Since he emerged back in 2010 with his ‘Wooden Pearls’ EP, Berlin-based electronic producer Johannes Albert has released a prolific stream of 12” releases on a range of labels including Fine, Blackfish Productions and his own Frank Music imprint. Despite this high level of activity however, it’s taken him six years to get around to releasing this second album ‘Lichtenberg’, which takes its title from a district located in East Berlin.
There’s certainly a travelogue-esque sense of narrative flow to the ten tracks collected here, which evokes the sense of moving through an urban entertainment district and being alternately faced by settings of calm and frenetic energy as traces of Berlin’s techno, minimal wave and electro scenes bubble to the surface. Opening track ‘Phony Emotions’ unfurls the curtain in cinematic style as a wash of sampled urban field recordings is gradually overtaken by moody synthesised strings and delicately twinkling electronics, the resulting sheeny fusion carrying more than a hint of Tangerine Dream and evoking the sense of dusk gathering over the German capital as sampled traffic murmurs in the background.
By comparison ‘Hooligan’ sees more limber rhythms whirring into life as bright New Wave synths dance against a driving post-punk bassline, stiff drum machine beats and rippling, delayed-out sequences, suggesting a trip back to the pre-unification crucible of EBM and punk influences, a path that’s also followed to slightly more melancholic effect by the vaguely ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’-esque ‘Copper Bolt’ as brittle snares rattle against fat analogue bass synths and acid squelches.
Elsewhere, ‘Milleu’ drops the pace down a few notches, taking things off on an eerie nocturnal downbeat electro wander that sees clicking snares and hi-hats rolling beneath ominously throbbing bass and bright yet cold synth melodies while Gundula Schulze Eldowy contributes a German spoken word performance detailing life in Berlin during the 1980s, her clear tones rippling out through layers of dub delay like a shortwave radio broadcast.
It’s tracks like ‘Chestnut Poetry’ though that really see this album’s propulsive electro-EBM rhythms roaring into life as lush coldwave synths curve and swell around a darkly throbbing bassline and rattling 4/4 kicks and hi-hats, the flamboyant industrial meets Italo house aesthetic calling to mind the late noughties likes of Arnaud Rebotini and David Caretta. If you like your electro-house moody and stripped back, this is well worth investigation.