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Code Request: Gens (Ostgut Ton)

Gräser has released a new album as Answer Code
Request on esteemed Berlin label Ostgut Ton, arriving four years after his full-length debut for the imprint, Code. It’s been in
heavy rotation for weeks, a definite contender for album of the
year around these parts. At face value, Gens feels like a natural extension of Code. And yet there is something about Gens that feels more
insular, more intimate. Gräser still very much embraces dance
music’s storied past with nods to early 90s Warp, classic IDM, and
even vintage rave culture, but somehow Gens seems one step further
removed from the dancefloor, even as some of its cuts would be
perfectly compatible for a more adventurous set. Consider one of
Gens’ leading preview cuts, “Ab Intus,” whose rhythm kit never
quite gets out of stop-start mode, feeling like an ebb and flow of
contrasts more than a proper dancefloor burner. This teasing of a big
throwdown that almost never actually happens may be what lends Gens
such a headphones-listening appeal for me, cuts like “Sensa”
having just enough of a moody flair to complement nods to more overt
physicality. Its nervous energy builds gradually with the patience of
vintage Aphex Twin, but Gräser is wise to withhold that full-on kick
that might push it over the edge as a big PA jam.

Gens by Answer Code Request

With Code, Gräser
seemed willing to flirt with his impulses that are less immediate to
the dancefloor mold, but with Gens it feels slightly purer, more
personal, less willing to kowtow to convention, even while
occasionally steeped in tradition. While many of Gens’ tracks feel
slightly more dour or oblique, there are bright spots. “knbn2”
prominently features a 90s break over its cyclical phrases and pads,
feeling like a direct descendent of vintage rave, touching on the
same nostalgia meets contemporary vibe on recent Trip label
offerings. The center of Gens subverts expectations further, with
both “Orarum” and “Mora” focusing on synths and atmospheres
over the beat altogether. But most of the album drifts in the outskirts of
the dancefloor, lending some mixability without ever fully delivering a kick-based groove, instead sometimes feeling shifty or nervous. Without many of the more typical calling cards of
the Ostgut œuvre, Gräser here sounds liberated, with Gens having a
distinct personality that somehow feels familiar and yet just as
often dodges expectations.

Buy it: Bandcamp