Robag Wruhme Wuppdeckmischmampflow

[Kompakt; 2011]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: deep house, minimal techno, pop ambient
Others: Wighnomy Brothers, Michael Mayer, Richie Hawtin

During an era when everyone with iTunes and a well-stocked hard drive thinks they’re a DJ, it can be hard to pass off a mix CD as something that’s worth $16. Why pay for a compilation that purports to present the current state of deep house or minimal techno or whatever when you can get the same effect by clicking “related links” on YouTube? Why reach into your wallet to hear a DJ blend songs together when you can just download the latest Resident Advisor podcast for free? Why put a price tag on someone’s taste when, with a little free time and an inventive approach to music piracy, you can just develop your own? I do not have the answers to these questions. I think it’s strange enough that we live in a world where a skilled DJ can still make a living by making and playing dance music. Robag Wruhme is one of those DJs.

Although Robag Wruhme, also known as Gabor Schablizki, rose to fame in the late 1990s in European deep house circles as half of the duo Wighnomy Brothers, I’m convinced that he hasn’t intended this mix CD to cement his preexisting notoriety, but to qualify it, to depart from it. Wuppdeckmischmampflow is a collection of Schablizki’s personal favorites, some of these tracks being several years old. The album’s bookends are so reticent, so emotionally vulnerable, so “pop ambient,” if you will, that you’d be foolish to mistake this project for anything other than a labor of love. While it’s unusual to find Danny Norbury and Ricardo Villalobos sharing the same plot of aural real estate, we live in the world of the internet, a world that has created a generation of musical dilettantes. Eclecticism, on its own, isn’t a virtue.

There are two things that are more impressive about this mix than its scope. The first thing is the presentation of material; unlike most mix CDs, Wuppdeckmischmampflow doesn’t follow a linear narrative. A few tracks, like MRI’s “Acid,” appear and disappear in less than a minute. Some others, like Moderat’s “Rusty Nails,” are allowed to play out as uninterrupted wholes. Most notably, there are several others that Schablizki combines and spreads out in unusual ways. The album’s first half thrives on such combinations, laying two or three tracks on top of each other, with Schablizki reworking their genetic material (denoted in the tracklisting as “Robag Smapelschatul”) as the mix goes along. Ricardo Villalobos’s “Dexter,” for example, lays out its internal drama for most of track three; the mix leaves its spacey phrasing and relaxed development intact. But its central groove hangs around for six more minutes, not dropping out of the mix until track five. Claro Intelecto’s “Hunt You Down” makes its initial appearance alongside MRI’s “Acid,” but doesn’t fully unfold until the next track, and even then, it plays a supporting role to DJ Koze’s remix of WhoMadeWho’s “Kee Me In My Plane.” On the second track, two contrasting songs live parallel lives, but while Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts’ “Odyssee” lays bare all its secrets, Schablizki never allows Trentemøller’s “Chameleon” to unveil its true dark nature.

As for Wuppdeckmischmampflow’s second salient virtue, I propose that Schablizki wouldn’t be able to juggle so much material if it weren’t for his mastery of tone. The clearest example I can think of is the only track on this mix that I’d already heard before: Four Tet’s “Angel Echoes.” The original track uses a chopped-up sample as a hook, but Schablizki doesn’t try to rework the hook in order to fit it into the fabric of his mix; he recontextualizes the hook by manipulating the surrounding arrangement. It’s like running a photograph through a Photoshop filter: instead of changing the picture’s composition, you use the tools at hand to impose an interpretation, a way of seeing. With other tracks, such as Chateau Flight’s “Cosmic Race,” the mix imposes its interpretation by altering the original song’s speed and pitch; other times, the DJ’s manipulation of context and emphasis does the work instead. A shift in tone doesn’t need to be radical to be significant; faithfulness to the larger work’s internal consistency is enough.

Wuppdeckmischmampflow doesn’t abandon the career pedigree that Robag Wruhme has built over the years, but it’s full of decisions that dodge expectations instead of trying to fulfill them. Listener expectations, when set against the competence of an experienced craftsman, frequently render themselves irrelevant. The fact that Schablizki has lived with these pieces and knows how they work makes his mix a subtle and interesting listen, whether or not you’re as familiar with the material as he is. By the time you reach the back half of the collection — after it has journeyed through the starry-eyed melodicism of Robag Wruhme’s original piece “Robellada,” before it veers through a forest of leftfield jazz and settles on the singer-songwriter vignette “Sweater Day” — you realize that you’ve gotten a peek at the inside of a devoted listener’s brain. There’s a personality living here, not in the details of the tracks themselves, but somewhere else, in the mind that casts a tint over those details, the mind that chooses who gets to speak and who gets hushed. This mix is a decidedly subjective survey of the last decade or so, but it’s an example of subjectivity as a privilege.

Links: Robag Wruhme - Kompakt

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