
2. In the Beginning: Honeybunny
3. L'Amour Toujour
4. The Blues
6. Interstellar Communication
7. A Song About Food
9. So Alone
10. In the Middle: The Impossible Don
11. Crunchy Song
15. Last Summer's Melancholy
16. In the End: Afterlife