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Tobias – Leaning Over Backwards review

Tobias Freund has been involved in the music-making process for longer than most contemporary producers, so it’s fitting that this long-awaited artist album acts as a history lesson of sorts. It is true that in the headlong rush to be new or innovative, that a real understanding of electronic music’s past is often sacrificed. Equally, whenever a groundswell of artists focus on or take inspiration on a specific sound, such as Chicago house or 90s techno, it is often the case that their vision is too narrow, their gaze too blinkered. Freund’s great strengths here are both his ability to relive the magic of some of the dustier archives and to look far, wide and long.

For every “Party Town”, with its insistent piano stabs and incessant vocal sample or monotone techno groove like “Skippy”, there is a counterweight, like the abstract, understated acid of album opener “Girts”, the organic, Eno-esque ambience of “The Key” or the eerie experimental shapes thrown on “Zero Tolerance”. Freund could have easily stopped there and taken the plaudits for a work of solid contrasts, but it’s on the second half of Leaning Over Backwards where he really impresses. “Observing the Hypocrites” is a wonderfully freeform jazz techno composition, somewhere between vintage Dave Angel and Cobblestone Jazz, while the approach that started on “Girts” and “Zero Tolerance” is furthered with the droning, abstract techno of “We Stick To The Plan”. But he has one final ace up his sleeve, and the mysterious, sub-fathomic Drexciyan electro of “No I Know” outdoes everything else that preceded it.  Freund has bent over backwards to create this techno history lesson –  it should be required listening for any aspiring producer.

Richard Brophy