Former bassist and singer of the band F.S.K. (who was a favorite of the late, great John Peel), Michaela Meliän has entered the world of minimal, warm electronic with her debut Baden-Baden. Working with instrumentalist and producer Carl Oesterhelt, she has crafted an album of seven long tracks which flow with simple, yet hypnotic beats and lush flourishes of melody. Very similar to Kompakt-style "ambient pop," it moves methodically, never overpowering and yet ocassionally flirts with extreme beauty.
With tracks that average out at roughly eight minutes apiece, this is not a release for those looking for quick changes and lots of dynamics. The whole album exudes a feeling of calm and although the thump of the beat gets heavy enough at times to almost inspire dancing, this is by no means dancefloor music. The album-opener of "Brautlied" opens with a looped music box melody and heavy, solid 4/4 kick drum before swirling synths and stuttering guitars guide it to a conclusion. "Straße" churns away with another 4/4 beat as clipped spanish guitar and a rubbery bassline pull things along. At almost 9 minutes, it doesn't really go enough places to stay very engaging, and that's a problem with a couple of the tracks on Baden-Baden.
Fortunately, there are tracks like the lovely "Panorama" that make up for things. At nearly twelve minutes, it's the longest track on the album, but with layers of textural synths and multiple guitar melodies intertwining, it pumps along thgouth both atmospheric and downright aggressive sections, moving back and forth between each in a completely fluid way. "Verkehr" drops a touch of instrumental hip-hop into the mix with cut-up vocals, a skippy horn loop and a beat that strays from the four on the floor feel while the album-closer of "A Song For Europe" closes things on a completely different note as Meliän does a stark (vocals and guitars only) cover of the Roxy Music track "A Song For Europe." In terms of the other music on the release, it feels completely out-of-place, and yet it somehow fits as a somewhat melancholy ending to the album. Overall, Baden-Baden sags in a few places, but it's still an engaging debut release in a genre completely different from Meliän's original band. Fans of German sounding (the aforementioned Kompakt, Mille Plateaux) electronic musics will find much to love here.