Mid-tempo electronic music too often serves as sonic wallpaper—the phrase “chill out,” which used to mean “come down from drugs,” now means “pass the tapas.” It’s a hard genre to do really poorly, though. Take a drum machine, a little echoing keyboard, maybe a vox-manipulated chanteuse, and voilà: Music to Wait Your Turn to Get a Haircut To.
German producer Ulrich Schnauss has been laboring for years to escape the mojito-sipping ghetto by adding elements of shoegaze and dream pop to the mix—2003’s A Strangely Isolated Place grafted shiny distortion and fuzzy guitar onto his techno sound. With Goodbye, he’s finally got the levels just right. By moving even closer to the shoegazer sound, the result sounds less like pilfering and more like reinvention. The album peaks early with “Shine” and “Stars,” a really excellent Slowdive crooner and a stirring anthem, respectively. But throughout, Schnauss effectively creates his own little futuristic universe: “A Song About Hope” may be the purest fusion of techno and dream pop on record, while “Medusa” bounces back and forth between the two until the song collapses under those twin weights. Goodbye‘s sound is so completely its own that when an unadorned acoustic guitar sneaks in near album’s end, it sounds completely alien.
Schnauss could probably explore this ground forever, although he may not want to—Goodbye‘s final two tracks are “Goodbye” and “For Good.” Two questions: Will Lush fans trek over to the electronic section to discover it? And will people start using Chapterhouse to sell you a Mitsubishi?