SIXTEEN F**KING YEARS OF G-STONE RECORDINGS
chill•out \ chil-aût \ vb + dub \ dub \ n + house \haus \ n
Sixteen fucking years indeed. Some of my first college memories involve a smoke-filled dorm room, a few close friends, Snuggles—our bong—and the K + D Sessions, that game-changing double disc of dubby chill-out that would go on to be synonymous with downtempo and usher in a new phase of electronic music here in the U.S. I can honestly say that without that release I may not be sitting here typing this. No joke.
Now, a decade on, I’m finally hearing new material from Kruder and Dorfmeister. It’s been so long, I almost forgot I cared. But 20 seconds into “Aikon,” the opening track on Sixteen F**king Years, and I’m whisked right back to those carefree, hazy days and I immediately remember what it was about K&D and their G-Stone label that so captured my attention and made me want to become a DJ. The two haven’t lost their touch, not in the slightest. There’s a house music backbone to the song once you’re done stripping away the ominous keys, plucked strings and bubbling bassline. And when the pair wasn’t giving a house beat their stoner twist, they were doing it to drum ‘n’ bass. Few would really categorize their music as either, but that was their stepping-stone. It still is. And in my own round about way, it’s how I was introduced to both genres.
The great part about hearing Kruder and Dorfmeister together after all these years, is that you can draw it back against what each has done since they split and went solo around the beginning of the new millennium. Dorfmeister joined forces with Peter Huber to create Tosca, while Kruder decided to go it alone, becoming Peace Orchestra. The former was more accessible, bouncey and likeable; the latter, dark, moody and polyrhythmic. But combined K&D are all of those things, a sum greater than any one of its parts. That said, each of these secondary acts’ contributions to Sixteen F**king Years are the next best material on the compilation. Tosca’s “John Lee” grooves with the same bass-led groove and array of disparate samples that made Opera such a fantastic record way back in 1997. Set closer “Sional,” by Peace Orchestra, fittingly doesn’t even get a drumbeat until two and a half minutes in, and from there it’s the same darkly delightful mindfuck that I used to listen to over and over. Whether separate or together, these boys from Vienna score serious points for consistency.
Unfortunately, one thing this consistency means is that their label has basically been recycling the same formula all these years. Kruder gets a bit of a pass for his recent solo work under his own name as well as his collaborations with DJ Hell and the International DJ Gigolo label, but each Tosca record has sounded like more of the same, until last year’s No Hassle which succeeded in being both new and familiar.
The bottom line is that when the top dog talent is at the wheel, we’re golden, otherwise, not so much. And this compilation is mostly material from second-tier acts. Marsmobil’s spin around ‘60s psychedelia on “Patience” offers a glimpse at something different, but it’s followed by mostly mediocre productions from Makossa & Megablast, Sugar B, Urbs, DJ DSL and Rodney Hunter (who I’ve never cared for). It would have been nice to see Stereotyp rip into the dubstep formula and give us something new, or better yet, just leave the work to Kruder, Dorfmeister and their closest confidantes Christian Prommer and Roland Appel, who form Voom:Voom alongside Peter Kruder, and whose recent work under their own names has done the most to keep the G-Stone sound modern.
The second disc doesn’t offer any more insights than the first. In fact, there’re a few classic gems on there (“Fuck Dub 1 & 2” from Tosca, “Happy Bear” from DJ DSL) but most of the disc is easily skipped through and quickly forgotten.
As producers Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister have lost none of the luster that made their music great all those years ago, and it’s a truly exciting thing to see them back together, producing and touring again. But beyond that, much of G-Stone’s label stable didn’t sound that great in the nineties and early aughties and it’s not terribly exciting in retrospect either.
— Joshua P. Ferguson
Click below to watch a slo-mo video recap of the shoot that became the album's cover—in all of it's black suit and tie-meets-cake-and-pie glory: