Back in late 2014, Charlois Records appeared on the scene with their first pressing, Dollkraut’s “Blackbox” EP. Four years later they’ve revisited the Dutch producer’s inner musical world for yet another EP but… Will you develop a fetish for it?
Charlois Records, a sister label to the better known Pinkman Records -also from the Netherlands-, takes its name from the Charlois district in south Rotterdam, the neighborhood where Patrick Marsman (the label’s boss) currently lives. Charlois is a former village that was later absorbed by the Dutch city’s rapid growth, so now it’s more like some kind of suburb to Rotterdam. As such, conceptually one could think of the Charlois Records imprint as an outlandish offshoot label, releasing music that’s sonically “on the outskirts” of Pinkman’s own style and choice, sort of an underground or subterranean version of it.
And if you listen to some of its releases, that could well be an accurate description of the label’s output. Even if it shares some artists with Pinkman (like Metropolis or Roberto Auser) and its overall philia for dark-charactered tracks, Charlois is certainly different, focusing on music that’s a bit tamer, more exotic and retro, closer to canonical old-school genres like new-wave, electro, disco or synth-pop. Moreover, the passion for 70s and 80s aesthetics is also evident in the artwork and cover design when you compare both labels catalogues, and even more obvious in this last example that seems to mimic the archetypical DIY look of early 80s new-wave and industrial cassettes and demos (although this one we’re reviewing is pressed in an equally uncommon 10 inch vinyl format), like Solid Space’s amazing “Space Museum” or some of Throbbing Gristle’s releases.
Sonically, Dollkraut’s new EP “Fetish” (Charlois, 2018) is also a good example of this revisionist approach, and a demonstration of how versatile Pascal Pinkert -the real name behind the alias- can be as a producer. While some of his early releases like “Loot” (Doepelschall, 2010) and “Cheveux Noir” (Sound Architecture, 2009) explored fairly contemporary sonorities, closer to modern house or even techno, it seems that as of late, his Dollkraut persona has progressively morphed into a nostalgic character with a clear fetish (pun intended!) for analog style synthesizer sounds and retro-influenced melodies.
The first track “Du Fetisch” is co-signed with De Ambassade, a bit of an inside joke in itself, given the fact that this seems to be also one of Pinkert’s multiple aliases. It starts off with an industrial early 80s-like drumbeat, featuring cutting closed hats, a slightly shy bassdrum and a snare that’s been heavily processed with some sort of spring-style reverb, giving it a very fresh but -at the same time- period-accurate sound. But once the synths come in the track starts to travel back in time a little further, almost taking you to 70s Kling Klang studios with a very, very obvious nod to Kraftwerk recognizable in all the remaining elements: the emotionally detached vocals, the icy vocoders, Mellotron-ish choir pads and (specially), the lead synth melody -that noticeably resembles Hütter and Bartos’ classic “Das Model”-. As a Kraftwerk lover you could either love it or hate it. On the one hand, it’s quite difficult to approximate the quality of something like “Man-Machine” -so much so that Kraftwerk themselves could not top it-, but on the other, if you’re thirsty for new music in that vein this could well be what you’re looking for.
“Lezdom”, the second and last track on this release (making it more of a maxi-single than an EP if you ask me) is a bit more experimental. If the first one seemed to go backwards in time as the song progressed, this second tune is quite the opposite, as it tries to take you back from the past to more recent times with the emergence of each new sonic element. It begins with a new-wave style synthesized string sound that later blends with a syncopated beat, constructed around a rhythm bordering on dancehall or even moombahton/reggaeton (but with a timbre choice that’s thankfully closer to DAF than Diplo). The vocals also give it a certain modern edge, with a less glacial and more energetic attitude, and a tone that -surprisingly- resembles that of Julian Hamilton’s (lead singer of australian mainstream band The Presets). If you like unconventional genre crossovers (or need to turn a 2010s moombahton party into a dark 80s “pogo-friendly” evening!) this track is a little jewel, perfect for those special occasions.
You can get this vinyl here!
About the author: José -Pepe- Coca is a musician, producer and audio engineer from Zaragoza (Spain). He has a PhD in Art and teaches Sound Systems, Synthesis and Mastering courses at CPA Salduie and SEAS. He has also worked as a sound designer for companies such as Elektron, Befaco or HelloSamples.