A perfect primer into the consistently classy and sophisticated world of Micatone, Sonar Kollektiv compile highlights from the German nu-jazzers three albums and various EPs. The 5-piece have been together for over ten years now, and if you haven’t been exposed to them before now, this “Best of Three LP” is an essential purchase. The range of their output thus far has been extraordinary – they have the ability to swing between soul, nu-jazz, disco and funk with ease and always end up sounding unique at the same time.
Opener “Another Road” is a lush broken beat track that came at the end of their “Is It You?” album. Sleek and soulful, it’s nicely broken up with some rogue sinewave stabs to add a touch of weirdness. Vocalist Lisa Bassenge adds her deliciously rich tones to this and many other tunes here, channeling the rough edges of Billy Holliday on “Another Road” in particular. On a more jazz-step tip, “Step Into The Gallery” rides along at a furious pace and showcases the incredible double bass playing of Paul Kleber. “Plastic Bags and Magazines” takes in yet another style, this time working out a disco-house groove that’s fleshed out with sweeping, Chic-like strings and deep Rhodes piano for a joyful glitterball feel. While live drums are at the core of Micatone’s sound, they’re also adept at combining them with sequenced and sampled drums to give them a broader range. Two songs that go down this route are “Sit Beside Me”, which combines live cymbals and jazzy sampled handclaps and snares, and the slow 2-step of “I’m Leaving Anyway”.
While the majority of songs collected here are upbeat and driven by Bassenge’s vocals, a pleasing exception is made for the moody instrumental “Mon Coeur”. With drummer Tim Kroker providing some excellent jazz drum fills, it combines some menacing synth atmospherics and a Roy Ayres style-vibraphone lead, all of which work to provide the perfect soundtrack to the best spy film never made. While Micatone clearly had their roots in 4 Hero and Jazzanova, this collection shows how far they’ve developed over ten years, and it’s a must-hear for anyone who appreciates the finer side of dance music in its many guises.
Review: Oliver Keens