Damiano Von Eckert is almost as well know for the close group of friends that he associates with as he is for the music he makes. This is no surprise, considering that Max Graef, Glenn Astro and the elusive Motor City Drum Ensemble also belong to this informal cohort. An element of the groups shared aesthetic is a healthy respect for the past: MCDE is famed for his crate digging and Graef and Astro's sound is a hip-hop infused, jazz-influenced take on house.
What sets Damiano Von Eckert apart from his contemporaries is the distinctive way in which he appropriates soul, jazz and funk. Perhaps that's why his second album, 'Also Known As Good', is such a joy to listen to. The Cologne-based producer and DJ may be drawing from the same pool of samples and live instrumentation as his peers but the result is as unique as it is vivid.
The album is that classic trope - a "love letter to the history of club music". For the most part Damiano's various homages manage to reimagine funk breakdowns, house-y grooves and ambient textures, and inject them with distinctive new twists. 'Hustle With The Big Boys', for example, is a classy take on boom bap hip-hop that has elements of swirling psychedelia sneaking in at regular intervals. 'First Day of A Dollar' explores the space in between hip-hop, house and the type of ambient textures normally the preserve of techno producers. 'Jai Alai', which appears halfway through the LP, may be the finest example of soulful, simple house to come our way so far this year.
This idea of paying ones dues, though, was always going to be a risky business. 'New Ehrenfeld Swing' might be a slickly produced attempt at replicating Snoop Dogg-esque G-funk, but the track is more pastiche than homage. Similarly, 'Marcos, Jean, Ralf' is a guitar-led jam without any particularly new or exciting features. It's the type of improvisational piece that might make sense in a live setting, but inevitably loses its impulsive, driving quality when placed in the context of an album.
But because of the enduring quality of the rest of the album, it's difficult to judge Damiano too harshly on these more mediocre efforts. Stand-out tracks like 'Bubbles' and the album finale 'Work For Love' are examples of genuinely moving music. This is what marks Damiano Von Eckert out from his peers: 'Also Known As Good' has a cinematic quality that elevates its tracks from fit-for-purpose club weapons to immersive, expansive compositions.
Words: Alex Green
- - -
- - -